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TravelGuides – Scott Morrison says gay teachers should not be fired under religious discrimination laws | Scott Morrison

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TravelGuides – Scott Morrison says gay teachers should not be fired under religious discrimination laws | Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison has said gay teachers should not be fired from religious schools for their sexuality, adding to his longstanding but still unfulfilled commitment to protect gay students from expulsion.

After introducing the religious discrimination bill on Thursday, the prime minister told reporters in Canberra that it had “always been [his] view” that gay students should not be expelled and gay teachers should not be sacked from religious schools.

In October 2018 during the Wentworth byelection campaign Morrison committed to reform religious exemptions to sex discrimination laws, but the promise was limited to protection of students.

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Scott Morrison introduces religious discrimination bill to parliament – video
Scott Morrison introduces religious discrimination bill to parliament – video

On 17 November when the attorney general, Michaelia Cash, wrote to the Australian Law Reform Commission she proposed only that “no child should be suspended or expelled from school” on the basis of sexuality or gender identity, with no mention of teachers.

The prime minister’s comments on Thursday were aimed at dampening criticism that the religious discrimination bill’s power for religious education institutions to discriminate on religious “ethos” in hiring will in practice enable discrimination on other grounds.

Liberal moderates including MPs Dave Sharma and Trent Zimmerman and senator Andrew Bragg have called for protections for gay teachers and students to be brought forward, not delayed 12 months to wait for an Australian Law Reform Commission review of discrimination laws.

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Asked why protections for gay students should have to wait, Morrison said the government was waiting for the ALRC report and his view had “not changed”.

“Gay students should not be expelled from religious schools and nor should gay teachers who have been employed at those schools be dismissed if they are gay.

“That has always been my view. And this bill does nothing to enable such a dismissal.

“It provides no powers for that. And there could be no suggestion that it could because it simply does not. That is dealt with under sex discrimination law.”

Federal laws already contain an exemption for religious schools to discriminate against teachers based on gender and sexuality, provided it is in accordance with the beliefs of the school and done “in good faith”.

The religious discrimination package, introduced on Thursday, will allow schools to discriminate on the grounds of religion in their hiring, provided they publish a public policy explaining their ethos.

A new clause would allow the federal government to override a state law on educational institutions’ employment practices by regulation.

A separate “consequential amendments” bill that clarifies this section specifically targets mooted changes in Victoria that would limit discrimination in favour of religious people in schools’ hiring to instances where it is an “inherent requirement” of the role.

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Earlier on Thursday, the assistant attorney general, Amanda Stoker, told Radio National she would not “split hairs” over the claim gay students had been expelled and teachers fired for their sexuality.

Asked if a Christian school could refuse to hire a gay teacher, Stoker said it would “depend a great deal upon what that school is prepared to be up front with the community about” in their public policy – comments that inadvertently suggested the “ethos” provisions could be used for that purpose.

The head of the National Catholic Education Commission, Jacinta Collins, told Guardian Australia state discrimination laws created “the problem of lawfare” whereby teachers may claim they are being discriminated against based on “inherent characteristics” such as sexuality “when it’s actually about something else such as exposure of pornography in class”.

Asked how characteristics like sexuality could be protected in law if schools could sack teachers for being in a same-sex relationship, Collins replied she was not aware “of an example like that”.

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“We expect teachers to respect the religious ethos they’ve chosen to work within – if a teacher has a difficulty with religious ethos of a school, their choice is to work in other sectors.

“We have a pluralist education sector, if they have an issue with ethos [they can work elsewhere] … The point of a Catholic school is to have a Catholic school.”

Archbishop Peter Comensoli, from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said Catholic institutions “want the freedom to hire people for the sake of our mission, just like other non-faith-based organisations”.

“The value of religious organisations to people of faith and wider society is in their religious mission and their ability to embody and pursue that religious mission,” he said in a statement.

“Operating religious organisations, such as religious schools, according to their mission includes recognising their ability to hire staff who want to teach and model the vision of the school.”

TravelGuides – Scott Morrison says gay teachers should not be fired under religious discrimination laws | Scott Morrison

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