Calls To Link Religious School Funding With Removal of LGBTIQ Discrimination

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Equality advocates have called on the federal government to link allocation of public funding to faith-based schools with the removal of legal discrimination against LGBTIQ students and teachers.

The fresh call from advocacy group just.equal comes after the Sydney Morning Herald reported this week that the Catholic Schools sector would receive more than $4.1 billion in additional federal funds over the next decade under the Morrison government.

“Australians overwhelmingly believe religious schools receiving taxpayer funding should have to abide by the same laws as everyone else, including discrimination laws,” just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said.

“It’s time for both major parties to work together to remove archaic exemptions that allow teachers to be sacked and students expelled just because they are gay or transgender.”

Mr Croome called on the federal government to adopt Tasmania’s laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI teachers and students in all faith-based schools.

He said the federal government should also consider the UK’s funding model, which ties public funding for faith-based schools to the adoption of anti-discrimination standards.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged last year to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to protect LGBT students, but after a political deadlock over the wording of the legislation the issue was pushed back until after the 2019 federal election.

In May last year, a national survey commissioned by just.equal and conducted by YouGov Galaxy found 78 per cent of Australians do not believe that religious schools should be entitled to public funding if they legally discriminated against LGBTIQ students and teachers.

Research released this month by advocacy group Equality Australia found 72 per cent public support for protecting LGBTIQ students and teachers from discrimination.

The research also found 67 per cent support of Liberal voters supported legal protections preventing faith-based schools from expelling students or firing teachers “for being gay or transgender”.

The report from the Ruddock religious freedom review, released last year, stated many faith-based schools had said during consultations they would not expel same-sex attracted students.

“However, the panel also heard that some instances of discrimination did occur against students in schools and that students were forced to leave as the school was not supportive of them coming out,” the report reads.

The review panel also heads accounts of religious schools “terminating the employment of staff on the basis of their sexuality, despite the staff not openly discussing those issues in the school.”

“LGBTI communities spoke of the stress and mental health pressures placed on teachers and other staff who felt compelled to hide important aspects of their identity from colleagues and students, and who felt they were prevented from full participation in the school community,” the report said.

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