Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that amendments will be made to religious discrimination laws to take away the right of faith-based schools to discriminate against and expel LGBTQI students. 

Morrison made the surprise comments on Brisbane’s B105.3 radio when he was asked about Citipointe Christian College’s now withdrawn anti-LGBTQI student enrolment contract

““No, I don’t support that. My kids go to a Christian school here in Sydney, and I wouldn’t want my school doing that either,” Morrison said.

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“And the bill we’re going to be taking through the parliament, we will have an amendment that will deal with that to ensure kids cannot be discriminated against on that basis. I’ve been saying that for years. That’s always been my view.”

Moderate Liberals Wanted Protection For LGBTQI Students

Morrison’s announcement is a significant back flip by his government which had been seeking to pass the Religious Discrimination Bill in Parliament. Moderate Liberal MPs had pushed for changes to the law to bar faith-based schools from expelling LGBTQI students as a condition to support the Religious Discrimination Bill. 

Attorney General Michaelia Cash had till recently been claiming that there would be no amendments to the law and changes to the Sex Discrimination Act to protect LGBTQI students would be made in 12 months time. 

Morrison’s announcement signals that the government may have agreed to the amendments to ensure the bill passed in parliament.

‘Betrayal’, Says Christian Organisations

Conservative Christian organisations, who have been resisting any changes to the Bill, cried “betrayal” soon enough. 

“Scott Morrison has betrayed the foundation of the religious discriomination bill,” said Greg Bondar, Family Voices NSW Director in a statement. 

“Morrison has fallen into the same trap as Bill Shorten in 2019, ignoring the voice of the Christian community. This is a sad day for all Australians and particularly faith schools as it has put religious freedom and free speech at risk.” 

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The Australian Christian Lobby had in December 2021 threatened to withdraw its support for the Bill if amendments were made to the law to protect LGBTQI students.

“Talk of simultaneously removing section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act, which protects the teaching and daily operation of faith-based schools, in exchange for some MPs’ support for the Religious Discrimination Bill, is extremely unhelpful. The Australian Christian Lobby will withdraw its support for the Religious Discrimination Bill package if it includes the removal of section 38(3),” the Lobby’s National Director of Politics, Wendy Francis had said.

Scrap The Religious Discrimination Bill

Equality Australia was cautious in welcoming Morrison’s announcement and asked the government to scrap the entire bill. 

“The Prime Minister made a commitment in 2018 to remove the outdated carve-outs in national anti-discrimination laws which allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in religious schools. This reform is long overdue, and better protections must apply to both teachers and students”, Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director at Equality Australia, said in a statement. 

Equality Australia said that Bill will lead to discriminatory employment practiices across faith-based institutions, including school, aged-care services, emergency accommodation and hospitals.

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“The Prime Minister may be putting out one small fire, but his Religious Discrimination Bill will unleash a firestorm of discrimination in religious organisations against anyone that holds a different belief from their faith-based employer – even when they can faithfully do the job that is required of them.”

The organisation asked Morrison to delink the amendment to protect LGBTQI students from the Religious Discrimination Bill. 

“If the Prime Minister is serious about fulfilling his 2018 election commitment, he would end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools by delivering simple legislation to stop schools from firing, expelling or discriminating against them for who they are.”

“And if his government is serious about protecting people of faith from discrimination, he must withdraw the Religious Discrimination Bill and do what he promised to do; deliver a simple reform that protects all of us, equally,” added Kassisieh.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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