A Baptist college has sacked a gay educator after years of loyal and highly regarded employment, seemingly as a result of an email sent from a member of the public.
Karen Pack told the ABC’s 7.30 that she was sacked from Morling College for being openly gay, even though she had been open about her sexuality from the beginning of her employment in 2018.
“In February 2018, I signed a contract to become an adjunct lecturer, both times just checking that I could sign up with integrity,” Pack told 7.30. “I was open with people and staff. I din’t hide my sexuality.”
Everything Changed In 2020
The change in attitude came at the beginning of 2020 when the school received a letter from a member of the public, pointing out that “Ms Pack is a ‘lesbian’ who needs to be ‘denounced immediately’, and it urged the Baptist denomination to ‘distance itself from her demonic actions’ because they felt ‘disgusted’”, as reported on the ABC website before the story went to air.
The college denies firing Pack, saying she she decided to leave the school because she could “no longer adhere to a key Morling value” about the “nature of marriage”, and that “after discussion and prayer” she left their employment.”, a claim that is disputed by Pack and her now wife, Bronte Scott.
It’s a claim that seems at odds with the letter sent to students at the same time saying she was an “excellent and committed educator”, a “good friend, teacher and colleague” who would still be “warmly welcomed on campus”.
“Karen loved that job and that work and that she flourished in that because that’s what she’s great at. And for that to be taken away… it was really hard to watch,” Scott told 7.30.
Religious Schools Exempt From Anti-Discrimination Laws
LGBTQ+ advocacy organisation Equality Australia that has been supporting Pack, pointed out that students, teachers and staff can already be “expelled, fired, excluded or treated unfairly, simply because of who they are or whom they love”.
“That’s because religious schools and educational institutions across Australia are exempt from the very laws meant to protect LGBTQI+ people. Situations like these happen because faith-based educational institutions have exemptions in national anti-discrimination laws, as well as laws in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory,” said Anna Brown, CEO, Equality Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had promised two years ago to enact rules to protect students from being expelled from schools because of their sexuality. That commitment is yet to be fulfilled. Equality Australia has started an online petition asking the Prime Minister to end the discrimination in schools.
“We’re calling on the PM, state and territory leaders to remove outdated carve-outs that allow students, teachers and staff to be treated unfairly in religious schools and educational institutions, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Brown.
Latham’s Bill Will Further Entrench Discrimination
This is a timely example of what educators in religious schools are facing with Patrick Devery from the Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch saying in a press release regarding the amendments proposed by One Nations MP Mark Latham to the Discrimination Act charging through NSW Parliament currently.
The proposed amendments to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which were introduced by One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham in 2020, were recently endorsed by a parliamentary committee, with the committee chair, Gabrielle Upton urging that the recommendations be adopted and laws introduced by the end of the year.
“The recommendations of this Committee would entrench the ability for faith-based organisations to continue to discriminate against workers who have different beliefs, no matter how well they can do the job required of them, even where religion is not relevant to the role.”
This means teachers in faith-based schools would remain vulnerable to losing their jobs, simply because they have different beliefs to their employers”.
If the recommendations are adopted, these amendments wouldn’t only apply to teachers in religious schools, but also to employees of any faith-based organisation, such as doctors or nurses in faith-based hospitals.
“The religious freedom laws that are currently trying to be passed, they’re not religious freedom laws, they’re protected discrimination laws,” Pack told 730.
“They’re trying to protect the right of some elements in the church to discriminate, not against people outside, but against people within their very own bodies, their very own churches and families. That’s what’s so devastating about it.”
“We really wanted to get married in a physical church, because of the role of our faith. And just to be, like, yeah, we’re doing this — living all of ourselves,” Scott said.
“We’re stepping into the next part of our life, of being fully us, being married… knowing there’s a place for us.”
Online Petition To PM Scott Morrison
— Equality Australia 🌈 (@EqualityAu) April 8, 2021
Equality Australia has started an online petition that urges PM Morrison and state leaders to bring in law reforms to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students, teachers and staff in schools and educational institutions run by religious and faith-based organisations.