A teacher who says she was sacked from a Sydney religious school for her sexuality has opened up about the “devastating” experience.
Karen Pack worked at Morling College, a Baptist education institution in Sydney, for two years.
However after telling work colleagues about her engagement to longtime partner Bronte Scott last year, Karen says she was sacked from the religious school.
She also believes a furious email attacking her sexuality also prompted the termination of her ongoing employment.
“In February 2018, I signed a contract to become an adjunct lecturer [at the school], both times just checking that I could sign up with integrity,” Karen told the ABC’s 7.30.
“I was open with people and staff. I didn’t hide my sexuality.”
A year later, Morling College offered Karen a new job. At that time, she signed a “code of conduct” created following the same-sex marriage vote.
“I responded by saying, ‘Look, I’m very happy to affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman, that that is a sacred and a beautiful thing,'” she said.
“‘I have no problem affirming that. What you need to understand is that’s not the limit of what I affirm. That’s not the only thing that recognises and reflects the beauty and the sacredness of God.’
“And they accepted that, and were happy to have me sign the contract and continue on staff.”
Angry email blasted teacher Karen Pack’s ‘demonic actions’
However in early 2020, Karen claimed Morling College received an email from a member of the public.
The email’s author demanded the school “denounce” Karen “immediately” for her sexuality and her “demonic actions” because they felt “disgusted”.
Morling College principal Ross Clifford told the ABC Karen herself decided to leave. She could “no longer adhere to a key Morling value” about the “nature of marriage,” he said.
“After discussion and prayer,” Clifford explained, Karen left the job.
However Karen denies this. The school also told students in a letter “the decision for Karen to end her lecturing role was made by the Principal [supported by] the Morling College Board.”
“It was based on the position on same-sex marriage held by the College stated in our community code,” the letter explained.
The College said Karen is an “excellent and committed educator” and “good friend, teacher and colleague” who was still “warmly welcomed”.
Karen said she was sharing her story because she knows two other teachers also sacked from religious schools this year. One of her friends was struggling with their mental health as a result, she said.
‘Painful journey’ facing discrimination within the church
Karen Pack said she is a committed Christian, an ordained minister and has worked as a teacher for 25 years.
“[Growing] up in a church, you’re within a culture that tells you that your belonging and value is unconditional,” she said.
“But the reality that you know that you’ve internalised your whole life is that it is actually conditional.”
She added, “It’s been an incredibly painful journey. I’ve been in churches where I’ve been called demonic going into church.
“I’ve been in churches where there’s petitions on the back table against people like me.”
Last month, Karen married partner Bronte Scott in front of loved ones inside the Uniting Church in Paddington, Sydney.
Equality Australia responds to religious school’s sacking
The Sex Discrimination Act allows religious schools and other faith institutions to legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Equality Australia also fears the government’s controversial religious discrimination laws will give even more powers to discriminate.
“Sadly, laws across Australia currently allow LGBTQ+ teachers, students and staff to be fired or expelled from faith-based schools and educational institutions simply because of who they are or whom they love,” Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said.
“This discrimination remains legal in every state and territory apart from the ACT and Tasmania.
“The students at Morling College have lost a faithful and committed teacher, who was great at her job.
“Until parliaments across Australia amend laws to remove special privileges for faith-based institutions, schools and colleges like Morling will continue to be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ+ teachers, students and staff with impunity.”
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