Bill on religious discrimination: Catholic schools’ commitment to homosexual children takes a different turn


While the much-criticized bill could give religious schools the power to positively discriminate, a major school board says it is open to discussion.

Senior member of Australia’s top Catholic education body said the sector is open to implementing structures that will protect LGBTQI + students in light of the federal government’s proposed religious discrimination bill .

But Jacinta Collins, executive director of the National Commission for Catholic Education (NCEC), said schools should also remain “free to be Catholic” if the law changes.

Government factions and religious pressure groups continue to clash over the protections offered by the controversial policy which some say could blur the lines between religious freedom and harmful discrimination.

“We have some sympathy that the issues related to students experiencing discrimination have not been addressed by the government, as have our own concerns that protections around religious freedom have not been addressed. processed by the government, ”Ms. Collins told Nine Newspapers.

“If there is an alternate suggestion that these issues can be investigated and addressed through a more expeditious process, I would be open to that. “

However, Ms Collins also argued that “Catholic schools should be free to be Catholic,” a view nearly two in three Australians also believe, she said. the australian.

“Catholic schools do not and do not seek to discriminate against people on the basis of their personal attributes, the former Labor senator said.

“We have gay teachers in the Catholic system, but we have the right to expect staff to act within the ethics of Catholic social education. We would have concerns about a staff member promoting capital punishment or euthanasia – this is not in line with our teaching.

A major concern of the current religious discrimination bill is the potential for schools and religious organizations to discriminate against or expel LGBTQI + students and staff, de facto couples, unmarried parents or divorced people.

There are also concerns that people may make “statements of conviction” using religious beliefs or teachings that would otherwise be considered discriminatory.

The NCEC is expected to present its findings and testify before the Joint Parliamentary Human Rights Committee on Tuesday, along with the Australian National Council of Imams, the Australian Jewish Community Executive Council, Equality Australia and other religious, rights advocates. human and legal.

The rules contained in 38 (3) of the Sex Discrimination Act receive a lot of attention. Moderate Liberal MPs Angie Bell, Katie Allen, Fiona Martin and Dave Sharma, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison all backed a proposal to remove the section, a move by religious lobbies like Christian Schools Australia (CSA) and Australian Christian Lobby ( ACL) whipped. This would protect gay students from expulsion, suspension or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We support a strong and detailed review of these exemptions, but shady behind-the-scenes deals to eliminate the ability to teach in accordance with our faith are simply not acceptable,” CSA director of public policy Mark Spencer said.

“Fundamental human rights should not be violated behind closed doors and free from public scrutiny.

“Talking about simultaneously removing Article 38 (3) of the Sex Discrimination Act, which protects the teaching and day-to-day functioning of denominational schools, in exchange for the support of some MPs for the bill on religious discrimination, is extremely unnecessary. “

As religious groups debated the protections offered in the religious discrimination bill, equality and LGBTQI + task forces have called for the entire bill to be removed.

According to Equity Australia, the law “rolls back hard-fought protections against discrimination for women, LGBTQI + people, people with disabilities and even people of faith,” they argue.

“Believers and those who have no religious beliefs should be protected from discrimination on the same basis as others,” they wrote.

“But undermining existing rights and protections, including for women, people with disabilities, LGBTQI + people and even other people of faith, is not the way to achieve this goal.”

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