Christian schools in Western Australia are sounding the alarm against the state government’s plans to make changes to the Equal Opportunity Act and introduce law reforms to protect LGBTQI students in religious schools.
The Australian Association of Christian Schools claimed that they may be forced to shut down their institutions in WA if the government’s proposals become law. In other words, the association is claiming they would rather shut down than protect LGBTQI students from discrimination.
Last week, Western Australian Attorney General, John Quigley said that the government broadly accepted the 163 recommendations by the Law Reform Commission after its review of the Equal Opportunity Act.
Currently, the law carves out exemptions for religious schools and institutions and allows them to discriminate against LGBTQI students and staff.
Christian Schools Cite Religious Freedom
ACCS claimed that the recommendations “fail to protect religious freedom… (and) traditional views on sexual and gender expression.”
The peak body for Christian schools said that the law reforms would “impact the way Christian schools employ staff and enrol students, making it difficult for schools to employ staff and preference families in enrolment who share the beliefs of the school.”
“Unless the Government pushes back against some of these recommendations, it will be very difficult to operate a Christian school according to Christian principles and beliefs once they become law,” ACCS Executive Officer Vanessa Cheng said in a statement.
“The Christian school model requires that all staff, from the Principal to the Music teacher, share and practice the faith of the school community. We believe this provides the best, holistic learning environment for our students. Surely it is not for the Government to determine how a Christian school should be a Christian school?” added Cheng.
ACCS has asked its members to send a message to their respective political representatives opposing the law reforms.
Premier Mark McGowan led Labor government had last week agreed to law reforms that would among other things include, “strengthening protections for LGBTQI staff and students in religious schools”.
The government has also accepted recommendations that would introduce “protections for family and domestic violence victims from discrimination, new anti-vilifications laws, remove outdated “disadvantage test” for sexual harassment complaints; provide anti-discrimination protections to trans, gender-diverse and non-binary Western Australians without requiring them to undergo a surgical or medical procedure and extend the prohibition against sexual and racial harassment to members of Parliament and Parliament staff, judicial officers and court staff, local government councillors and staff, and unpaid or volunteer workers.”
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