BLESSINGS: Bishop of Lismore Geoffrey Jarrett supports a guide given to local parishioners on how the three major parties stand on major political issues.
BLESSINGS: Bishop of Lismore Geoffrey Jarrett supports a guide given to local parishioners on how the three major parties stand on major political issues. Marc Stapelberg

Parishioners outraged after election guide put in bulletin

A 2015 State Election guide, placed in a Catholic church bulletin, has enraged local parishioners who say it is an infringement of their democratic rights.

The guide features a foreword by Bishop of Lismore Geoffrey Jarrett, in which he says: "This is the moment to cast our vote and, for us Christians, it means a vote in accordance with our conscience: that's a conscience tuned to the deepest truths, among other things the dignity of the human person, their right to religious freedom, the preciousness of life, marriage and the family, and the rights of parents to educate their children in a way that respects their religious and moral beliefs".

The guide includes information on how the three major parties stand on "abortion and protection of the unborn", euthanasia, marriage, Catholic schools and religious freedom".

Additionally it details how members of the Lower House and Upper House voted on Zoe's Law, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill, and Same-Sex Marriage.

Neville Kelly, a parishioner and president of the Ballina Labor branch said: "This is not the first occasion on which his honour has endeavoured to influence the faithful as to how they should vote.

"One would think he would have more than enough responsibility, looking after his own 'ballywick' at this stage in time, without the necessity to venture into the public domain in an endeavour to influence the voting outcome on March 28."

Mr Kelly said that, after Mass, he spoke to five women who were outraged at Bishop Jarrett's incursion into their "democratic rights".

Bishop Jarrett responded that he had only received positive feedback such as 'thanks, it's very helpful'. Asked whether he thought the guide infringed the democratic rights of parishioners, he said: "The onus of proof for that claim is on the critics."

"The guide simply sets out publicly documented and stated policy positions of the major parties."

Christian Democrat Party candidate Gianpiero Battista said: "It's good to tell everyone where each party stands on issues we face today and in the future."

Lismore Country Labor candidate Isaac Smith said: "Everyone is entitled to share views but I would encourage people to talk to individual candidates about issues moving forward."