Outrage over schools’ anti-gay open letter
OUR current discrimination laws include some exemptions that allows religious school to expel students and sack teachers who identify as LGBTI.
The leaked findings of a review into religious freedom last month recommended religious schools around the country be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.
But following widespread outrage and debate, Prime Minster Scott Morrison now says any changes to the law will protect LGBTI students. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten agrees with him.
Now, the principals of 34 Anglican schools in New South Wales have written to our federal politicians asking them to protect the legal exemptions that allow them to sack gay teachers.
In an open letter to all the MPs in Australia, the heads of school argue there is "no effective protection" under Australian law that "guarantees" religious freedom.
They claim the changes to the law are not designed to discriminate, but to protect their organisation's core values.
"The debate has been polemicised as the right to expel gay students, with little evidence that this occurs, and the right to dismiss gay staff members, again with very little evidence that this occurs," the letter states
"The current exemptions ... in the Sex Discrimination Act are really the only significant legal protections available to schools to maintain their ethos and values with regard to core issues of faith," it said.
TheAnglican Church Diocese of Sydney's letter says it's about employing staff who reflect the ethos of the school.
"By and large across faith-based schools, the issue at hand is the right to employ staff who support the ethos of the school. This is not inconsistent with the practice of most employers and their corporate goals, let alone political parties," the letter said.
"It is essential that a teacher supports the values, ethos and mission of the school as much as he or she can. It is not appropriate, for example, for a teacher to undermine or denigrate the beliefs and teaching of an employing school."
The principals of numerous elite Sydney private schools including the King's School in Parramatta, Barker College and Abbotsleigh in the northern suburbs, Shore in North Sydney and Trinity Grammar School in the inner west have signed the letter.
Members of the LGBTI community who attended many of these schools have expressed sadness and outrage about the letter on social media.
Given how many Anglican institutions—many of them schools—were raised in the Royal Commission as having a “do nothing” approach to child sex abuse, the temerity of taking action on this borders on the breathtaking. https://t.co/g0YNPxMeiQ— Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) October 31, 2018
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the message from the Anglican principals is part of a "very important discussion" about competing rights.
"Obviously the UN declaration of human rights has freedom of religion as one of it's core rights, but we also want to protect against sexual discrimination," Mr Tehan told Sky News on Wednesday.
Mr Tehan says he is confident Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is working on the government's response to the review, will address the issue.
"I've got great confidence that the attorney-general will get the balance right when it comes to these competing rights," Mr Tehan said.
It was widely expected the draft laws would be introduced to Parliament this week, but talks between the two parties are continuing.
Mr Porter will make recommendations to Cabinet and is currently speaking with shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, he said.
"They were close to a resolution when Parliament last sat but they didn't quite get there, so those discussions will continue."
FULL LIST OF PRINCIPALS WHO SIGNED THE LETTER
Megan Krimmer: Headmistress at Abbotsleigh
Graham Anderson: Principal at Arden Anglican School
Gareth Leechman: Principal at Arndell Anglican School
Phillip Heath: Headmaster at Barker College
Megan Hastie: Acting Head at Blue Mountains Grammar School
Don O'Connor: Headmaster at Broughton Anglican College
Douglas Thomas: Principal at Claremont College
Maryanne David: Headmistress at Daneback Anglican School
David Nockles: Headmaster at Macarthur Anglican School
Craig Mansour: Headmaster at Macquarie Anglican Grammar School
Cathie Graydon: Principal at Mamre Anglican School
Julie Greenhalgh: Principal at Meriden School
Garry Brown: Headmaster at Mosman Prep School
Lorrae Sampson: Principal at Nowra Anglican College
Naomi Wilkins: Principal at Oran Park Anglican College
Rev Louis Stringer: Headmaster at Orange Anglican Grammar School
Felicity Grima: Acting Head at Penrith Anglican College
Paul Cockrem: Principal at Richard Johnson Anglican School
Deb Magill: Principal at Roseville College
Peter Fowler: Principal at Rouse Hill Anglican College
Anthony Cummings: Principal at Shellharbour Anglican College
John Collier: Head of School at St Andrew's Cathedral School
Julie Townsend: Headmistress at St Catherine's School
Jann Robinson: Principal at Luke's Grammar School
Brendan Gorman: Headmaster at St Peter's Anglican Primary School
Tim Wright: Headmaster at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore)
Susan Middlebrook: Principal of Tara Anglican School for Girls
Tony George: Headmaster at The King's School
Ross Whelan: Principal at Thomas Hassall Anglican College
Gaynor MacKinnon: Principal at Trades Norwest Anglican Senior College
Tim Bowden: Headmaster at Trinity Grammar School
Judith Nealy: Head of The Illawarra Grammar School
Scott Marsh: Headmaster at William Clarke College
Stuart Quarmby: Headmaster at Wollondilly Anglican College
This is the full list of NSW schools who approve of discrimination against LGBTI+ students and teachers. They have asked the prime minister to grant them their right to fire gay teachers and expel gay students. -@JordanRasko— ally mclean (@allymcleangames) October 31, 2018
I was a student at Shellharbour Anglican. Heartbroken. pic.twitter.com/WiJhAgtVUr