“People of faith in Victoria may not be able to attend religious services for any religious day of significance in 2020 under Daniel Andrews’ Roadmap,” said Dara Macdonald, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.
Since 16 September regional Victoria has been under Step 3 of Victoria’s Roadmap for Reopening. Under Step 3 services such as beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons, spas, tattoo parlours and massage parlours can reopen if they adhere to hygiene practices such as the four square metre rule, cleaning, signage and record keeping. Step 3 restrictions also allow restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs to open for indoor dining of up to ten people (or 20 if the venue has two separate spaces) and up to 50 people for outdoor dining.
Community and religious organisations on the other hand are restricted to outdoor public gatherings only and with a maximum of 10 people plus the faith or community leader. Places of worship are only allowed to open for private worship, which is defined as a household or a household bubble (up to five people from that household) plus the faith leader.
The Institute of Public Affairs is calling for the Roadmap for Reopening to be amended so that people of faith and places of worship are treated equitably and fairly.
“There is no logical or epidemiological basis for allowing cafes to open up for indoor service but not churches or other places of worship,” said Ms Macdonald.
“Victoria should follow the same approach as New South Wales which eased restrictions on civil society organisations at the same time as businesses.”
“Religious and community groups are fundamental to the fabric of Australian society and our way of life. For millions of Victorians participating in religious worship is as much an essential part of their life as is going to work.”
“Equality before the law is an absolute bedrock principle of our society. All Victorians should expect the be treated in a like way before the law, regardless of the activity they are participating in.”
“The fact that civil society has been treated so inequitably in the Roadmap is further evidence that the Victorian government is immune to the concerns of ordinary Victorians,” said Ms Macdonald.
Victoria faith-based organisation, Equality for Faith, recently launched a petition calling for revisions to the Roadmap, which can be found here https://www.equalityforfaith.com.au/.