Thursday, January 13, 2011

Subsidised discrimination

According to a report in the Herald, the Exclusive Brethren have set up their own KiwiSaver scheme. That's not particularly interesting, but what caught my attention is that the scheme will only be offered to members of the cult:

In its prospectus, released just before Christmas, the BCF scheme made it clear that membership would be - no surprises here - exclusive: sorry Richard, this one's for the bros only.
This is, of course, illegal. Religious belief is a prohibited form of discrimination, and no institution is allowed to discriminate on those grounds in the provision of goods and services. While there are some exceptions for insurance and retirement benefits, these apply exclusively to sex, disability and age, not to religion (something irrelevant to any actuarial decision). And while there is an exception for religion, it applies only to employment, not to the provision of services (it allows religious schools to hire religious staff). There is no generalised exception for religion, allowing them to discriminate against non-members or on the basis of their faith. If you provide services in the marketplace, then you must provide them to all comers, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The Brethren are collecting government subsidies to engage in this discriminatory behaviour (in fact, that's the point - using KiwiSaver subsidies as a line of easy credit to boost their businesses). That should not be permitted. Taxpayer's money should not be used to subsidise discrimination.