MEDIA RELEASE: Religious Freedom Review and Federal Government Response | ECAJ

MEDIA RELEASE: Religious Freedom Review and Federal Government Response

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Religious Freedom Review and Federal Government Response

16 December 2018


The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community, has cautiously welcomed the release of the Religious Freedom Review handed down by the Expert Panel chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock, and the Australian government’s response to it.

“Although we believe that religious freedom in Australia is not, and has never been, under serious threat, as both an ethnic and a faith community we support the government’s announced intention ‘to further protect, and better promote and balance, the right to freedom of religion under Australian law and in the public sphere’”, said ECAJ co-CEO, Peter Wertheim. “Much will depend on the governments of the States and Territories acting in co-operation with the Federal government to achieve that goal”.

“There should be little controversy about 15 of the Expert Panel’s 20 recommendations which the government has accepted either directly or in principle. These would ensure, for example, that charities do not lose their status simply for advocating a traditional view of marriage; that the government collects, analyses and publishes data about various forms of infringement on religious freedom; and that public education programs are developed about human rights and religion in Australia,” Wertheim said.

According to Wertheim, the proposed introduction of a new Religious Discrimination Act will be more contentious. “It’s relatively easy to state the broad principles” he said. “On the one hand the legislation will prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s religious belief or activity, including on the basis that a person does not hold a religious belief or participate in a religious activity. On the other hand there will be similar exemptions to those in other anti-discrimination legislation, which enable religious institutions to function in accordance with their religious beliefs and principles. In practice, however, some difficult situations may arise in which one or the other principle will have to give way, and where no broad social consensus exists as to which principle ought to prevail. The devil will be in the detail and I expect that many parts of the Bill when it is introduced will attract passionate debate”.

Wertheim said that if the legislation is passed, there is “good sense” to the government’s proposal for a stand-alone Religious Freedom Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission to oversee religious freedom in Australia and handle religious discrimination complaints.

Wertheim said it was understandable that the Panel’s recommendations for amending the current exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act might be referred to the Law Reform Commission. “Legislative changes have often had unintended consequences, and it is prudent to try to minimise the scope for these to occur through the well-established processes of the Commission. This is another area where statements of abstract principle can seem more clear-cut than the way they would be applied in real life situations”.

The government has also referred to the Law Reform Commission the Panel’s recommendations that religious schools no longer have the right to discriminate against students or employees on the basis of their race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status. “It’s hard to see how discrimination on these other grounds can have anything to do with religious freedom”, Wertheim said. “I would have expected the government to accept the Panel’s two recommendations about these matters”.

Contact
Peter Wertheim AM | co-CEO
ph: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904 | fax 02 9361 5888
e: pwertheim@ecaj.org.au | www.ecaj.org.au

ECAJ-Media-Statement-Religious-Freedom-Review-and-Federal-government-response-14.12.2018

 

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Zoe Goodhardt, Liebler Yavneh College, religious freedom and equality

On the front page of The Australian today (“Keeping religion alive lies at heart of family’s values”; Dec 14 2018) Brad Norington and Elias Visontay write of parent Zoe Goodhardt’s decision to send her children to Orthodox Jewish school Leibler Yavneh College:

20181214 The Australian front page

When it comes to freedom and equality, she says there are plenty of other schools for parents to enrol their children, but choosing a school for Ezra, Rami and ­Jasmine was about choosing a community.

The article concludes with:

Mr Morrison confirmed yesterday that his government had ­accepted most recommendations of a review by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock into religious freedoms.

Attempting to defuse a parliamentary impasse over the treatment of gay students within religious schools, Mr Morrison will refer this issue for further ­review by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission.

Legislation enabling same-sex marriage has created theological and ethical difficulties for several religious schools, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Coptic-Christian and Catholic, where it may clash with traditional teachings

On November 27 2018 J-Wire reported of Leibler Yavneh College:

Principal Cherylyn Skewes and Chair Avi Gilboa stated: “Our College ethos is underpinned by Jewish Law (Halacha) which mandates love and compassion towards our fellow. As such, we ask that the Senate Inquiry ensures that no student or staff member suffers any form of discrimination including those relating to sexual orientation and gender.

It’s unclear exactly what Zoe Goodhardt had in mind when she was responding to a question from The Australian on “freedom and equality”, but what is clear is the position Leibler Yavneh College has made on not discriminating against LGBTIQ students and staff.

