Advocates Urge Labor To Scrap Religious Exemptions In Discrimination Law

LGBTI advocates have slammed federal Labor for supporting legal exemptions allowing LGBTI teachers to be sacked from religious schools on the basis of their sexuality.

Religious schools are currently exempt from federal anti-discrimination law in relation to employment and provision of education in accordance with their beliefs. Similar exemptions also exist in most states and territories’ legislation.


Earlier this month, Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek defended the exemptions and said federal Labor has “no plans to change anti-discrimination law at schools at the moment, we think the balance is about right.”

“What I would say is that most Catholic schools are very thoughtful about keeping the very best staff,” Ms Plibersek said.

“I don’t expect to see a spate of people sacked because of their sexuality.”

But just.equal spokesperson Brian Greig called on Labor to change their stance on the laws, which he say “privilege faith-based schools with special exemptions” and are “used almost exclusively to target LGBTI staff and students.”

“These laws were created decades ago when homosexuality was still deeply stigmatised and have no place in today’s Australia,” he said.

“Only in recent weeks a Perth church school dumped a teacher for being gay, while Catholic bishops have it made clear that married LGBTI employees in the Catholic education system will not be welcome.”

In November, the principal of a Perth Baptist school defended the school’s decision to let a relief teacher go after he revealed his sexuality in a Facebook post.

At the time, peak body Christian Schools Australia supported the exemption allowing the school to remove the teacher.

“It’s not something we want to do — it’s something we just need to do to be able to provide the sort of education we want to provide,” the organisation’s CEO Mark Evans told The West Australian.

“Kids are great at picking up hypocrisy. They’ll know if a teacher is saying one thing and not living up to what they’re saying, and we want to avoid that kind of incongruity.”

Religious freedom in Australia is under the spotlight as former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock chairs the federal review on the issue that was ordered by the Turnbull government during the same-sex marriage debate.

The review is expected to hand down its findings by March 31, but Mr Ruddock said last week the review may need more time.