In a spectacular about face, Prime Minster Scott Morrison has vowed to remove laws that allow schools to discriminate against LGBTIQ students, but has stopped short of abolishing the same exemptions that apply to teachers.
After the recommendations of the Ruddock report on religious freedom were leaked to the media, Morrison maintained that he had no plans to change existing laws that allow schools to discriminate against LGBTIQ students and teachers.
But after the public became aware of the exemptions afforded to religious schools, and after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged to abolish them, Morrision had a sudden change of heart, and is now promising to remove the right of certain schools to discriminate against gay students.
Following the marriage equality postal survey, the government was pressured by religious organisations to appoint an expert panel to examine whether the law adequately protects freedom of religion.
Chaired by Philip Ruddock, the panel received 16,000 submissions from human rights groups, LGBTIQ advocates and churches.
Currently federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, sexuality, disability and other attributes, but not religion.
Although the report hasn’t been officially released, leaks the media confirmed that it recommended a change to the Federal Discrimination Act to provide “that religious schools may discriminate in relations to students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.”
Currently, state laws in New South Wales already permit such discrimination, but Queensland and Tasmania do not.
Taxpayers shouldn’t fund bigotry
Senator Derryn Hinch was one of many people who called for religious schools who want to discriminate against gay students to lose their taxpayer funding.
The outspoken Senator was planning to introduce a motion to the parliament this week calling for private schools who expel gay students or teachers to be stripped of their funding.
“Schools cannot discriminate against a child or a teacher on the grounds of sexuality. It’s just immoral,” he said.
Columnist Niki Savva said on the ABC’s Insiders program, “Taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to fund bigotry.”
Freedom of religion shouldn’t mean freedom to discriminate
“It is richer than grandma’s gravy for these religious schools to say they want the right to freedom of religion, so they can be free to discriminate and take away the rights of others,” Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director from Discrimination Claims said.
“There is no place for discrimination in Australian society, and there are no grounds for arguing that someone’s religious rights trump another person’s human rights.”
Teachers still at risk
The current proposed changes only apply to LGBTIQ students, and not teachers, which means school staff can still be fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation, or marriage status.
“Just as the government is going to remove the right of schools to discriminate against students, it should also remove any laws that allow discrimination against workers, and we’re not just talking about teachers,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Currently, people employed in hospitals, or nursing homes or charities are also vulnerable, and could face the sack if they’re gay, or if they are a single mother or even if they are receiving IVF treatment – it’s outrageous, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
“We shouldn’t even be happening this debate. Until all discrimination is removed, the community must demand that no organisation, religious or not, has the right to take adverse action against someone based on who they choose to love,” Mr Heffernan said.
If you have been subjected to discrimination based on your gender or sexuality, you may be entitled to compensation.
Please call Discrimination Claims today on 1300 853 837.
For more information about discrimination, click here.
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