There is no push to threaten the en­rol­ments of gay stu­dents

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE -

A week be­fore the by-elec­tion in Went­worth, a seat with a high per­cent­age of gay vot­ers, Fair­fax Me­dia’s re­port­ing of the Rud­dock re­li­gious free­dom re­view was shame­fully mis­lead­ing. It ap­peared po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated to harm Lib­eral can­di­date Dave Sharma’s vote next Satur­day. The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald’s ban­ner head­line on Wed­nes­day, “Se­cret plan backs laws to re­ject gay stu­dents’’, was cruel to young gay peo­ple and their fam­i­lies.

Joe Kelly set the record straight in The Aus­tralian the next day, re­port­ing that the Rud­dock re­view pro­posed the op­po­site — re­strict­ing the abil­ity of re­li­gious schools to use ex­ist­ing laws to dis­crim­i­nate against teach­ers and stu­dents based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity. In a move likely to draw bi­par­ti­san sup­port, Scott Mor­ri­son has al­ready moved to en­sure no stu­dent of a non-state school should be ex­pelled be­cause of their sex­u­al­ity.

The Aus­tralian sup­ports the strength­en­ing of re­li­gious free­doms, in­clud­ing the rights of faith-based schools to teach their doc­trines on mar­riage and other so­cial is­sues. Such safe­guards should have been agreed be­fore last year’s postal plebiscite on same-sex mar­riage.

Fair­fax Me­dia’s mis­lead­ing re­port­ing, un­for­tu­nately, has set what needs to be a sober, sen­si­ble de­bate on to a mis­lead­ing tan­gent. In re­al­ity, few if any prob­lems have arisen in re­la­tion to re­li­gious schools re­fus­ing to ac­cept LGBTI stu­dents. Catholic schools, for ex­am­ple, wel­come stu­dents and staff from all back­grounds who are will­ing to ac­cept the mis­sion and val­ues of school com­mu­ni­ties, as Bris­bane’s Arch­bishop Mark Co­leridge has made clear.

Wider is­sues are at stake, as Aus­tralian Catholic Univer­sity vicechan­cel­lor Greg Craven writes to­day. Re­li­gious health and ed­u­ca­tion bodies up­hold­ing their be­liefs and health­care work­ers opt­ing out of as­sisted dying pro­ce­dures are two of nu­mer­ous mat­ters that need con­sid­er­a­tion. The Rud­dock re­view, sen­si­bly, has called for the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion to help pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom. As the govern­ment con­sid­ers the com­po­si­tion of a Re­li­gious Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act, a ma­ture de­bate about pro­tect­ing stake­hold­ers’ in­ter­ests will be vi­tal.

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