Religious schools are gearing up for a fight with the Palaszczuk government over proposed reforms which will make it harder for them to sack LGBTQ+ teachers. Controversial law changes, recommended by the state’s Human Rights Commission, would prevent church-run schools from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexuality, marital status and gender identity. The state government will shortly unveil its response to the commission report, and it is understood it plans to relax requirements for staff in religious schools to hold certain beliefs. Law changes would mean only religion teachers could be subject to discrimination, which would still need to be “reasonable and proportionate”. Staff not directly involved in religious education, such as science, maths and English teachers, could not be fired on the basis of their sexuality.

“A specific concern was that the current act requires employees to hide or suppress who they are in the workplace,” the report read. “Hiding or suppressing sexuality and gender identity has been linked to psychological harm.” It was noted that being LGBTQ+ and holding a religious belief are not mutually exclusive. Christian Schools Australia director of public policy Mark Spencer said the reforms were “radical” and many would be unaware of their consequences. “No parent is forced to choose a Christian school for their child, but those who want to do so should have that right,” he said. “The right qualifications to work in a Christian school are best determined by that school, based on their needs and how they want to achieve their goals. “If the government is genuinely committed to ensuring choice in schooling, they will ensure that schools can choose staff suitable for their school, including on the basis of faith without unnecessary government interference.”

Commissioner Scott McDougall’s report comes after a Brisbane Christian school asked its teachers to sign employment contracts that warned they could be sacked for being openly homosexual. It was the second time this year that Citipointe Christian College was called out for discrimination after it asked families to sign a document that labelled homosexuality “immoral” and “offensive to God”. Just Equal spokesman Rodney Croome said reforms would ensure staff were selected on the basis of competence “which is what parents want and students need”. But he voiced concern that “certain teaching jobs, including teaching religion, may still be off-limits to LGBTIQA+ teachers, no matter how well qualified,” he said. “This reinforces the myth that we are somehow a threat to faith.” Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said there would be “extensive consultation” with schools and teachers before any changes were made.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports.

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