Politics

The Government’s “Religious Freedom” Review Is Exactly As Bad As We All Expected

The report recommends allowing schools to turn away queer children.

Remember that religious freedom review the government has been refusing to release for months now? Well, it turns out it recommends giving religious schools around the country the right to kick out LGBTIQ students or teachers for being queer.

Honestly, we can’t say this is a surprise, given that this country decided to put LGBTIQ people’s rights to a public vote less than a year ago. That doesn’t make the news any less crushing, though.

According to Fairfax, which obtained a copy of the still-unreleased review, the report calls for amendments to the federal Sex Discrimination Act that would allow religious schools to expel or refuse students and staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some states in the country already allow this, and as someone who attended a religious school that technically had the power to expel me on this basis, let me tell you: it’s really not a nice experience.

As the report put it, “to some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance”, and that consequently “to the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community”.

The religious freedom review did also conclude that some forms of proposed discrimination are probably not on — it did not support the idea that business should be allowed to refuse service to LGBTIQ people on religious grounds, and also pointed out that freedom of religion is really not under attack in Australia at all. Thanks for that, I guess.

The review in question was chaired by Philip Ruddock, who you may remember as a staunch conservative, as well as the guy who made marriage equality illegal in this country in this first place. Nothing in it is guaranteed to become law so far — they’re just recommendations, which so far have not even been made public.

Scott Morrison has told media his government is still considering the report and its recommendations carefully. They’ve been doing this, presumably, since they first received the report back in May. We look forward to them getting their job done and maybe letting the public know what the plan is.

The Greens have already come out strongly against the recommendations.

“Last year in the marriage equality postal survey Australians voted for equality for LGBTIQ+ Australians, not for more discrimination,” Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said.

“The Ruddock review recommendations to change our laws to allow religious schools to expel students on the basis of who they are or who they love at a time when they are already vulnerable is unacceptable.”

“The Greens support the right of people to practice religion, but that should not come at the expense of the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people.”