Sanitarium ads raise question marks

Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon's department says Weet-Bix manufacturer Sanitarium - which advertises for job candidates who share its ''Christian-based principles'' - is not a religious body, but would not say whether the company's actions were unlawful.

Sanitarium was founded and is operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is not required to lodge the company's financial reports.

A number of its online job ads require successful candidates to have Christian principles. A cereal machine operator job ad says: ''If you share our passion for what we do … and you are aligned with our Christian-based principles, this will be a great opportunity for you.''

A Sanitarium spokeswoman has told Fairfax Media that religious belief ''was not a condition of employment''.

It is an offence to publish an ad that indicates an intention to unlawfully discriminate under a number of laws. But religious bodies can lawfully discriminate against people with various attributes, including religious belief, unlike other groups. A draft human rights bill retains most of their legal rights to discriminate.

A spokeswoman for Ms Roxon said Sanitarium was not a religious body because it was not ''established for religious purposes'' but could not say whether Sanitarium's ads were unlawful.

''The relevant question is how that preference is applied in practice,'' she said. ''For example, refusing to hire a person merely because they are of a particular faith, gay or divorced, could constitute discrimination, but requiring employees to act in accordance with a particular code of conduct may not be.''

The Federation of Community Legal Centres' Hugh de Kretser said most people would consider the ads discriminatory: ''If the government thinks Sanitarium isn't a religious body, it should act to stop these discriminatory job ads.''

Sanitarium could not respond by deadline.

This story Sanitarium ads raise question marks first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.