Teachers sacked by religious schools for being gay have warned the government’s proposed religious freedom laws will worsen discrimination against LGBTIQ Australians of faith.
On Friday, teachers Karen Pack and Nathan Zamprogno addressed a Senate inquiry into Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s contentious Religious Discrimination Bill.
Pack worked as a lecturer at a Christian education institution in Sydney.
However Pack was fired after her employer received hostile calls and emails outraged at her same-sex relationship, describing her as “demonic”.
But after her boss told Pack she was out of a job, they publicly praised her teaching and the “depth of her Christian faith.”
“A letter said the principal, with the support of the board, had determined I could no longer work at the college,” she recalled.
“But that document also praised the depth of my Christian faith and my excellence as a teacher.
“It was very clear that the problem wasn’t my teaching, my theology or my character.
“It was purely because I’m gay and I was getting married to my partner.
“I have a sincerely held Christian faith. I am not trying to insinuate myself into anything.
“What is happening at the moment with this legislation and others is an attempt, essentially, to purge the church of people like myself.”
Pack said there were other teachers who’d faced discrimination who couldn’t tell their stories publicly.
“I have been approached by literally hundreds of teachers and students from Christian schools and Christian religious institutions,” she said.
“[They explain] to me either the trauma they have faced as gay people or LGBTIQ people, who feel forced to remain closeted in a very ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ environment.”
School principal declares they ‘wouldn’t employ a gay teacher’
The Religious Discrimination Bill is currently before two parliamentary inquiries. Both inquiries will report by February 4.
Religious organisations have made submissions defending the employment of staff “in accordance with the ethos of the organisation”.
Nathan Zamprogno, also from Sydney, spent 20 years teaching across private Christian schools in New South Wales.
He told the hearing on Friday when his bosses at one of them discovered his sexuality, they sacked him.
“The headmaster would casually say in a staff meeting, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t employ a gay teacher,'” he said.
“I would shrink into the corner and a part of me would die inside.”
Later on, when the school “challenged” him about his sexuality, Zamprogno said he “answered honestly.”
“I was told there was no place for me at the school the following year. The connection was crystal clear.
“I was well regarded in that community among my students and my peers. I was good at what I did and never dishonoured my employer.
“My sexuality had nothing to do with my ability to do my job.”
‘Dump or fix’ the Religious Discrimination Bill
Nathan Zamprogno, who is a Liberal party member, now works as a councillor in Hawkesbury, northwest of Sydney.
He said any claims schools didn’t already discriminate against employees on the basis of sexuality was “simply untrue”.
Zamprogno said the Morrison Government should dump the Religious Discrimination Bill or fix “the egregious loopholes that allow discrimination against people like myself”.
“Employers will often obfuscate the reason that they’re letting their employee go,” he said.
“Even when it is clear that it is because of their religious conviction or their sexuality.
“The provisions of this bill effectively empower those who want to put pressure on and ultimately purge people of a different religious conviction to themselves, within religious communities.”
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