Reaction to Religious Discrimination Bill | AJN

‘NO BALANCE WILL PROVIDE PERFECT JUSTICE FOR EVERYBODY’

Reaction to Religious Discrimination Bill

By GARETH NARUNSKY
December 2, 2021, 11:01 am  

AS the latest draft of the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill is discussed in parliament and the media, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said “it is appropriate that we are having this debate during Chanukah”.

“As much as the Jewish people admired many aspects of Hellenistic learning and civilisation, we totally rejected any attempt to forcibly assimilate our people into the then prevailing culture, and give up our beliefs and our identity,” he said.

“No faith community should be pressured into assimilating into today’s prevailing secular culture.

“It is particularly important for the religious organisations of minority faith communities to continue to be free to look after the religious and cultural needs of those communities.”

Commenting more specifically on the bill, Wertheim noted some of the “more contentious” aspects of the previous drafts have been removed, notably protections allowing employers to restrict religious speech outside the workplace – commonly referred to as “the Folau clause” – and the conscience protection for healthcare professionals.

“What is left is a conscientious attempt to balance prohibitions against religious discrimination with the freedom of religious organisations to operate according to their ethos,” he said. “No such balance will provide perfect justice for everybody. This bill tries to minimise the scope for injustice.”

Contrary to misconception, the bill does not speak to whether religious schools can exclude LGBTQI+ students – the Sex Discrimination Act already technically permits this – but under the legislation religious institutions would be allowed to have faith-influenced hiring policies, although these policies would need to be made public.

But Jewish organisations The AJN spoke to indicated they would not use the provision.

Moriah College principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler said the school seeks to employ high-calibre staff and “gender, identity, race and religion make no difference”.

“We aim to integrate Modern Orthodox Zionist Jewish values into our modern world and society, and we view the diversity of our educators and workforce as a huge benefit in achieving this goal,” he said.

“Diversity enriches the educational experience for our children.”

Emanuel School principal Andrew Watt said the school aspires to be “welcoming and inclusive … known for its genuine acceptance and understanding of diversity”.

“Emanuel School employs both Jewish and non-Jewish staff. We welcome staff and students into our school community, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our enrolment and recruitment practices will remain unchanged,” he said.

Montefiore CEO Robert Orie said, “With more than 1000 employees, Montefiore is proud to employ a diverse workforce that spans many cultures, traditions and LGBTQI+ groups and our residents support and celebrate the diversity of our staff.”

Meanwhile, the state government said it is still committed to making amendments to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, but will wait to do so once the federal legislation is passed.

“This will allow the government to closely consider the Commonwealth legislation to ensure that its interaction with NSW legislation can be fully understood and that constitutional inconsistency is avoided,” said Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

But NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark urged the government to act without further delay.

“The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee heard wide-ranging submissions from the community and produced a comprehensive and well-considered report,” he said.

“The Attorney-General has announced that religious discrimination will be outlawed in NSW, which is one of only two states in Australia that doesn’t have laws against religious discrimination.

“The NSW government has an opportunity to act now. We look forward to seeing these laws progressing through Parliament.”

Jewish schools react to proposed law | AJN

LEGISLATION TO PROTECT LGBTQI+ TEACHERS

Jewish schools react to proposed law

By CARLY DOUGLAS
December 2, 2021, 1:00 pm 

PROPOSED legislation that would prohibit religious schools in Victoria from firing or refusing to hire teachers based on gender and sexual identity has been met with a mixed reaction from within the Jewish community.

The Andrews’ government bill, introduced to Parliament in October, seeks to protect LGBTQI+ Victorians’ right to work in faith-based schools.

Last month, a group of religious leaders from varying faiths sent an open letter to Victoria’s Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, opposing the legislation, stating that it “unfairly targets religious bodies and educational institutes”.

Among the signatories was Rabbi Shimon Cowen from the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation. He told The AJN that the legislation is “an incredible invasion of religious life,” accusing the state government of attempting to “edit Judaism”.

He called politicians who support it “hypocrites,” noting that parliamentarians are allowed to discriminate based on political views and activity when it comes to the staffing of their office.

But most Jewish schools were generally more supportive.

Bialik College principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, who proudly recalled that his was the first school in Australia to sign up to the Marriage Equality campaign, told The AJN, “We are all created equally and I strongly encourage the law to support this, and prevent discrimination.”

Without it, he reflected, “Future generations would look at us with the same incredulity that we hold when we consider those who opposed the emancipation of slaves, universal suffrage or civil rights.”

The King David School principal Marc Light concurred, stating, “We oppose any legislation that discriminates against people based on their gender or sexual identity.”

He added, “It is important that LGBTQI+ students get the message that they are not alienated, excluded or rejected on the basis of their identity.”

Helen Greenberg, principal at Sholem Aleichem College, said, “We strongly embrace any changes that allow Victorians to continue to be free to live and work free from discrimination.”

