SYDNEY, Australia, May 9 (JTA) Australia’s third largest Christian denomination has issued an apology to the Jewish community and has vowed to change its policies.
The Uniting Church took the steps after it emerged that church officials give preferential treatment to Christians in a government-funded project to help unemployed Australians find jobs.
Last December, the Australian government announced that it would fund parochial organizations to administer programs that help the unemployed find jobs. The program is part of a government transfer of employment services to the private and community sector.
The major recipient of government funding was the Uniting Church, which was provided with tens of millions of dollars for the next three years.
In January, a spokesman for the mission, David McGovern, wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in which he said that Christians made the best employees, implying that they would be given preferential treatment in the dissemination of services.
Further investigation by the Jewish community revealed that declaring a commitment to Jesus and attending Christian services during work hours were conditions of employment for those who administered government-funded projects for the general community.
In February, officials with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry met with church officials, after which the church apologized to the Jewish community and agreed to change its practices.
Wendy Wilkie, associate general secretary of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, wrote that in the future potential staff will be asked only if they would be “happy working in an organization” with Christian values and that the church would make it known that applicants would not be given special consideration for services based on their religion.