Alan Tudge says religious schools will no longer be allowed to discriminate on sexuality

Education Minister Alan Tudge says religious schools will no longer be able to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ staff during their hiring processes under the government’s proposed new religious freedom legislation.

The legislation has not yet been made public, but some government backbenchers have been briefed about it’s contents, and reports have begun surfacing in the media outlining what the latest version of the long-promised legislation contains.

Speaking on Sky News on Wednesday morning the Education Minister said under the proposed legislation religious schools would no longer be able to reject teachers solely on the basis of their sexuality.

“That wouldn’t be lawful under our bill. The bill will certainly allow religious schools to employ people of their own faith, this is a critical principle at stake here. You can’t be a Catholic school if you can’t employ Catholic teachers, you can’t be a Muslim school without employing Muslim teachers.

“That has been under threat, it’s particularly been under threat by the Labor government here in my home state of Victoria, where they have legislation that would actually prohibit that occurring, which is just a further mechanism to undermine Catholic and other religious schools, so we plan on protecting that very critical right for schools to be able to employ teachers of their own faith, and overriding that state legislation when required.” Tudge said.

The Minister went on to say that schools should however be able to employ people who share the same values.

“It goes to the overall values of the individual, and if a school has a set of religious values which they are imparting, then they should be able to employ teachers who have values consistent with those articulated principles, and that’s always been the case. No one have ever suggested that there’s been a significant problem here.”

While the Minister said schools would no longer be able to reject a candidate simply because they are gay, he did not elaborate if religious schools would still be able to reject candidates and fire existing staff on the basis of their sexuality if opposition to homosexuality was one of their listed religious values.

The Ruddock Review, which was commissioned by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the wake of the result of the national plebiscite on marriage equality had previously suggested schools needed to publicly list their values to be able to take action on staff or students they felt did not live up to their standards.

Speaking to The Age Anna Brown, the Chief Executive of Equality Australia said Tudge’s comments were breathtakingly misleading.

“Alan Tudge’s comments are breathtakingly misleading, given that existing federal law specifically allows discrimination against LGBT teachers and students in religious schools,” Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said.

The Religious Freedom bill has travelled a long pathway, it was first promised in 2017 by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to placate conservatives within the coalition who were fighting against the legislation of marriage equality following the national plebiscite.

The government’s decision to attempt to push forward with the legislation has been criticised by political commentators across the spectrum.

Sky News host Peta Credlin said in retrospect the government should have abandoned the idea of passing religious freedom laws.

“Often the best things governments can do is avoid making a bad situation worse by passing new laws that can end up having unintended unforeseen consequences, on balance a commitment to legislate for religious freedom, as opposed to merely believing in it, is one that best never have been made.” Credlin told her viewers.

“As things stand by leaving so late in the term to introduce, this legislation we can be confident won’t pass the parliament. This whole debate will turn out to be perhaps more about striking an election pose than making a difference before polling day.”

OIP Staff

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