Attorney general defends religious schools’ right to sack teachers for views on sexuality

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01/12/2022

Michaelia Cash’s department has defended religious schools’ right to sack teachers for their views on sexuality and appeared to confirm safeguards for gay students will be delayed until after the religious discrimination bill. The attorney general’s department’s submission to two inquiries states that changes to the Sex Discrimination Act will wait for a further review 12 months after the bill passes, despite a purported deal with four Liberal MPs to prevent expulsion of gay students at the same time, in exchange for their support of the religious discrimination bill. Cash also personally walked back her reported commitment in December after a backlash from religious groups including the Australian Christian Lobby and Christian Schools Australia which threatened to scupper their support for the bill over the deal. Liberal MPs Katie Allen, Dave Sharma, Angie Bell and Fiona Martin claimed they had won Cash’s agreement to remove section 38(3) from the Sex Discrimination Act, which allows schools to discriminate on sexuality and gender grounds. The department’s submission reiterates that “the religious discrimination bill does not affect the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act”. “In particular, the existing exemptions for religious educational institutions provided in section 38 of that Act are not affected.” The department said religious exemptions will be considered by the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry, to report back 12 months after the bill passes.

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