The Malta Humanist Association is troubled by recent press reports that Heads of Catholic schools are being asked by the Maltese archdiocese to discuss new terms of employment, which terms would guarantee that schools’ head teachers and other staff can be safely considered as “practising Catholics” – or face disciplinary action if their “life choices give scandal or run counter to the ethos of the school”. The document, ‘Practising Catholic As A Requirement For Eligibility And Selection Of Staff In Church Schools’, would impose upon church school staff restrictions to their life choices that are inconsistent with employment law and human rights. The Employment and Industrial Relations Act makes it clear that “discriminatory treatment means any distinction, exclusion, or restriction which is not justifiable in a democratic society including discrimination made on the basis of marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, sex, colour, disability, religious conviction, political opinion or membership in a trade union or in an employers’ association.”
Considering what the church teaches on topics such as homosexuality, homosexual relationships, unwed parents, IVF and many others, this new policy is likely to affect such minorities – as well as requiring all such staff to be baptised Catholics. Even the requirement that staff reveal such details as their sexual orientation or marital status is a violation of that person’s privacy and dignity. Employers are in fact legally prohibited from requesting such information during interviews.
The document further implies that a concordat with the state grants the church autonomy in running its schools. However, this cannot be taken as carte blanche to ignore or break any laws. As an employer, the church is bound by employment laws and must adhere to them as it must adhere to all other laws.
While the church currently has a constitutional exemption to permit it to discriminate in the case of religion teachers, this proposal would extend this discrimination to cover heads of schools, assistant heads, PSD teachers, counsellors and other staff positions.
Almost simultaneously with this report, MHA was informed that the Faculty of Theology is proposing a course in Catholic School Leadership to be pushed to all prospective heads of schools, with candidates who have attended this course being given preference over others.
The MHA calls upon the relevant ministries to proactively investigate these matters and not wait for the first staff to lose their jobs and have to face the consequences alone. Many teachers and other staff, including MHA members, are not Catholics and are concerned about the possible repercussions to their own careers if these plans are put into practice.