Rabbis and other clergy would be forced to undergo government-specified training in Australian law, child sexual abuse, family violence, women’s rights, and children’s rights. They would also be forced to annually renew a “license” to practice which would require meeting ongoing educational training requirements. A complaint process would also be set up for complaints – including complaints of child sex abuse – to be filed against clergy.
Above: Rabbi Yosef Feldman, the former head of Sydney's Chabad Yeshiva Centre, lounges during a Royal Commission hearing two weeks ago
The Herald Sun reports:
Churches and religious organisations [like synagogues and yeshivas] would lose millions of dollars in tax breaks, concessions and hand outs under a radical plan to force priests, rabbis and imams to sign up to a national faith register.
Under the bold proposal clergy would for the first time be forced to undergo government-specified training and security checks and would be monitored by a national body, or risk losing government funding.
Former premier Ted Baillieu has backed the plan that has been put to federal and state leaders including the Prime Minister’s office, and Premier Daniel Andrews.
It is understood a number of high-profile politicians have also privately backed the proposed reforms saying ministers of religion should be subject to more stringent compliance.
The proposals have been tendered to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse amid concerns about the lack of scrutiny of some religious institutions.
The proposals would see clergy accredited in the same way as lawyers, doctors and teachers by an independent federal statutory body charged with registering all clergy for practice in Australia.
They would be subjected to government-specified training in Australian law, child sexual abuse, family violence, women’s rights, and children’s rights.
They would also be forced to renew a “licence” to practice annually, which would require meeting ongoing educational training requirements.
A complaint process through an independent third party would be setup for any complaints against any minister of religion.
Only accredited ministers would be entitled to current special tax benefits and exemptions afforded to religious practitioners.
And religious institutions would be required to employ only registered ministers or lose government funding.
Mr Baillieu, who launched a parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse while Premier, said a national code of conduct could also be introduced.
“I think there's a strong case for ministers of religion to be regulated in the same way as workers in other professions," Mr Baillieu said.
The plan also has the backing of leaders from Melbourne's religious community.
Leading Melbourne Rabbi James Kennard said greater professionalism for clergy would bring great benefit to both the priests, rabbis, imams and others and to the congregations they serve.
“A key element of such a strategy would be for an independent and external body to grant registration to members of the clergy conditional on their adhering to a set of professional standards,” he said.
“To make the current tax benefits for clergy dependent on such registration is an idea that has much merit.”
A Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman said the church would have no trouble complying with a national faith register.
He said Catholic schools were already regulated, priests received seven years of training, and child protection education was non negotiable.