Religious organisations slam ‘discriminatory’ Ruddock review schools recommendation

Religious organisations slam ‘discriminatory’ Ruddock review schools recommendation
Image: Image: Uniting Network Australia / Facebook.

Religious organisations have begun to speak out against the recommendation in the Ruddock review report that laws should change to ensure religious schools’ right to discriminate.

Uniting Network Australia, the LGBTI network of the Uniting Church, released a statement rejecting the finding.

We call on state governments to wind back discrimination measures already in place at the state level impacting LGBTI staff and students,” Uniting Network said in a statement.

To permit an already vulnerable young person to be thrown out of a religious school as they become aware of their identity is not in the best interest of children and is likely to add to the already unacceptably high rates of depression, self-harm and suicide of young LGBTI people.

“We also see no rational or religious reason to discriminate against LGBTI staff in religious schools except in the limited case of school chaplains and teachers for the specific religious teaching.

“There is no justification for the exclusion of LGBTI teachers in core curriculum areas such as Maths, Science, English or support staff and school caretakers.

The Uniting Network’s response to the reported review findings noted that the government is currently seeking a review of mental health programs in Australia.

They said that, if implemented, an entrenched ability to discriminate “will continue to create mental health issues within the LGBTI community and in particular younger LGBTI people.

“In our Christian context, Jesus gave two underpinning commandments, to Love God, and to Love One Another.

“This proposed action is providing religious, and in our context Christian schools, to disobey Jesus’ clear objective, as this form of discrimination shows that those schools will not love one another.”

In July, the Uniting Church announced it would allow its ministers to decide for themselves if they wished to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Reverend Alex Pittaway, Senior Pastor of Brisbane’s Metropolitan Community Church, also released a statement rejecting the review’s finding, noting that he attended a school which expelled a student for being gay.

“LBGTI kids are [between six and fourteen] times more likely to be at risk of suicide and today the Ruddock review wants to marginalize those kids even further by hanging the sword of expulsion over their heads,” Pittaway said.

“It’s hard enough as a high schooler realizing that you’re gay, let alone realizing you’re that your school can expel you, your church can reject you and your parents can throw you out on the street.

“As a Christian Minister and as a survivor of a homophobic Christian school in Sydney, I call upon federal and state governments to remove these laws which today enable LGBTI kids to be expelled.

“I had no choice about going to this school. I also had no choice when I was the victim of endless homophobic bullying from students and teachers who suspected I was gay,” he said.

“We need laws protecting vulnerable LGBTI kids in schools. It is unfortunate that these schools leave behind the inclusive love of Jesus by viciously defending their right to expel on the grounds of sexuality.”

Pittaway said he had spoken to Queensland Minister for Education Grace Grace about changing laws to prevent religious schools from discriminating against LGBTI staff and students, but saw little success.

He noted that many of his congregants were teachers and students in religious schools and that “every day he hears stories of lives being destroyed by these discriminatory laws.”

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which made a submission to the review on behalf of the Catholic Church in Australia, was more ambiguous in its statement, saying they have “not sought concessions to discriminate against students or teachers based on their sexuality, gender identity or relationship status.”

“I have not seen the religious freedom report cited in the media today,” said ACBC President Archbishop Mark Coleridge, “but Catholic schools welcome staff and students form all backgrounds who are willing to accept the declared mission and values of the school community.”

“Once employed or enrolled, people within a Catholic school community are expected to adhere to the schools’ mission and values.”

Coleridge last year said that “other forms of love may indeed be love and often are” but “but it doesn’t mean they are or could become marriage.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, who is Vice President of the ACBC, wrote in a 33-page submission to the review that religious schools should retain the right to ban LGBTI sex education and be able to stop trans students from wearing uniforms or using toilets that align with their gender identity.

Last year, a Perth school fired a teacher for being gay which has since brought religious schools’ ability to discriminate based on sexuality or gender identity into question in Western Australia.

“I would be very emphatic that our schools, our parishes exist to teach a Catholic view of marriage,” Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said during the postal survey last year.

“Any words or actions which work contrary to that would be viewed very seriously.

“Our teachers, our parish employees are expected totally to uphold the Catholic faith and what we believe about marriage.

“People have to see in words and in example that our teaching of marriage is underlined. We shouldn’t be slipping on that.”

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4 responses to “Religious organisations slam ‘discriminatory’ Ruddock review schools recommendation”

  1. What is “Religious Freedom” and “Religious Rights”?
    Until the politicians decided to interfere with absurd and discriminatory legislation the interpretation of our freedoms and Rights were very simple.
    Believe or not believe in some other-worldly omnipotent, omniscient being if we want to.
    We have the inherent Right to practice that religion – no matter what others think.
    Scott Morrison ‘s reaction was totally unacceptable when all he could say was “Its in existing legislation” or somesuch. He did not have the guts to tell us what he actually believed. It would not be unfair to say that given his Pentecostal affiliations it stands to reason he will be homophobic. Never mind that his God “created all men in his own image!”
    If in any Legislation -be it Federal, State or Territory – that Legislation contains clauses which allow for any form of Discrimination it should be rescinded.d
    Though it takes place, there is Legislation in place which makes it illegal for anyone to discriminate against others on the basis of their Gender, their sexuality, their race.
    So why are religious organisations allowed to discriminate on those same issues?

  2. Religion, any religion – so irrelevant in 2018! That is why I am an atheist since I was 14, way back in the year 2000 during the Sydney Olympics.

  3. Do not understand why people get upset or shocked over the comments made by monotheist Bronze age cults, rather than be on the back foot & reacting to these cretins – our efforts would be better served to :
    1/ignore their rhetoric
    2/campaign to ban any religion from accessing any public purse or office in our society, this includes changing the age of which a child can be exposed to stultifying beliefs such as religious schools,if you want to believe in fairy tales – you pay for it & keep it to your self!

  4. Archbishops say one thing but senior administrators in religious-affiliated schools, hospitals and aged care homes say another. We saw principals at Catholic schools last year advocate a Yes vote, presumably because they recognised that their students had strong Yes views and they didn’t want to lose relevance with their students. We saw the CEO of Southern Cross Homes (the Catholic aged care agency) quickly and strenuously deny that they’d be doing anything to sack gay workers who married when the Archbishop promised that would be happening.

    Archbishops are irrelevant to just about everybody, including church-affiliated agencies. It’s a great reason to ignore them.