Human rights lawyers in Australia have called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make good on his 2018 promise to remove religious exemptions affecting LGBT students and teachers in faith-based schools.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) have expressed worry that Morrison may now be focused on legislating religious freedom to the detriment of the queer community.

Last year, Philip Ruddock and an expert panel put together a report following the religious freedom review, recommendations from which were leaked by Fairfax Media in October.

The recommendations controversially called on the government to allow faith-based schools to discriminate against students and staff on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status, prompting Morrison to express his intention to remove exemptions allowing religious discrimination against students in faith-based schools before the end of the year.

However, the debate raged on in parliament, and has carried over into the new year.

LGBTI Subcommittee Co-Chair at ALHR, Nicholas Stewart, said he was worried about Morrison’s intentions despite the PM’s earlier commitment to legislatively remove discrimination.

“Despite an indication that the Prime Minister does not think it is okay for LGBT children to be discriminated against in schools, he seems to now be focused on legislating religious freedom as if it is a superior human right,” he said.

“While the Religious Freedom Report found that it is of paramount importance to some school communities to cultivate an ‘environment and ethos’ which conforms to their religious beliefs, this is not a sufficient basis to delay the removal of laws that permit discrimination against LGBT students and teachers.

“These laws send a message to all Australians that LGBT people are unworthy of protection.”

Fellow LGBTI Subcommittee Co-Chair at ALHR, Georgia Burke, said human rights shouldn’t be conveniently cherry-picked to promote an ideology.

“All rights must be collectively considered,” she said. “They are interdependent and indivisible.”

“If the Prime Minister is concerned about religious freedoms he should bring Australia into line with every other Western democracy and introduce a Human Rights Act for all Australians, not a Religious Discrimination Act for some.”

Related reading: ‘The church has bought into this false narrative of God vs gay’: religious freedom in Australia

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