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Catholic schools welcome all: Coleridge

National

The Catholic Church’s submission to the Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review does not seek concessions to discriminate against students or teachers based on their sexuality, gender identity or relationship status.

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President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Mark Coleridge reiterated the Church’s position following media reports on the recommendations of the Ruddock review.

“Catholic schools welcome staff and students from all backgrounds who are willing to accept the declared mission and values of the school community,” he said.

“We think all people should be considered equally for employment or enrolment.

“Once employed or enrolled, people within a Catholic school community are expected to adhere to the school’s mission and values.”

The Law Council of Australia also entered the debate after misleading claims in the media that current legislation enabled religious schools to expel students who were gay.

“No blanket exception to anti-discrimination laws currently exists to allow private schools to expel students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity – and no such exemption should ever be introduced, according to the Law Council of Australia,” the Council’s president-elect Arthur Moses SC said.

While specific exemptions to anti-discrimination laws existed in certain jurisdictions, Mr Moses stressed no blanket exception applied.

“The starting point under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) is that it is unlawful for a school to expel a student because of a student’s sexuality or sexual orientation,” Mr Moses said.

“All schools have to comply with both the SDA and relevant state or territory laws. From a practical perspective, schools use the SDA as a benchmark.

“Section 38(3) is an exemption for religious schools, but the exemption only applies under specific circumstances, including that the school expelling a student is doing so for the purpose of ‘avoiding injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of the religion’.

“The school must also be conducted in accordance with the specific doctrines, tenets, belief or teachings of a religion/creed and the school can only expel the student because of his/her sexual orientation in good faith.”

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