Catholic Church leaders in Australia have suggested that teachers, nurses and other employees may lose their jobs if they marry a same-sex partner should marriage equality becomes law.

Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart has told The Age that the church expects its 180,000 staff to strictly adhere to the institution’s teachings.

“I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,” Archbishop Hart said.

“Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.

“Our teachers, our parish employees are expected totally to uphold the Catholic faith and what we believe about marriage.

“People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined. We shouldn’t be slipping on that.”

Australia’s anti-discrimination laws enshrine churches’ rights to refuse or terminate employment based on marital status and sexual or gender identity, among other reasons.

Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe reiterated Archbishop Hart’s comments, with particular emphasis on the private lives of staff at Catholic schools.

“In accepting a role in a Catholic school, staff will recognise their responsibility to conduct themselves in such a way as not to undermine the fundamental ethos of the school,” he said.

“Like all other employers, the Catholic Church should be able to ensure its values are upheld by those who choose to work for the organisation.”

Catholic Health Australia, however, told The Age that such threats were unlikely to apply to its staff.

“It’s not really relevant to the jobs people are performing within the care environment at a hospital or an aged care facility,” said CEO Suzanne Greenwood.

Anglican Bishop Michael Stead was more reserved when asked whether his church would take the same approach, but no less alarmist about the shift that may come should marriage equality be legalised.

“The experience in countries where marriage has been redefined has been a quick and steady erosion of freedom of speech, conscience and belief,” he said.

Last week, a Queensland paramedic shared his thoughts about marriage equality on Facebook and the double standard of expecting care from LGBTI healthcare workers while also believing they should be discriminated against.

Earlier this month, over 500 religious leaders sent an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling for marriage equality.

“Marriage equality will provide access to marriage to those who yearn for it, and won’t stop people of faith from framing their lives around their beliefs,” Anglican Reverend Chris Bedding wrote in the letter.

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