News, Victoria

Christian school group fighting to keep right to fire LGBTQ+ teachers

Christian lobbyists say they will oppose new legislation that will end the right of religious schools to fire teachers for being LGBTQ+.

A new bill proposed by the Andrews Government aims to close a loophole that allows religious schools in Victoria to fire or refuse to hire teachers for their sexuality or gender.

It will also prevent religious organisations from discriminating against LGBTQ+ people when delivering services such as counselling and homelessness support.

Lobby group Christian Schools Australia called the change “alarming” and vowed to fight the legislation, according to The Age.

“Once again it seems that people of faith in Victoria are being told what they can and can’t believe, that religious schools can only hold and act on beliefs that the government determines are acceptable,” said public policy director Mark Spencer.

“Is the next step for the announced changes to ‘anti-vilification’ laws to limit what can be taught in religious schools or preached in a church, mosque, or temple?”

Victorian Greens LGBTIQA+ spokesperson Sam Hibbins said that the current laws permitting religious schools to fire staff over sexuality or gender are “insidious and damaging”.

“The world will be a better place when these reforms pass,” said Hibbins. 

“No-one should live in fear of losing their job or being kicked out of school for who they love or how they identify, but that’s exactly what these harmful exemptions are doing.”

The party’s previous attempts to remove the discriminatory religious exemptions in the Equal Opportunity Act were voted down by the Victorian Liberals and Labor as recently as 2018.

The Green recently announced they would introduce their own bill if the government didn’t act.

“The Greens look forward to supporting the bill when it comes to Parliament and strengthening it if required,” said Hibbins.

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown called the current laws “out of step with 21st-century community expectations”.

“Everyone deserves to live, work, and study with dignity and respect, no matter who they are or whom they love,” said Brown.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said that the change was a move to end “unfair, hurtful” discrimination.

“People shouldn’t have to hide who they are to keep their job,” said Symes.

She said that the bill was “the right thing to do” and had unanimous cabinet support, including from religious MPs.

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