West Australian Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has been criticised for lobbying religious leaders for support over Labor’s plan to introduce protections for LGBTI students in religious schools.

On Wednesday, The West Australian reported that Hastie, who strongly opposed marriage equality, had met resistance from an Anglican priest and former Liberal Party candidate after a meeting of local religious leaders in his electorate of Canning.

Hastie and Queensland Liberal senator Amanda Stoker, who also attended, reportedly warned those at the meeting that Labor’s bill aimed at introducing protections for LGBTI students in religious and independent schools would infringe on their religious freedom.

Equality advocates have now called on Hastie to publicly explain his resistance to protecting LGBTI students from discrimination or expulsion from schools.

Spokesperson for just.equal Ivan Hinton-Teoh said that under existing law LGBTI students and teachers suffer discrimination at church schools, and noted that two of the most recent and high-profile instances of such discrimination occurred in or near Hastie’s electorate.

In 2015, the fathers of a seven-year-old girl were told that she would not have been accepted into Foundation Christian College had the school known her parents were gay.

One of her parents said he was told that his daughter could only stay at the school if she did not “promote” the word ‘gay’ at the school, nor speak of her father’s relationship with his same-sex partner. Her parents later withdrew her from the school over the incident.

And in 2017, Perth teacher Craig Campbell was fired from his role at South Coast Baptist College when the school found out about his sexuality.

“Sexuality or gender identity should never define or limit a citizen’s right to access education or employment,” said Hinton-Teoh.

“Preventing the expulsion of LGBTI kids and sacking of LGBTI teachers is not an attack on religious freedom, it is an attack on unjust prejudice and the vast majority of Australians support this move.

“It is now up to Mr Hastie to explain to his community the value of oppressing kids and teachers for nothing more than their sexuality or gender identity.

“It is not freedom he is advocating, it is unjust oppression. Today the majority of fair-minded Australians see it for what it is,” Hinton-Teoh said.

Over 70 per cent of Australians support legal protections for LGBTI students and teachers.

Father Ian Mabey from the Mandurah Anglican parish told The West Australian that the later “made it clear to my congregation that I would not be directed in what I preach at the pulpit.”

“I made the focus of the next sermon … that we needed to learn to love one another in our differences and in our different points of view and I will never stop preaching that,” he said.

Hastie fired back at Mabey, calling him “a failed political candidate now pushing his own politics from the pulpit.”

“Truth should be his first calling, not partisan politics,” Hastie said.

WA State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby Peter Abetz was present at the meeting, where he encouraged “church people [to] involve themselves in politics because if one subset of the community doesn’t involve themselves in political debate, we can’t complain if others make decisions we don’t like.”

“I think religious freedom is something that ministers of religion and priests should be most concerned about,” Abetz said.

“Tasmania legislated against this form of discrimination 20 years ago and it has not impeded religious freedom on the island state,” said Hinton-Teoh.

“Andrew Hastie should stop using the LGBTI community as a political tool to whip up baseless hysteria.

“We are Australians who just wish to grow up, learn, live and work without being subject to unjust prejudice.

“To live with equal dignity shouldn’t be a political issue leading into the 2019 election.”

Despite the electorate of Canning returning a 60 per cent Yes result in the 2017 marriage equality postal survey, Hastie abstained from voting on the same-sex marriage legislation alongside partymates including Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

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