Schools ‘could turn away gay kids, teachers’
THE government's review into religious freedom could reportedly see devotional schools given the right to reject gay students and teachers under proposed adjustments to federal anti-discrimination laws.
According to Fairfax Media, the report has also rejected the notion that religious freedom in Australia is in "imminent peril", and it has reportedly cautioned against any thrust to let businesses refuse services to gay couples.
The review was ordered after last year's same-sex marriage victory to placate conservative MPs who worried the change would reduce people's ability to practise their religion freely.
Fairfax Media said the contents of the report will likely not appease conservatives and religious leaders, and will set off concern within the LGBTQI community about the treatment of gay students and teachers.
Controversially, the report calls for the federal Sex Discrimination Act to be altered to allow religious schools to discriminate against students on their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status - something some but not all states already allow.
"There is a wide variety of religious schools in Australia and … to some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance," Fairfax Media quoted the report as saying.
"To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community."
Any change would reportedly be in regard to new school enrolments.
There was also a suggestion that religious-based schools should have discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.
The report was submitted to then-PM Malcolm Turnbull back in May and reportedly received more than 15,000 submissions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Fairfax Media in September that new religious freedom laws were needed to protect personal liberty as societal attitudes changed.
"Just because things haven't been a problem in the past doesn't mean they won't be a problem in the future," he said.