The Senate Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee is currently taking submissions on the Sex Discrimination (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018.
The Bill, introduced by Penny Wong, amends the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to remove the capacity of bodies established for religious purposes that provide education to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
This Bill would not affect the operation of the indirect discrimination provisions in the SDA, which will continue to operate in a manner that allows faith-based education institutions to impose reasonable conditions, requirements or practices on students in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of their particular religion or creed.
This Bill does not address the issue of discrimination against staff employed by religious schools, or the operation of the SDA in this context.
Address for submission
The Secretary, Senate Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee, PO BOX 6100 Parliament House, Canberra, ACT. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please consider making a submission of your own.
I am a 68 year old gay journalist and broadcaster with fifty years experience in LGBTI issues. I helped found both the first and the second gay newspaper in the UK, as well as editing a Melbourne gay paper and broadcasting on current affairs on Mebourne LGBTI radio station Joy 94.9FM for more than 10 years.
Please find below my submission regarding the Sex Discrimination (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018
The purpose of a religious school
What is the primary function of a religious school? Is it to educate young people, on behalf of the state, in recognition of which it is paid, at least in part, by the state?
Is it to prepare the child for a harmonious life in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, offering a broad array of choices, and breaking down societal divisions?
Or is it to indoctrinate children in the beliefs of their parents, and perpetuate the religion by creating new generations of believers?
Is it to narrow the child’s choices in life, instil a specific world-view, and keep them within the confines of a faith community (indoctrinate rather than educate), thereby perpetuating division within Australian society?
If it is the former, then the school has no need of any powers to discriminate against LGBTI students or any other staff.
If it is the latter, then of course the school will seek such powers.
If the overriding function of the school is to educate, then of course it is appropriate that they are partially supported by taxpayer funds.
But if they stray into indoctrination, it is arguable that they should not receive any public funding at all.
Indoctrination is a function of the religion, be it Christianity (of whatever sect), Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or any other: it is not a proper function of the Commonwealth.
Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia precludes the Commonwealth of Australia (i.e., the federal parliament) from making laws for establishing any religion, imposing any religious observance, or prohibiting the free exercise of any religion (my emphasis).
By imposing a tax on non-religious Australians which is then used to fund religious schools, the Commonwealth forces all Australians, whether they will or no, to subsidise the indoctrination of children (and adults, too, but they are not my concern here) into those faiths.
It is the equivalent of forcing us to pay a tithe to religious organisations, a compulsory and involuntary support to their faiths. This is arguably “imposing a religious observance” on all Australians.
Subsidised schools should therefore not be granted the privilege of any exemptions to discrimination law, if they wish to continue to be subsidised by the taxpayer.