A senior Australian Muslim leader has said gay teachers are “mentally ill” and “contradict nature” amid the debate about whether religious schools should be allowed to sack LGBT staff.
The debate around religious exemptions in Australian law has ramped up after the recommendations into Philip Ruddock’s religious freedom review were leaked last week.
Sheik Taj El-Din Hilaly, a former Grand Mufti of Australia, told The Australian newspaper that homosexual teachers should “not impose their lifestyle on the rest of society, especially schools which are supposed to provide an environment of learning and culture and not a club for those seeking to satisfy their desires”.
“We are a free democratic society that believes in diversity and human rights and we reject constrictions on the rights of others even if they are afflicted with abnormal practices that contradict nature,” he said.
“In such cases, we must respect their humanity and deal with the issue as a mental illness that requires care and treatment.”
Parliament split over scrapping exemptions to protect teachers
After fierce backlash to the leaked recommendations from the religious freedom review, Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to ban religious schools from turning away gay students by amending a rarely-used religious exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten called for the amendments to go further to also ban the sacking of teachers at religious schools on the basis of their sexuality.
But Morrison said on Monday, “They are important issues, but the issues we need to address right here and now relate to the children and ensuring we protect them against discrimination.
“There are many other issues that will be addressed as a result of the religious freedoms review, and there will be a time and a place to address those issues.”
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a motion from Labor Senator Penny Wong urging the government to introduce laws abolishing discrimination in schools for both students and staff.
“Many religious education institutions have made clear that they do not use, nor do they want, these exemptions, and these exemptions are out of step with the views and beliefs of most Australians,” the motion read.
The Greens also introduced a bill on Tuesday that would end the exemptions to protect both gay students and teachers.
“Under intense community pressure, both the Labor and Liberal parties have changed their position and are now talking big about removing discrimination against LGBT+ students and teachers from our laws,” Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Janet Rice said.
“It’s time they turn their words into action and vote for the Greens’ bill to protect students, teachers and staff members from being expelled or fired by religious schools because of who they are.”