Christian Schools Australia defends right to fire-staff based on beliefs


Christian Schools Australia has defended the ability of religious schools to hire and fire staff based on their adherence to religious codes.

In a submission to Philip Ruddock’s review into Australian religious freedom, the group warned that “removing the ability of Christian schools to employ staff who share the school’s values and beliefs would undermine the essential nature of the school,” The Guardian reported.

“If freedom of religion is to remain a legitimate hallmark of Australian education then the rights of school communities to operate in accordance with religious beliefs must be upheld,” the group wrote.

“This must include the right to choose all staff based on their belief in, and adherence to, the beliefs, tenets and doctrines of the religion concerned.”

Under existing anti-discrimination laws, various exemptions allow religious groups to hire and fire staff on the basis of their sexuality, marital status and other characteristics.

In November, a Baptist school in Western Australia sacked a relief teacher who revealed his sexuality in a Facebook post.

In the submission, Christian Schools Australia argued for existing religious exemptions to be widened giving schools the power to choose staff by defining it as a legal form of “differentiation”, rather than an exemption to discrimination law, The Guardian reported.

The group claimed exemptions in Queensland’s anti-discrimination laws are too narrow, requiring religious objections to be an “inherent requirement” of the religion, meaning schools couldn’t sack staff who “may have a fundamentally antithetical faith position” to the school.

The group claimed school staff leading a “double life” undermined their duty to the school and was a form of “duplicity and deceit” that was “not in anybody’s interests.”

LGBTI advocacy group just.equal called for the scrapping of all laws that allow discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

“This includes those provisions that allow discrimination and vilification by religious individuals and faith-based organisations such as schools, hospitals, welfare agencies and aged care facilities,” the group wrote.

Last month, the group said the best way to protect genuine religious freedom and LGBTIQ equality was an Australian Bill of Rights enshrining both into law.

“The current ‘religious freedom’ movement has nothing to do with genuine freedom and everything to do with punching holes in Australian laws that protect LGBTIQ people and other minorities from discrimination and disadvantage,” spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said.

Human rights group Amnesty International recommended in their submission that religious organisations, including educational institutions, who receive public funding be prohibited from “discriminating in the provision of those services in ways that would otherwise be unlawful”.

The group also recommended the federal government legislate a Human Rights Act for Australia, to ensure rights to freedom of religion and right to equality are “protected and appropriately balanced.”


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