You can help stop discrimination in religious schools. The Australian Law Reform Commission has invited submissions on changes to how anti-discrimination law applies to educational institutions.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus previously asked the commission to recommend reforms to the law consistent with Australia’s international legal obligations. The commission released a discussion paper Friday. It proposes the removal of exemptions allowing religious schools to sack LGBTQA+ teachers or to expel LGBTQA+ students.
The paper set out four general propositions to end discrimination in religious schools.
- Make discrimination against students on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy in schools and other religious educational institutions unlawful, by removing exceptions currently available under federal law.
- Protect teachers and other school staff from discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy, by removing similar exceptions.
- Allow religious schools to maintain their religious character by permitting them to: give preference to prospective staff on religious grounds where the teaching, observance, or practice of religion is a part of their role (and it is not discriminatory on other grounds).
- Require all staff to respect the educational institution’s religious ethos.
Be quick! Submissions regarding the proposed changes close February 24, 2023.
Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Brian Greig welcomed the discussion paper. He also called on LGBTIQA+ people and allies to send in submissions regarding discrimination in religious schools.
Brian said Just.Equal especially urged opposition to indirect discrimination, including loophole discrimination in the name of ‘religious ethos’. In addition, he recommended calling for an end to exemptions for faith-based welfare agencies.
“Recent revelations about anti-LGBTIQA+ discrimination and harassment in two Opus Dei schools in Sydney are a reminder of why it is vital the law condemns discrimination in faith-based schools.
“States like Tasmania and Victoria already prohibit all discrimination and the Federal Government should too.”
Brian Greig raised concerns about bias in the consultation that led to the inquiry. Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told Greens Senator Janet Rice that the government consulted ten organisations over the inquiry’s terms of reference.
Anglican Diocese of Sydney
However, those ten included seven religious organisations, only one LGBTIQA+ group, and no women’s groups. The government did not consult with LGBTIQA-friendly organisations like the Uniting Church or Independent Education Union. However, it did consult with the notoriously conservative Anglican Diocese of Sydney despite it not representing the Anglican Church nationally. While the changes to the law will also impact women’s rights, no women’s groups were consulted.
Brian Greig said Just.Equal has pointged out to the Attorney General that the majority of groups consulted are not representative of the people harmed by discrimination. Nor do they represent the many faith organisations that oppose discrimination.
“This bias reflects in concessions to conservative church leaders such as the ALRC proposal to allow the exclusion of LGBTQA+ students from religious observances.
“We must do all we can to stop any such concession to prejudice.”
Make a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission here!
Read also: Mark Dreyfus telegraphed government action on religious discrimination in schools in June 2022.
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