Row over Australia plan to let faith schools reject gay students

12 October, 2018, 08:06 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison has called for religion to be protected in the same way as gender and race, signalling Coalition government support for a new religious discrimination law proposed by the Ruddock review. Malcolm Turnbull's former electorate has a high number of LGBTI voters.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended leaked proposals to let religious schools discriminate against gay students, saying that the proposals were already "existing law" in some states.

"To some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance", the review said.

"To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community".

According to Fairfax, the panel rejected the idea put forward by Australian conservatives that religious freedom was in "imminent peril".

Outspoken independent senator Derryn Hinch will move a motion next week calling for private schools to be stripped of public funding if they exercise their right to exclude gay students or teachers. The state's Attorney General John Quigley has said that the McGowan government is unable to consider the issue until the federal report is released.

Anna Brown, the co-chair of the Equality Campaign and director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, told Guardian Australia that it is true there is a "gap in federal discrimination law when it comes to protections for religious minorities".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison

One of the recommendations is that the legislative provisions allowing religious schools to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status should be made consistent around the country.

"We remain deeply concerned that under a Morrison government this bill will be drafted without regard to the interests of LGBTIQ people and other minorities who now bear the brunt of religious discrimination", she said.

"The fact is every child is entitled to human dignity".

That legislation enshrined the right of religious ministers to not officiate at the weddings of same-sex partners and said that religious institutions did not have to provide services to a ceremony, such as the hire of a hall.

However, the review said businesses would not be allowed to refuse customers on a religious basis and that registrars would have to conduct same-sex marriages.

The report does not contain any recommendations to change the marriage act, nor does it contain any recommendations to establish a religious freedom act.

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