It’s disappointing comment was not sought by The Australian from the school’s principal, as this would have offered the necessary degree of balance and perspective that is typically absent from this publication’s content.


Keeping religion alive lies at heart of family’s values

Zoe Goodhardt with her children, Ezra, 6, Jasmine, 1, and Rami, 4, at their home in Caulfield, Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty
Zoe Goodhardt with her children, Ezra, 6, Jasmine, 1, and Rami, 4, at their home in Caulfield, Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty

Sending her three children to Leibler Yavneh College at Elsternwick, in Melbourne’s southeast, is a form of “life insurance” for Zoe Goodhardt.

But this is an insurance policy like no other. It is the guarantee, Ms Goodhardt says, that her family’s Jewish faith and way of life can continue untrammelled.

So it is no surprise as rising secularism clashes with the beliefs and values of traditional faiths that Ms Goodhardt, 32, has rushed to support Scott Morrison’s pledge to protect religious freedom.

The Prime Minister’s commitment to overhaul federal discrimination laws, revealed in The Australian yesterday, is intended to introduce new provisions prohibiting discrimination against the right of individuals to practise their religions.

“I think it’s our right, and the right of the school, to cultivate a community at the school in line with their ethos and values,” Ms Goodhardt says.

When it comes to freedom and equality, she says there are plenty of other schools for parents to enrol their children, but choosing a school for Ezra, Rami and ­Jasmine was about choosing a community.

At Yavneh College, that community is based around the modern orthodox school’s mission to adhere to Jewish law (Halacha), ethical behaviour (Derech Eretz) and Zionist ideals.

Mr Morrison’s pledge on religious freedom will allow Yavneh to keep its strict admission policy permitting Orthodox Jews only.

“I know the kids could get a great education at a public school, but I want them to grow up in a community with our values,” Ms Goodhardt says.

“It’s problematic to think that the school I and my family have grown up in wouldn’t have the right to continue with their ­culture.”

Ms Goodhardt, a marketing manager, lives with her husband, Dan, and their children in Caulfield North, a suburb in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community, the nation’s largest.

Both also attended Yavneh.

Zoe Goodhardt’s parents were the children of Holocaust survivors, originally from Lodz, Poland, who arrived in Australia after the war looking for a safe Jewish community.

Mr Goodhardt, a counter-­terrorism analyst, arrived from England as a boy with his parents, whose similar quest was “for a free Jewish community”.

The family, says Ms Goodhardt, feels safe but with much thanks to the Jewish community in Melbourne that has been able to grow. Daughter Ezra, 6, has just finished Grade 1 at Yavneh while Rami, 4, has completed senior kinder at the school; Jasmine, 1, will start at the Yavneh creche next year.

In its mission statement, ­Yavneh says the school strives to develop resilient, independent learners equipped to “participate effectively as Jews in the outside world”. The school embraces Australian heritage as well, encouraging students to take pride in it and contribute to the nation’s future.

Mr Morrison confirmed yesterday that his government had ­accepted most recommendations of a review by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock into religious freedoms.

Attempting to defuse a parliamentary impasse over the treatment of gay students within religious schools, Mr Morrison will refer this issue for further ­review by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission.

Legislation enabling same-sex marriage has created theological and ethical difficulties for several religious schools, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Coptic-Christian and Catholic, where it may clash with traditional teachings.

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Moriah College rejects all discrimination against LGBTIQ staff and students

Moriah College logo cropped.jpg

Aleph Melbourne warmly welcomes Moriah College’s statement rejecting all legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students and staff.

Further to their statement “We expect staff to act publicly in a manner that is not inconsistent with the ethos, tenets and values of the school.” the school advises “that Moriah’s expectations are the same for, and of, all staff”.

See our table of responses from Jewish schools across Australia.

20181206-Moriah-College-position-on-discrimination
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UJEB’s statement on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

UJEB logo

Aleph Melbourne warmly welcomes a statement from the United Jewish Education Board (UJEB) rejecting discrimination against students, parents, teachers or other members of staff on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

See our table of responses from Jewish schools across Australia.

20181204-UJEB-statement-on-discrimination-based-on-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity
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Aleph Melbourne – Celebrating 20 Years – 1995 to 2015

The Aleph Melbourne documentary is available on DVD here.

