A Sydney school principal said she doesn’t want the legal right to discriminate against LGBTI students and teachers.
The headmistress of Sceggs Darlinghurst in Sydney, Jenny Allum, said in a letter to parents she ‘welcomes all – regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or religion’.
Her letter is a reaction to the bill in the Australian Senate to remove exemptions from the Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act.
‘I know that we have students, staff, parents, and alumni who are members of the LGBTI community. Who they choose as their life partner, who they fall in love with, is a matter for them. They are warmly welcome at SCEGGS,’ she wrote.
The debate on whether to grant religious schools in Australia the right to legally reject students on the grounds of their sexuality is still on.
In October, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to make legal amendments to make clear that religious schools should not discriminate against LGBTI students and staff.
On Wednesday 31 October, 34 Sydney Anglican schools wrote to the federal education minister. They asked him to preserve a clause in the federal Sex Discrimination Act that allows religious schools to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, it allows sacking a teacher or a member of staff over their marital status.
Principal Allum didn’t sign the letter, together with other principals of Anglican schools.
The only way to preserve religious freedom
One principal who signed the letter, the headmaster of St Andrew’s school, said it was misinterpreted.
John Collier said his school would never expel a student or fire a teacher for being part of the LGBTI community.
In an interview with Guardian Australia, he also said he wanted the exemption removed. However, he believes it should be retained momentarily and later replaced with other protections for religious freedom.
‘It’s the only thing we can cling to, and it’s very partial and we don’t actually want it,’ he said.
‘It doesn’t really [protect the ethos of the school]. But there is not very rich legislation in the field. Schools rely on anything.’
The government has hinted it might remove the exemption, but they haven’t make a final decision yet.