Leibler Yavneh College principal Cherylyn Skewes agreed, noting, “Our view is clear. No staff member should be subject to discrimination or termination on the basis of their sexual identity.”

Noting that the legalisation would remove the right of schools to sack a staff member because of their sexuality, Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard said, “Since that would never happen at Mount Scopus, the bill is not especially relevant to our school.”

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum of Yeshivah–Beth Rivkah Colleges had some reservations about the bill. He said that “while people’s private lives are not a factor in their hiring, a school was not generally an appropriate place for staff to discuss or flaunt their sexual behaviour, whether heterosexual or homosexual.”

He also pointed out that while “the aims of the legislation to prevent discrimination were laudable, there was some concern that activists could potentially misuse the legislation by challenging the curriculum, or even the teaching of certain sections of the Torah”.

But not everyone is on board. A member of another Orthodox school community told The AJN that if the bill were to pass, it “could be a problem” because they would not have the “flexibility they would need regarding LGBTQI+ staff teaching their students”.

On a federal level, after a 2018 pledge by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the PM recently introduced his Religious Discrimination Bill to the floor. The legislation – if passed – will offer protection for faith-based schools, institutions, hospitals and aged-care facilities that wish to prioritise applicants of their faith. While it will be several months before the Senate votes on the bill, the legislation could override the Victorian Government’s anti-discrimination bill.

LGBTIQA+ Rights in Israel: An International Comparison | Nicholes Family Lawyers

MR: Aleph Melbourne commends the Andrews government for strengthening anti-hate protections

MEDIA RELEASE
September 2 2021

Aleph Melbourne commends the Victorian Government, under the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, for its ongoing commitment to protecting all Victorians from hate, and for standing steadfastly strong with Jewish and LGBTIQ+ Victorians.

Along with making the public display of Nazi symbols illegal, we welcome the government’s commitment to extending anti-vilification protections to cover sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and HIV/AIDS status.

All too often homophobia is juxtaposed with antisemitism in wanton acts of hate, as evidenced by the attack on Cranbourne Golf Club last year[1] and the attack on the Gardiner’s Creek Trail in July this year[2].

It was with sadness that Aleph Melbourne’s submission to the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections highlighted a litany of anti-LGBTIQ+ vilification emanating from within the Jewish community. We hope that these reforms will see the end of such intolerance, and allow those in our community who have been forced to live in the shadows to feel sufficiently empowered to come forward and live a more authentic life.

We are also grateful to David Southwick MP for inviting Aleph Melbourne to lodge a submission to the Inquiry, which the committee found most compelling.[3]

Michael Barnett
Co-convenor
Aleph Melbourne

CONTACT
michael@aleph.org.au
0417-595-541

RELATED MEDIA

  1. MR: Aleph Melbourne condemns Nazi defacement of resurfaced Gardiners Creek Trail (July 17 2021)
    https://aleph.org.au/2021/07/17/mr-aleph-melbourne-condemns-nazi-defacement-of-resurfaced-gardiners-creek-trail
  2. Response to attack on Cranbourne Golf Club (May 21 2020)
    https://aleph.org.au/2020/05/21/response-to-attack-on-cranbourne-golf-club
  3. Letters: Tackling vilification | AJN (Mar 20 2021)
    https://aleph.org.au/2021/03/20/letters-tackling-vilification-ajn

ENDS

PRESS RELEASE: Jewish Care Victoria Welcomes Legislative Ban on Harmful LGBTI+ Conversion Practices

2021-MEDIA-RELEASE-Jewish-Care-Victoria-Welcomes-Legislative-Ban-on-Harmful-LGBIT-Conversion-Practices-FINAL

[PDF]

Media Release: Aleph Melbourne welcomes Victorian Government protections against conversion practices

MEDIA RELEASE
FEBRUARY 7 2021
ALEPH MELBOURNE WELCOMES VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT
PROTECTIONS AGAINST CONVERSION PRACTICES

Aleph Melbourne welcomes the passage of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 and congratulates the Victorian Government for their unflinching support in this journey.

Many same-sex attracted and gender diverse Jews have been victims of disreputable people and organisations within and beyond the Jewish community who have performed destructive conversion practices, often with long-lasting negative or even fatal consequences.

This legislation sends a clear message that no longer is it acceptable or legal to tell someone they are broken because of their gender identity or sexual orientation and then attempt to make the person conform to an unnatural identity.

Knowing our state government, under the capable leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, has taken this issue seriously proves it cares about the well-being of people with diverse sexual and gender identities.

Victoria has set a high bar on this important issue, and we hope that other states around Australia are motivated to tighten their laws similarly.

We acknowledge the tireless dedication of the Brave Network, SOGICE Survivors, Jewish Care, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Just Equal and Equality Australia, together with the many individuals and networks who have helped in bringing about this visionary change.

