Religious schools could bar gay kids from enrolling if the Federal Government adopts a key recommendation laid out in a review of Australian religious freedoms, sparking a backlash among those who believe the policy shake-up would enshrine blatant discrimination.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the review, which was received by the government in May but has not been officially released, states the federal Sex Discrimination Act should be altered to let religious schools bar prospective students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or even their relationship status.

While some states already permit schools outside of the government education system to do so, the recommendation laid out in the report would enforce those freedoms on a national level.

“To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community,” the report states.

The only caveat: the schools ought to make their policies on that matter clear and publicly available, the report said.

The review, which was led by former Liberal MP Phillip Ruddock, was cobbled together amid last year’s parliamentary consternation over the legalisation of same-sex marriage would erode religious freedoms across the board.

To date, the permission of same-sex marriage has not exactly demolished the rights of religious institutions; in fact, the report also dismisses calls to create a new Religious Freedoms Act which would protect churches and their associated organisations from pre-existing anti-discrimination laws.

Will that stop those who want the freedom to be discriminatory because of their adherence to the teachings of ancient texts? Look, if the past couple of thousand of years are anything to go by, probably not.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, an avowed Christian who abstained from the final vote which legalised same-sex marriage, today said the Government will “release our response after it has gone through a proper Cabinet process.” 

Responses have been more definite on the other side of the aisle. Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek told Sky News “as a human being and as a mother, the idea adults would be discriminating against or rejecting children seems to me pretty awful.”

Sky News’ political editor David Speers also said the report is seen as “a joke” by some members of the LNP, who believe opening the door to that one religious exception will encourage institutions to discriminate for even more archaic and backwards reasons.

The joke isn’t that funny, though. The leaked portion of the report has elicited responses from members of the LGBTQIA community who traversed the private school system, who say private educational facilities are already more than equipped to discriminate.

Love to relitigate “debates” which should have been settled decades ago.


Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Image: Pete McClaine / EPA