So everyone is up in arms about the proposed legislation to expel gay students from school and their teachers … or is it to keep them in school? It’s all very confusing. Whatever is really going on the Morrison government has managed to look bad.
So. First things first. Let’s apportion blame. This is what James Paterson told Q&A on Monday:
I’ve been involved in the religious freedom debate quite actively. And in all that time, no-one has ever come to me and said, “Can you please make it easier to kick gay kids out of school?” Not once. And if they had, they would have been laughed out of my office and laughed out of the office of any of my colleagues. The truth is, though, there is a federal law and some state laws, including one that was passed in 2013 by Mark Dreyfus as Attorney-General under the Gillard government, that did allow schools to expel students based on their sexuality. I think that law is wrong and I think the Australian population overwhelmingly agrees with that sentiment. That’s why this week – or this sitting fortnight, I should say – the government is going to move with the opposition to get rid of that.
So this is a legislative repair job from the Gillard government. To be fair – I don’t think the Gillard government intended for gay students to be expelled from school. This is a genuine stuff up that will be fixed up in the next couple of weeks.
So far, so good.
But there remains a second issue – teachers. Should religious schools be able to sack LBGTI teachers?
Back to the tape – James Paterson again:
But I think it is important that schools are able to hire teachers who share the values of the school and want to teach that to students. Just as it’s important, for example, that an LGBTI organisation should have the right to hire staff who align with its values, and I don’t believe we should force them to hire, for example, a conservative Christian who opposes same-sex marriage. That would undermine the ethos of that organisation. I don’t want to see it happen for them, or for Christian schools, or, for that matter, Jewish or Islamic schools.
Here is Jacinta Collins:
We would also like to see in legislation a recognition that religious schools are entitled to require employees to act in their roles in a way that upholds the ethos and values of that faith; and this requirement can be taken into account when a person is first employed and in the course of their employment.
But I’m not convinced.
Do we really need another law? Surely professionals know that slagging off their employer’s ethos and values can and should get them sacked? Isn’t this sort of thing already covered by employment law? Could you imagine a vegan employed at the meat counter telling everyone not to buy the product because meat is murder keeping their job? If all they wanted was that religious schools could insist that the religion teacher teaches to a specific syllabus then I can understand (this might be covered already too) but surely nobody cares what the maths teacher does as long as they are good at teaching maths. Or whatever subject they teach.