Bi-partisan support for freedom for religious schools in New South Wales could be trashed following recommendations from an Albanese Government-commissioned discussion paper.
Yesterday’s Australian Law Reform Commission paper recommends forcing religious schools and universities to comply with harmful LGBTQ+ ideology.
Family First-backed independent candidate for the New South Wales Upper House Lyle Shelton said religious schools, on behalf of parents, should be free to address staff and student behaviours which are against their sincerely held religious beliefs.
This was the view of state Labor and the Coalition in response to a recent parliamentary inquiry into religious freedom.
Instead, the ALRC report could lead to the Commonwealth stripping schools of the right to hire staff who share their ethos unless their role is specifically a religious role, like chaplain.
“The Albanese government is delving into the role of theological enforcer by stipulating what is or is not essential to a religious community.
“Parents expect all staff at a religious school to model their religion in all aspects of life, but the Albanese government thinks it knows better.
“Why should LGBTIQ+ political activists be given special privileges in law so their ideology can trump the sincerely held religious beliefs of mainstream Australians?” Mr Shelton said.
“Students and staff who disagree with Christian or Muslim ideas of marriage and gender should be free to find a school which suits them, not have the force of law to bend a particular religious community to their views.
“A free and tolerant society would allow a diversity of views and uphold freedom of association for people to coalesce around those views.
“An LGBTQ+ organisation would never be forced to accommodate religious behaviours and ideology in the same way – there is a clear double standard,” Mr Shelton said.
The ALRC report, commissioned by Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, puts religious freedom further out of reach, despite years of promises from both sides of politics, Mr Shelton said.
“Christian schools never, nor do they seek power to, expel children because of their sexual or gender identity. However, parents expect Christian schools to have the freedom to uphold biological truth about gender and relationships,” Mr Shelton said.
The ALRC discussion paper says “a religious school could not take action against a staff member for …. attending a Pride rally, on the grounds that it undermined the
religious ethos of the school”.
This is despite the fact that “Pride” events, such as Sydney’s up-coming World Pride festival, celebrate sexuality shows featuring animal-themed fetishes.
“This recommendation makes it very hard for religious schools to ensure they hire staff who are appropriate role models for children,” Mr Shelton said.
The report recommends schools be forced to accommodate the uniform preferences of a high school boy who wanted to identify as a girl, and vice-versa.
“A school could continue to impose reasonable uniform requirements as long as
adjustments could be made to accommodate transgender or gender diverse students,” (emphasis added), the discussion paper says.
The paper also says: “A school could not require, as a condition of appointment, any staff member or prospective staff member to sign a statement of belief by which they had to affirm that homosexuality is a sin”.
Mr Shelton said it was wrong for the government to force religious organisations to disavow their sacred texts.
“Family First will fight for the freedom of parents to choose an education for their children which is compatible with their religious or mainstream beliefs.”
Submissions in response to yesterday’s discussion paper are due by February 24. The ALRC will provide a final report to the government on April 21.
Mr Shelton said in commissioning the ALRC report, Mr Dreyfus was undoing the very protections for religious freedom which he introduced into the Parliament in 2013 when the then Gillard government amended the Sex Discrimination Act.
“These protections passed the parliament unanimously. Mr Dreyfus, who was one who ridiculed the idea that there would be consequences for freedom if people voted Yes to same-sex marriage, should tell the Australian people what has changed to now warrant the binning religious freedom protections he once championed.”