Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Scott Morrison has said that gay teachers should not be fired from religious schools because of their sexuality, adding to his long-standing but still unfulfilled commitment to protecting gay students from deportation.

After introducing the bill on religious discrimination on Thursday, the Prime Minister told reporters in Canberra that it “has always been [his] view “that gay students should not be expelled and gay teachers should not be fired from religious schools.

In October 2018, during the Wentworth City Election Campaign, Morrison committed to reforming religious exceptions to gender discrimination laws, but the promise was limited to student protection.

Scott Morrison Introduces Religious Discrimination Act to Parliament - Video
Scott Morrison Introduces Religious Discrimination Act to Parliament – Video

On November 17, when Attorney General Michaelia Cash wrote to the Australian Law Reform Commission, she only suggested that “no child should be suspended or expelled from school” on the basis of sexuality or gender identity, without mentioning teachers.

The Prime Minister’s comments on Thursday were intended to dampen criticism that the bill on the power of religious discrimination for religious educational institutions to discriminate on religious “ethos” in employment in practice would allow discrimination on other grounds.

Liberal moderates, including MPs Dave Sharma and Trent Zimmerman and Senator Andrew Bragg, have called for the protection of gay teachers and students to be advanced, not delayed 12 months to wait for a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission of anti-discrimination laws.

Asked why the protection of gay students should wait, Morrison said the government was waiting for the ALRC report and his view had “not changed”.

‘Homosexual students should not be expelled from religious schools, nor should gay teachers who have been employed at those schools be dismissed if they are homosexual.

“It has always been my view. And this bill does nothing to enable such a dismissal.

“It simply came to our notice then. And there could be no hint that it could, because it simply does not. It is dealt with under the Gender Discrimination Act. “

Federal laws already provide an exception for religious schools to discriminate against teachers based on gender and sexuality, provided it is in accordance with the school’s beliefs and done “in good faith”.

The religious discrimination package introduced on Thursday will allow schools to discriminate on the basis of religion in their employment, provided they publish a public policy that explains their ethos.

A new clause would allow the federal government to override a state law on the hiring practices of educational institutions by regulation.

A separate bill on “consequential changes” clarifying this section is specifically aimed at proposed changes in Victoria that would limit discrimination in favor of religious people in school employment to cases where it is an “inherent requirement” for the role.

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Earlier Thursday, Assistant Attorney General Amanda Stoker told Radio National that she would not “share hair” over the allegation that gay students had been expelled and teachers fired for their sexuality.

Asked if a Christian school could refuse to hire a gay teacher, Stoker said it would “depend a lot on what the school is prepared to be at the forefront of society about” in their public policy – comments that inadvertently hinted at “ethos” provisions could be used for this purpose.

The head of the National Catholic Education Commission, Jacinta Collins, told the Guardian Australia that laws on state discrimination created the “problem of lawfulness”, where teachers can claim to be discriminated against based on “inherent characteristics” such as sexuality, “when in fact acts about something else such as exposing pornography in class ”.

Asked how characteristics such as sexuality could be protected in law if schools could fire teachers for being in a same-sex relationship, Collins replied that she was not aware of “an example like that”.

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“We expect teachers to respect the religious ethos they have chosen to work within – if a teacher has difficulty with a school’s religious ethos, their choice is to work in other sectors.

“We have a pluralistic education sector if they have a problem with ethos [they can work elsewhere] … The point of a Catholic school is to have a Catholic school. “

Archbishop Peter Comensoli, of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said Catholic institutions “want the freedom to hire people for our mission, just like other non-faith organizations”.

“The value of religious organizations to people of faith and the wider community lies in their religious mission and their ability to embody and pursue the religious mission,” he said in a statement.

“Running religious organizations, such as religious schools, includes, according to their mission, recognizing their ability to hire staff who want to teach and model the school’s vision.”

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