3 February 2022 – National LGBTIQ+ rights organisation, Equality Australia, has cautiously welcomed comments by the Prime Minister foreshadowing amendments next week to better protect LGBTQ+ people in religious schools, but has called for the flawed Religious Discrimination Bill to be scrapped, warning that it will result in discrimination on a wider basis.
The Prime Minister’s comments were made on radio station B105.3 on Thursday morning, on the same day that Citipointe Christian School announced it was withdrawing the controversial enrolment contract that labelled homosexuality as “sinful and offensive” and included a provision that allowed the school to exclude trans and gender diverse students.
“The Prime Minister made a commitment in 2018 to remove the outdated carve-outs in national anti-discrimination laws which allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in religious schools. This reform is long overdue, and better protections must apply to both teachers and students”, said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director at Equality Australia.
“But the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill will invite exactly this type of practice in employment across faith-based organisations, from schools, aged-care services, emergency accommodation and hospitals.
“The Prime Minister may be putting out one small fire, but his Religious Discrimination Bill will unleash a firestorm of discrimination in religious organisations against anyone that holds a different belief from their faith-based employer – even when they can faithfully do the job that is required of them.”
The Citipointe example highlights one of Equality Australia’s key objections to the Religious Discrimination Bill, which allows religious organisations such as religious schools, hospitals, aged care and disability service providers to draw up contracts that require its teachers, doctors, nurses, aged care and other workers to sign away their own religious and non-religious beliefs in order to keep their jobs.
“We’re pleased that Citipointe Christian College has decided to withdraw its enrolment contract, which was completely out of step with the views of the Australian community. But it should never have come to this, and a community of students, parents and teachers have been deeply hurt in the process, said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director at Equality Australia.
“If the law had been clearer in prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, parents couldn’t have been asked to agree to outdated and offensive contracts just to keep their kids enrolled at a school.”
Equality Australia called on the Government to ensure that the passage of laws to protect LGBTQ+ students and teachers is not contingent on the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill.
“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, what we believe or whom we love. But the Religious Discrimination Bill would instead be a step backwards, winding back hard-fought protections for women, people with disability and people of faith”, said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director at Equality Australia.
“If the Prime Minister is serious about fulfilling his 2018 election commitment, he would end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools by delivering simple legislation to stop schools from firing, expelling or discriminating against them for who they are.
“And if his government is serious about protecting people of faith from discrimination, he must withdraw the Religious Discrimination Bill and do what he promised to do; deliver a simple reform that protects all of us, equally.”
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