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Can Religious Schools Discriminate Against Gay Students?

A recent controversy in the news has been the issue of whether Religious Schools are able to exclude students and teachers because of their sexuality.

Religious Schools have always had the ability to exclude teachers if their sexuality or values do not comply with Church teachings. There is an exemption for this under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act.

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All states already have exemptions in their respective anti-discrimination laws to allow Religious Schools to discriminate against teachers, based on their religious values. What is less commonly known is that some states extend that right to also exclude students for the same reasons.

It is unclear whether the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act exemption relating to teachers also applies to students.

Religious Schools’ representatives have pointed out though that no school has excluded a student based on their sexuality.

The position of Religious Schools is that they are cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs. They are entitled to exclude students and teachers who will not conform to that view, hether it be religious belief, sexual orientation, ender identity or relationship status.

The Federal Government and the Opposition both agreed that religious schools should not be allowed to discriminate against students based on sexuality. They have agreed to pass legislation preventing religious schools from discriminating against students. There is however no agreement on the wording.

This very sensitive debate has a long way to go.

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