The Human Rights Law Centre and the Law Council of Australia have called to an end for religious discrimination against LGBTI people after all 20 religious freedom recommendations were revealed.
The Sydney Morning Herald today published the full list of recommendations made by the Philip Ruddock-led review of religious freedoms in Australia.
A further recommendation calls for the abolition of exceptions to anti-discrimination laws for religious schools when considering employment on the basis of intersex status, and that existing employees should not be discriminated against for entering a marriage.
“Jurisdictions should abolish any exceptions to anti-discrimination laws that provide for discrimination by religious schools in employment on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status,” the recommendation reads.
“Further, jurisdictions should ensure that any exceptions for religious schools do not permit discrimination against an existing employee solely on the basis that the employee has entered into a marriage.”
The review also calls for schools to be allowed to refuse hire of their facilities for use in weddings should they not conform “to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religion of the body”.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Anna Brown expressed concern over the full list of recommendations.
“Australians voted for fairness and equality this time last year, not more discrimination against LGBT people. Kids in schools should be worrying about classes and their homework, not living in fear of mistreatment because of who they are.
“Australians want kids in schools to be protected. The debate this week shows that our views have changed since these religious exemptions were enshrined in law.
“The idea that taxpayer funded religious schools should be able to expel a student who comes out is completely out of step with modern community expectations. It’s discriminatory and it’s just wrong,” said Brown.
The HRLC noted that the recommendation does narrowing this exemption for religious schools under federal law, by requiring schools to prove the discrimination is founded on religious precepts, ensuring any discriminatory policy is made publicly available and the schools must take into account the best interests of the child as the primary consideration.
“It’s positive to see the report recognising that the broad religious exemptions which allow schools and organisations to discriminate against LGBTI people are unfair, but narrowing the ability to discriminate is not enough – these unfair laws must go,” Brown said.
The report also recommends a religious discrimination act, which Brown says is a cause for great concern from the community.
“The very genesis of this inquiry was the deeply flawed idea that equality for LGBTIQ people somehow poses a threat to religious freedom.
“We reject this utterly, and remain concerned that conservative religious forces within the Coalition will be extracting their ‘price’ for marriage equality. There should be no price paid for equality,” said Brown.
“We need strong discrimination laws to ensure equal treatment. People of faith should be free from discrimination in every community.
“At the same time, blanket exemptions that automatically privilege the rights of religious groups over other Australians must be avoided – particularly for organisations funded by taxpayers’ money,” she concluded.
The President-elect of the Law Council of Australia Arthur Moses said that while no blanket exemption to anti-discrimination laws for private and religious schools currently exist, one should never be introduced.
“The starting point under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 is that it is unlawful for a school to expel a student because of a student’s sexuality or sexual orientation,” Moses said.
“All schools have to comply with both the SDA and relevant state or territory laws. From a practical perspective, schools use the SDA as a benchmark.”
Moses said that the exemption only applies in certain circumstances, and that an exemption introduced in New South Wales in 1981 is complex and controversial in its own right.
“What is true is that there is no blanket exemption to the Sex Discrimination Act for Australian private schools.
“A society should be judged by how it treats its children. We should treat our children compassionately, fairly and with care.
“We should never have laws that would traumatise or stigmatise our children – no humane society does that.
“Australians are fair and compassionate, they would not agree with such proposals.”