END

CONTACT
Michael Barnett – Co-convenor
0417-595-541
michael@aleph.org.au


Multicultural voices in support of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020

Multicultural voices in support of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Download the letter

Various multi-faith, multicultural LGBTQ+ and allied voices have written an open letter in support of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 currently before the Victorian Parliament.

The letter is signed by:

  • Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director, Equality Australia and author of the ‘We’re Family Too’ report
  • Dr Judy Tang, Victorian Multicultural Commissioner and ex-President of Australian LGBTIQ+ Multicultural Council
  • Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Research lead and founding member of Australian LGBTIQ+ Multicultural Council (AGMC); Gender & Sexuality Studies, Deakin University
  • Cedric Yin-Cheng, Chief Executive Officer, Australia & New Zealand Tongzhi Rainbow Alliance Inc (ANTRA)
  • Abanob Saad, Conversion Practice Survivor and Founder, Queer Middle-Eastern and African Christians in Australia (QMEACA)
  • Benjamin Oh and Molina Asthana, Co-Convenors, Asian Australian Alliance (AAA)
  • Budi Sudarto, Director, Ananda Training & Consultancy and Member of Queer Muslims in Australia
  • Ken Dumandan, President, Acceptance Melbourne LGBTIQ+ Catholics
  • Dr Reem Sweid, Founder and former President of Muslim Collective; Faculty Member, Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University
  • Nathan Despott, Brave Network
  • Michael Barnett, Co-convenor, Aleph Melbourne
  • Bhante Akāliko Bhikkhu, Rainbodhi LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Community


Media contact
Paige Burton
Equality Australia
paige.burton@equalityaustralia.org.au
0418 432 030

20201207-Letter-to-Victorian-MPs-re-Multicultural-Multifaith-People-in-Support-of-Conversion-Bill

Discrimination Under the Cover of Corona | Alastair Lawrie

The third potential outbreak which concerns me is anti-LGBT vilification. That is, attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – and the LGBT community more broadly – claiming that we are somehow responsible for promulgating the coronavirus, or deserving of infection because of our supposed ‘sinful lifestyles’.

This is not a hypothetical fear, either. At the start of April, Melbourne Jewish radio station J-AIR broadcast the following homophobic and transphobic comments from a Rabbi Kessin:

But there is also no anti-LGBT vilification coverage in Victoria[iii] (meaning the earlier comments on a Melbourne Jewish radio station were likely lawful), or in Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory.

“Discrimination Under the Cover of Corona” by Alastair Lawrie; May 16 2020

Jewish community submissions to Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections

Aleph Melbourne, together with other Jewish Community organisations, have provided submissions to the Victorian Government Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections.

Details of the inquiry, along with links to the submissions, are presented here.


Terms of Reference

Received from the Legislative Assembly on 12 September 2019:

An inquiry into current anti-vilification laws, their possible expansion, and/or extension of protections beyond existing classes to the Legal and Social Issues Committee for consideration and report no later than 1 September 2020.

The Committee should consider: 

1) The effectiveness of the operation of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (the Act) in delivering upon its purposes;
2) The success or otherwise of enforcement of the Act, and the appropriateness of sanctions in delivering upon the Act’s purposes;
3) Interaction between the Act and other state and Commonwealth legislation;
4) Comparisons in the operation of the Victorian Act with legislation in other jurisdictions;
5) The role of state legislation in addressing online vilification.
6) The effectiveness of current approaches to law enforcement in addressing online offending.
7) Any evidence of increasing vilification and hate conduct in Victoria;
8) Possible extension of protections or expansion of protection to classes of people not currently protected under the existing Act;
9) Any work underway to engage with social media and technology companies to protect Victorians from vilification.

Terms of Reference – Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections


Submissions

The following submissions have been accepted by the Committee:

# 26. Jewish Community Council of Victoria
# 38. Online Hate Prevention Institute [supplementary submission]
# 55. Australian Jewish Association [supplementary submission]
# 57. Union for Progressive Judaism
# 58. Aleph Melbourne [supplementary submission]


Hearings and Transcripts

 Past Hearings:

Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Meeting room G.1, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne

TimeWitnessTranscript
12:45pmJewish Community Council of Victoria
Jennifer Huppert, President
 Transcript

Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Meeting room G.6, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne and via videoconference

TimeWitnessTranscript
1:30pmAustalian Jewish Association
Dr David Adler, President
Ted Lapkin, Executive Director
 Transcript

Wednesday, 24 June 2020
Meeting room G.6, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne and via videoconference

TimeWitnessTranscript
11:20amUnion for Progressive JudaismTranscript

Tuesday, 25 June 2020
Meeting room G.6, 55 St Andrews Place, East Melbourne and via videoconference

TimeWitnessTranscript
12:50pmExecutive Council of Australian JewryTranscript