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Jewish community responses to religious discrimination in schools

This table will be updated as further details come to hand.
Last update: 5:54pm 04-Dec-2018

Organisation (click for statement)StateRemove exemptions
Bialik CollegeVIC
The King David SchoolVIC
Mount Scopus Memorial CollegeVIC
Leibler Yavneh CollegeVIC
Mount Sinai CollegeNSW
Emanuel SchoolNSW
Institute for Judaism and CivilisationVIC
Aleph MelbourneVIC
Sholem Aleichem CollegeVIC
Moriah CollegeNSW
United Jewish Education BoardVIC
Yeshivah & Beth Rivkah CollegesVIC
NSW Board of Jewish EducationNSW
Board of Progressive Jewish EducationNSW
Carmel SchoolWA
Sinai CollegeQLD
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Sholem Aleichem College rejects discrimination against LGBTIQ staff and students

Sholem Aleichem College logoAleph Melbourne warmly welcomes Sholem Aleichem College’s statement rejecting legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students and staff.

See our table of responses from Jewish schools across Australia.

20181018 Sholem Aleichem College statement

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David Southwick must stop abusing the LGBTIQ community

On January 28 2018 David Southwick had his photo taken with Jewish LGBTIQ groups at Pride March.

20180128 David Southwick and Jewish LGBTIQ groups at Pride March

Aleph Melbourne noted:

During the 2018 Victorian State Election David Southwick claimed of the Safe Schools program:

“really young children [are] being exposed to sexual education”

We have demonstrated his claim is lacking in factual accuracy and have invited him to apologise for his error.

At Pride March 2019 Aleph Melbourne will remind the community of David Southwick’s damaging and misleading claims if a sufficient apology is not forthcoming.

We would however prefer that David Southwick’s presence at Pride March 2019 was uncontroversial.

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David Southwick must apologise for misrepresenting Safe Schools

David Southwick was reported in the Australian Jewish News (Nov 23 2018), commenting on the Safe Schools program:

Southwick and Grasso clashed over the Liberals’ plans to scrap the Safe Schools program in which he said “really young children [are] being exposed to sexual education” and replace it with anti-bullying legislation, which she said would not teach respect for those with diverse sexual orientations.

20181123 AJN Caulfield candidates clash (Safe Schools crop)

The entire question from Michael Barnett, answer from David Southwick, and comments from Sorina Grasso and Dinesh Mathew, can be heard at Caulfield Candidates Forum: What is the Liberal Party doing to strengthen support for LGBTIQ people? (Nov 15 2018).

On Nov 22 2017 The Conversation article FactCheck: does the Safe Schools program contain ‘highly explicit material’? stated:

One Nation Queensland leader Steve Dickson’s claim that the Safe Schools program “contains highly explicit material directed at young children in their formative years” is incorrect.

There is no discussion of the details of specific sex acts, sex aids or sexual health in Safe Schools resources.

Safe Schools is an optional resource for schools and teachers. Its aim is to help school staff create safer and more inclusive environments for LGBTI students and families.

It is apparent that the understanding David Southwick has of the Safe Schools program, held uniformly across the Liberal Party, differs markedly from the reality of the program.

Is it deeply concerning that David Southwick campaigned on misinformation and fear-mongering, rather than truth and honesty.

David Southwick owes the voters and residents of Caulfield, the Jewish and wider community who put their trust in him, LGBTIQ people and their families, and all Victorians a sincere apology for flagrantly peddling damaging misinformation.

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ABC RN Roundtable: Discrimination & faith based schools

Discrimination & faith based schools

Sunday 25 November 2018 9:30AM (view full episode)

Religious schools signsA Senate inquiry looking into the the issue of whether faith-based schools should be allowed to discriminate against students, teachers and staff is due to report on Monday.

It’s examining whether exemptions which allow religious schools the right expel same sex students and dismiss gay teachers should stay in place.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised amendments to discrimination law to make clear no student at religious school should be expelled on the basis of their sexuality.

Guests:

Michael Kirby, former High Court Judge

Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, Principal of Bialik College, Melbourne

Abdullah Khan, Principal of the Australian Islamic College (Perth & Adelaide) and Chair of the Islamic Schools Association of Australia

Mark Spencer, Executive Officer Policy, Governance and Staff Relations at Christian Schools Australia

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