UPDATE, DECEMBER 14, 2011: A child has been refused enrolment at Sacred Heart School in Broken Hill, NSW, because its parents are a lesbian couple.
The report from news.com.au:
“But in a demonstration of the challenges which same-sex parents and their children still face, the school’s decision to discriminate is probably not illegal, as churches are exempt from prosecution for breaches of the Anti-Discrimination Act.
One of the mothers told the ABC the principal had phoned her and said the women’s relationship and living situation was the reason the application had been turned down.
Trevor Rynne, principal of the Sacred Heart school, yesterday confirmed the girl had been rejected because of her parents’ relationship but declined to comment further.
“It’s a breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act, there’s no question about it. But a religious school is probably exempt from that breach,” said Stepan Kerkyasharian, president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination board.”
Bishop Kevin Manning stepped in: “To penalise a 5 y/o child because her parents are…homosexual…is just quite wrong.” But why was it allowed to get to that?
What you do in the privacy of your bedroom could have you fired, or expelled from school. That’s because the major religions don’t have to abide by the same anti-discrimination laws that you and I do.
The Churches can discriminate. Just mull how crazy that sentence sounds in your head. Your regular small business or large corporation (save for very reasonable and specific exemptions for disabilities in some areas) would be hauled to the tribunal if they even tried the same tricks.
Let’s break it down. The Churches (not God, mind you, but some man in an office) have made a list of what is right and wrong when you work for them.
We’re not talking as a priest or a mullah here, but as an accountant for a church run charity, or as a gardener in a religious school.
This matters because, for instance, the Catholic Church is one of the largest private employers of people in Australia. They run schools, charities and affiliated organisations. If you work for them, they can judge you on an arbitrary set of morals and codes which they sign off on. As do the other religions.
This generally works out quite OK if your definition of a sinner is someone who murders and is convicted of such by a court of law. So far so good.
It starts to move into shaky territory when you realise that many Churches include adulterers, homosexuals, women who fall pregnant out of wedlock and so forth on the list of sinners.
There’s still some umming and ahhing from the powers that be about whether they also have a beef with people who masturbate. Seriously.
If you’re a prolific masturbator, or even just somebody who keeps a watchful eye of discrimination matters, this should be concerning at the outset.
Of course, as the counter-argument goes, nobody is forcing the unmarried single mother to apply for a job as an accountant in a Catholic charity (though one might suggest she would make a very good accountant).
Presumably we would ask her to apply for the alternative position as an accountant for the fictional law firm Sinners and Harlot.
At some point leadership absolutely must overtake the draconian views of some. At some point a line must be drawn between freedom of religion (and the freedom of those beliefs) and the freedom of people to work and live in a progressive society.
That line should be drawn without recourse to the age-old excuse that the sanctity of religious beliefs somehow gives them carte blanche to vilify, oppress or discriminate, because it doesn’t. Certainly they shouldn’t have that privilege when Governments of the day clearly recognise what is discriminatory.
It’s like saying you can drink and drive because we know it’s dangerous but we’ll give exemptions
to, oh I don’t know, the powerful and well resourced alcohol lobby. Or religion.
Not enough examples?
The New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos recently came out in support of the 30-year-law that allows private schools to refuse enrolment to, or expel, students for being gay.
The gay student need not have performed any behaviour more rambunctious than popping from a womb a few years before. They need not have caused trouble at school, nor started a fight, nor bullied anybody, nor arrived to class two minutes late. They just had to be born gay.
In this day and age, surely that’s the equivalent of expelling a student for liking Mozart or for having a limp.
Mr Hatzistergos made the point that it is necessary to maintain the very ‘delicate balance’ between religious belief and, you know, 21st Century rights.
Again, the corollary argument is that gay kids don’t have to go to private schools. But that’s a bit of a shit argument. Choice is the buzzword of the 21 Century, espoused by Governments everywhere, but you’re simply not allowed to choose if you’re perceived to be an immoral wench. Or even just immoral.
The Government appears to be saying to the Churches:
Don’t want to employ that homo? We’re not looking!
Want to fire the receptionist who got knocked up out of wedlock? Be our guest!
Found out your charity officer cheated on his wife? Remove him!
In 2002 a lawyer and a social worker (this is important because they weren’t dole bludgers), both gay, attempted to adopt a child through the Wesley Mission and were refused.
The case raged on for years until our same friend from before, the NSW Attorney-General, sided with the Mission in a move that not only set a precedent but prioritised the religious freedoms as more inalienable than those of the individual couple looking to adopt.
I was raised Catholic and I am beyond familiar with the Bible. Particularly the New Testament and the parables of love, kindness and so forth.
These are good messages. Good creeds to live by.
They are not practiced by those who preach and lobby simultaneously for the right to exclude.
Should churches have the right to discriminate? Is it ever OK to exclude a minority under the banner of religious freedom?