One citizen’s rights wrongs another

November 12, 2018 by Rabbi Chaim Ingram
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It was only just over a year ago that the Yes campaigners for the same-sex marriage vote were at pains to assure voters that religious institutions would continue to be protected…writes Rabbi Chaim Ingram.

Rabbi Chaim Ingram

I predicted then that it wouldn’t be long before these promises would be imperilled.  Sadly I have been proven right.

The grievous distortions that have been peddled in the media these past weeks with regard to what the law does or does not say, should or should not say about homosexual students and teachers in religious schools have given rise to shrill voices affecting outrage while seeking to replace one type of discrimination with another.

Section 38 of the current Sex Discrimination Act currently states “nothing……..renders it unlawful … discriminate…..on the grounds of ……sexual orientation. ……by an educational institution…..conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed”.

Far from the Ruddock review seeking to effect a “watering-down of the anti-discrimination laws” as Kerryn Phelps has publicly alleged, it is proposing to make religious schools more openly accountable for their policies in this area.

I do not advocate any school discriminating against any teacher or pupil on the grounds of sexual orientation alone. The idea that a school will, for example, include on an enrolment form for pubescent students the question “what Is your sexual preference” with a view to discrimination on that basis alone is beyond outrageous. It has assuredly not happened before (if it had it would have created a cause celebre) and it will not happen now – certainly not in a strictly Orthodox Jewish setting where sexual conduct is seen as a strictly private matter.

However, it is entirely reasonable that, inasmuch as teachers need to be role models, religious schools be entitled to seek out staff who share the religious values of the faith-based schools in which they are employed.

In Melbourne and Sydney, there is a small but significant number of strictly Orthodox schools all of which are single-sex or single-sex-streamed. The reason for this is that strictly Orthodox Judaism does not sanction sexual activity or sexualised conduct of any nature outside marriage which inevitably happens to a greater or lesser a co-ed setting.

The last thing these Orthodox parents expect is for such sexual activity and sexualised behaviours to enter the school in an unexpected way via students with a homosexual orientation. If such behaviours are demonstrated – just as with a boy and a girl – the administration of a strictly Orthodox school is entitled to take whatever reasonable preventative action it needs to without the risk of being prosecuted for discrimination.

Similarly, in hopefully rare instances, it may be deemed in the interests of a homosexually-oriented child who is ill at ease in a strictly Orthodox school to be advised that a different school may be better suited to his or her needs. This is called looking after the interests of a student. It isn’t discrimination.  Again this is currently provided for in Section 38 of the SDA. But there are those on the secularist left who are agitating to abolish this freedom of choice as of yesterday!

As far as teachers are concerned, every teacher in a strictly Orthodox school is viewed as a role model, whether teaching Jewish or secular subjects. Therefore it is reasonable to require that every member of staff leads a lifestyle in consonance with Orthodox Jewish values. This would exclude a polygamous, polyandrous or even a common-law relationship in addition to a homosexual union.

Those “anti-discrimination “ militants who are fighting to implement legislation which would not permit this are taking away my religious freedom and autonomy as a potential grandparent of a child seeking to attend one of these schools. They are thereby discriminating against me as an Orthodox Jew., and thousands like me in Wentworth and in large swathes of Jewish Melbourne who wouldn’t feel comfortable in an Australia where that would happen.   To my great chagrin, I have heard shrill Jewish voices linking the rights of religious school to select staff in keeping with their ethos as per the Ruddock review and the persecution of Jews and homosexuals in Nazi Germany!  Not only is this comparison offensive, it is also perverse.  In actual fact, the Ruddock review calls for people to be able to “manifest their faith proudly without suffering discrimination” by such means as “ wearing religious symbols and dress at school or work” and “communicating views based on religious understandings …..without fear of discrimination”.  And senior church and other figures have made it abundantly clear that they are not seeking the sacking of teachers and the banning of students merely on the grounds of sexual orientation.

However, of one thing I am afraid. If we Jews shout too loudly against the rights of religious schools, we may help create a situation where we are not allowed to “discriminate” against non-Jewish enrollees in our Jewish schools and may even be required to accept a quota of non-Jewish students thus denying some Jewish children a Jewish education. If we protest too much, we will be seen as the “culprits” not the victims of discrimination.

It would sadly not be the first time that we Jews would be accessories to our own misfortune.

Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the honorary secretary of the Rabbinical Council of NSW



5 Responses to “One citizen’s rights wrongs another”
  1. Rabbi Chaim Ingram says:

    Unfortunately Messrs. Gershon and Barnett have missed the whole point of my essay. I suggest they read it again more carefully. Maybe then, even from their own perspectives, they will understand that tolerance is a two-way street.

    Mr. Gershon: a basic understanding of arithmetic should reveal to you that if Jewish schools are forced to take a quota of non-Jewish students, some Jewish students are likely to miss out. Mr. Barnett: when you start to appreciate that groups other than yours also have rights, we may be able to dialogue meaningfully.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    Rabbi Ingram makes a great many good points.

    I would also ask why anyone, student or teacher, in a school setting should declare his or her sexuality. To my simple mind school is a place to of learning not a place to declare one’s yearning.

    Rabbi Ingram opposes discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and in that regard I agree with him 100%. But a realisation has dawned on me since our country was deceived into accepting same sex “marriage”: under the banner of non-discrimination against homosexuals, we are steadily being pushed into accepting homosexuality as being normal. And to my mind, that is neither logical nor kosher.

  3. michael Burd says:

    I have seen conversations on social media where our own Progressive ,Liberal Jews here have called our Jewish schools racist , of course they consider Israel racist so this is not surprising .

  4. ben gershon says:

    protection of rights should not allow over protection

    non Jewish students in Jewish schools have never prevented a Jewish education

    about time the rabbi join the rest of us in a more tolerant attitude


  5. Michael Barnett says:

    I’d like to see all discrimination removed that negatively impacts same-sex atrracted, gender diverse, and intersex (LGBTIQ) people, after which time we can address any outstanding concerns that inhibits the ability of state-funded religious organisations to further discriminate against LGBTIQ people.

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