Can anyone win from the recommendation giving schools the power to reject students based on their sexuality, that was contained in Philip Ruddock’s religious freedom review and leaked in the media this week?
While the Morrison Government would be unwise to pursue anything that further discriminates against often already marginalised kids, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it try. Particularly considering the Prime Minister’s oft-cited views on the protection of religious freedoms.
But such a recommendation– along with the debate it’s sparking across the media and wider community– will only do more to hurt LGBTIQ+ people and their children. Many of whom are still recovering from last year’s marriage equality plebiscite.
The recommendation was leaked to Fairfax from a review led by former Howard government minister, Ruddock. It recommends granting schools the right to “select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community.”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald today, the Ruddock review calls for the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended to allow religious school to discriminate against students on the grounds of gender identity, their relationship status or sexual orientation. Section 38 of the Act already includes an exception allowing religious school to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status or pregnancy, but the Ruddock recommendation pushes for the exception to be further clarified.
The report was given to former PM Malcolm Turnbull four months ago, although it had not been publicly released; indicating perhaps, that Turnbull didn’t want to have to deal with it. Morrison may also have been holding off till after the Wentworth by-election, given Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma is likely to take a hit from the news.
Ruddock told the ABC yesterday that the recommendation is not to expand on law, but rather to “contract” it, “so that information was clean and unambiguous in relation to people who were seeking to enrol children.”
Perhaps the one good thing that could eventually come out of a debate over religious freedom exemptions will eventually be the removal of Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act altogether.
Already key crossbench senators have lashed out at the Ruddock recommendations, with Senators Derryn Hinch and Rex Patrick telling the Guardian such changes would be “retrograde”.
Hinch went one step further, stating he will move a motion in the Senate next week calling for any school that “discriminates against a teacher or student on sexuality grounds to be stripped of all government funds and charity status.
I will move a notice of motion in the Senate Monday calling for any private school that discriminates against a teacher or student on sexuality grounds be stripped of all government funds and charity status.
— Derryn Hinch (@HumanHeadline) October 10, 2018
Despite all the above, the Ruddock review also recommends that schools must consider the “best interests of the child as the primary consideration.”
A great idea. And one that would be absolutely contrary to discriminating against a child.
Could a Bill of Rights end the political point-scoring? Read Lucia Osborne-Crowley’s excellent piece on this here.