Faith discrimination bill ‘misconceived’

November 18, 2021 by AAP
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Australia’s union for private teachers thinks religious schools already have extensive protections and a proposal to boost them is “fundamentally misconceived”.

Benjamin Netanyahu Malcolm Turnbull greet school students at Sydney’s Moriah College Photo Haim Zach/GPO

The Morrison government is planning to introduce legislation to parliament next week that requires faith-based schools to publicly state their positions on hiring people of other religions.

This will accompany provisions allowing religious schools to prefer hiring someone of their own faith over another equally qualified candidate with different beliefs.

The Independent Education Union of Australia labelled the bill, promised by the coalition in the lead up to the 2019 election, “fundamentally misconceived”.

The union representing non-government teachers and staff only supported schools being able to discriminate on grounds of faith when the position required it, such as a principal or religious teacher.

The union’s assistant federal secretary Anthony Odgers questioned the need for the legislation.

“Very few schools, if any, recruit entirely from the faith base,” he told AAP on Thursday.

“There simply aren’t enough teachers of each and every relevant faith.”

The union believes legislative changes are needed to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religion.

The easiest way would be to add religion to the list of protected attributes in existing anti-discrimination legislation, Mr Odgers said.

The government’s bill is also set to include a clause designed to protect people making statements about their beliefs as long as they don’t harass or vilify.

But protection would not be extended to employment should statements clash with an employer’s standards such as codes of conduct.

It also wouldn’t be applied to situations like that of Israel Folau. His Rugby Australia contract was terminated in 2019 for his comments claiming “hell awaits” gay people.

Folau later received an apology from the body as well as a confidential settlement.

“Schools already have a number of abilities in the contract to ensure that the conduct of their employees is in no way offensive to the faith that the school represents,” Mr Odgers said.

A spokesman for shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus declined to comment on the bill.

Andrew Watt, Principal at Sydney’s Emanuel School, told J-Wire: “As a pluralist school, Emanuel employs staff for any secular position based only on the applicant’s aptitude, attitude and suitability for the role.”

In Melbourne, Bialik was the first school in Australia to sign up to the Marriage Equality movement and its Principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner has advocated in national media to prohibit discrimination on gender and sexuality grounds.

Principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner said that “I strongly oppose any exemptions to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender identity. We are all created equally and I strongly encourage the law to support this, and prevent discrimination. The path that the alternative to this sets us on is a dark path. Future generations would look at us with the same incredulity that we hold when we consider those who opposed the emancipation of slaves, universal suffrage or civil rights.”



One Response to “Faith discrimination bill ‘misconceived’”
  1. mikeybear says:

    In general, a person’s personal circumstances should not be grounds for dismissal (or refusal of employment) unless it directly conflicts with their ability to perform the stated job.

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