The law shouldn’t allow religious organisations to discriminate just because of their sexual orientation, a Sydney Anglican bishop has claimed. But students who come out as gay or atheist in a religious school should consider leaving voluntarily.

South Sydney Bishop Robert Forsyth made the concession as gay rights groups called for anti-discrimination law exemptions to be limited to professed faith, not a catchall waiver for discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

I don’t support an exemption for [sexual] orientation as a grounds for discrimination, Forsyth told Sydney Star Observer.

I’ve got friends who are oriented a certain way but whose practices are consistent with the teaching of the Christian faith.

Instead, religious exemptions should allow organisations to freely define the ethos and behaviours they expect, he said. I shouldn’t have to justify it to an intrusive state.

The comments reveal that a middle ground is possible with equality groups currently lobbying for a new federal anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Anglican Bishop’s view that religious organisations should not be provided an exemption on the grounds of sexual orientation is a further sign the Federal Government is behind the public regarding this issue, Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam said.

It’s outrageous to think a same-sex partner could be discriminated against in 2009. After 14 years it’s time for the Federal Government to introduce laws protecting the LGBT community from discrimination.

Religious schools are also exempted from some federal and state anti-discrimination law, but Forsyth said he wouldn’t like to see religious exemptions used against students.

[When] a child says they are homosexual, have deep feelings, or even behaviour, you don’t bully them, even if you deeply disagree with them, he said.

But if any student’s behaviour is undermining the values of the school, whether it’s homosexuality or atheism, the school should ask -˜you’re being disruptive to our resources, could you leave?’

Former Pitt Street Uniting Church minister Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon doubted the same request would be asked of students who committed other -˜sins’.

It’s giving up on them. Even if they’re right in their view of sexuality -” and I don’t think they are -” it’s leaving the child with a negative impression, she said. And if it follows them being bullied then it implies that its OK to bully someone who is different.

McRae-McMahon thought it was time to completely rethink the way religious exemptions are implemented, particularly in organisations providing services on behalf of the government.

As a community, I believe that we are getting much closer to being in a position to insist that, if a religious school or institution receives beyond a certain percentage of funding, it must allow for the human rights of the community to be upheld in its staffing.

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