Falinski says Religious Discrimination bill would not allow Citipointe action

Liberal MP Jason Falinski says the contract put forward by Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College, that describes homosexuality and bisexuality as destructive to people and society, is appalling – but it would not have been permitted to occur if the government’s proposed Religious Discrimination laws were in place.

His claim has been questioned by LGBTIQA+ rights advocates, who have long argued the bill will take away rights that people already have, in the name of religious freedom.

“The whole point of the Religious Discrimination act is to actually get people to stop discriminating, not to allow discrimination to occur.” Falinski said during an Wednesday evening appearance on the Sky News program Paul Murray Live.

“The one thing that when I listen to parents in my area, and all sorts of parts of Australia, is that they are fed up with schools telling children how to live, and I think that goes on both sides of the fence.

“What is going is appalling, it is happening under the current law, not under the new law, and the whole point of that law is to stop all forms of discrimination, and it would not allow this sort of discrimination.” Falinski said.

Two inquiries looking into the Religious Discrimination laws are currently in progress, one from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, and another from the senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

During both inquiries experts delivered testimony highlighting that a provision within the bill, which requires religious based schools to publish clear statements of their beliefs and standards, could lead to an increase in overt statements that currently would be classed as discriminatory.

Rodney Croome from Just.Equal says the Morrisson government is making a concert effort to brush off the concerns about the bill.

“There is a concerted campaign from the Federal Government to pretend the Religious Discrimination Bill is not as bad as it is and clearly Jason Falinski has fallen for it.” Croome told OUTinPerth.

“The Citipointe contract is exactly the kind of discrimination that will be allowed under the Religious Discrimination Bill.

“The Bill doesn’t allow faith-based schools to disciminate on the ground of sexuality or gender identity, but it does allow discrimination on the ground of “religious belief” which is exactly thew way Citipointe’s contract was framed.

“It’s as if Citipointe is anticipating the licence to discriminate the Federal Bill will provide.

“When it comes to LGBTIQ+ teachers in faith-based schools the situation is even clearer.” Croome said.

“The Federal Bill explicitly overrides existing protections for them in Tasmania, the ACT and Victoria, and it will stymie such protections being enacted in other states including WA.”

Both parliamentary inquiries are due to release their reports on the legislation on Friday.

It’s not the first time claims about what the proposed Religious Discrimination bill would allow have been called into question.

Equality advocates have already labeled statements by the Attorney General’s office as misleading and untruthful. Concern has already been raised about statements that claimed the proposed bill would not override state based discrimination laws.

A poll released today has shown that 77% of Australians surveyed about the bill are opposed to the clauses which allow people to make “statements of belief” that might otherwise be classed a discriminatory under existing laws.

The poll also shows two thirds of people are opposed to religious-based schools being allowed to expel students or dismiss teachers because of their sexuality.

Debate on the bill is expected to recommence when parliament returns next week. With only eleven sitting days scheduled for February, and an early budget expected in March, the government will be eager to push forward the legislation before Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls the date for the election.

Graeme Watson

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