- MEDIA RELEASE: Religious Freedom Review and Federal Government Response | ECAJ
- Jewish community responses to religious discrimination in schools
December 23, 2018
THE Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has “cautiously welcomed” the long-awaited release of the Religious Freedom Review and the federal government’s response.
The government has endorsed 15 of the 20 recommendations in the report, which was handed down in May but only released last week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government plans to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act, employ a Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission and look to introduce a range of other amendments.
The issue of whether religious schools should be allowed to discriminate based on LGBTI+ status has been deferred for the time being.
“Discrimination on the basis of a person’s identity – including their religious identity – is unacceptable … we [also] respect the right of religious institutions to maintain their distinctive religious ethos. Our laws should reflect these values,” Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter said last week.
“Our commitment to striking an appropriate balance is clear. We are committed to finding a way forward that cuts through the political debates about whether some rights are more important than others.”
ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said that although the roof body believed religious freedom in Australia is not under threat, “as both an ethnic and a faith community we support the government’s intention ‘to further protect, and better promote and balance, the right to freedom of religion under Australian law and in the public sphere’.”
He said there “should be little controversy” about the endorsed recommendations, but did say the introduction of a Religious Discrimination Act will be more contentious.
“On the one hand the legislation will prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s religious belief or activity … on the other hand there will be similar exemptions to those in other anti-discrimination legislation,” he said.
“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.”
Wertheim added the creation of the Freedom of Religion Commissioner role was “good sense”.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council director of community affairs Jeremy Jones said the government would have a “difficult task trying to get the correct balance between protecting the right of all Australians to enjoy religious freedom while also trying to ensure that we can have full and robust discussion on matters of concern”.
Jewish Community responses to the removal of discrimination against staff and students at religious schools.
This table will be updated as further details come to hand.
Last update: 5:54pm 04-Dec-2018
|Organisation (click for statement)||State||Remove exemptions|
|The King David School||VIC|
|Mount Scopus Memorial College||VIC|
|Leibler Yavneh College||VIC|
|Mount Sinai College||NSW|
|Institute for Judaism and Civilisation||VIC|
|Sholem Aleichem College||VIC|
|United Jewish Education Board||VIC|
|Yeshivah & Beth Rivkah Colleges||VIC|
|NSW Board of Jewish Education||NSW|
|Board of Progressive Jewish Education||NSW|
A 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.
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
Bialik College says discrimination against staff, students and teachers on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is unacceptable.
Aleph Melbourne welcomes Bialik College’s submission to the Senate inquiry into legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff.
Submissions to the inquiry are open until November 26 2018.
See our table of responses from Jewish schools across Australia.
At the Caulfield Candidates Forum David Southwick responds to a question about what the Liberal Party are doing to strengthen support for LGBTIQ people. Sorina Grasso and Dinesh Mathew follow up.
At the Caulfield Candidates Debate David Southwick responds to a question from Michael Barnett about what the Liberal Party are doing to strengthen support for LGBTIQ people. Listen here. Sorina Grasso and Dinesh Mathew follow-up. Listen to the question and answers here.
QUESTION FOR DAVID SOUTHWICK
CAULFIELD CANDIDATES FORUM
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 14 2018
David, last Wednesday Jewish Care Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria issued a combined statement1 entitled “STANDING AGAINST CONVERSION THERAPY”. This relates to the discredited and unscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation.
The Liberal party has made an election promise to dismantle Safe Schools, an evidence-based program that reduces discrimination and stigma against LGBTIQ people.
Matthew Guy declared at the Australian Christian Lobby conference that a government he leads will abolish safe schools.2
Earlier in the year Graham Watt, Liberal MP for Burwood was at an Anti-Safe Schools Rally convened by far-right religious groups and declared that the Liberal Party would abandon Safe Schools. At this rally others spoke of transgender and gay people and our families as if we were evil and out to destroy society.
Bialik College, Sholem Aleichem and King David College have embraced the principles of the Safe Schools program because they know the program helps build a stronger and more inclusive Jewish community.
What are you and the Liberal Party doing to align with the values of the Jewish community’s leading organisations in terms of strengthening support for LGBTIQ people, not weakening it?
JULY 22 2016
Aleph Melbourne welcomes the “Inclusivity Statement” issued to parents by Mount Scopus Memorial College on June 20 2016.
This statement is the first public acknowledgement by the school for the need to offer specific support to same-sex attracted and gender diverse students, as well as students from rainbow families.
Whilst the school has not yet adopted a comprehensive program such as that offered by the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA), this is an important first step, as it offers a foundation for the school to build on.
Increasingly, the Australian school landscape is understanding that the era of marginalising same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse students is over and is seeking better ways to include and value the diversity of these students.
As Mount Scopus finds its feet in supporting their previously neglected students, it will discover a fantastic surge in performance from those students it enables to be authentic to themselves. The more support these students receive, whether at school, at home or in the community, the more they will thrive.
Aleph Melbourne looks forward to further initiatives from Mount Scopus Memorial College that actively demonstrate support for their LGBTIQ students and wishes the school a hearty congratulations for taking this first brave step.
Media contact: Michael Barnett – 0417-595-541
Following on from the announcement of Bialik College becoming the first school in Australia to declare support for marriage equality, the school’s principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner has issued the following statement on their Facebook page:
Bialik College first Australian school to support Marriage Equality
February 16 2016
As a member of the Safe Schools Coalition, Bialik College is showing genuine leadership and vision by supporting marriage equality. The school clearly understands that giving children equal opportunities in life enables them to achieve their full potential.
Michael Barnett, convenor of Aleph Melbourne, reflects on this significant moment:
“As a former student of Bialik College, I am exceedingly proud of my first high school today. They have come a long way since I attended in the early 1980s. I would have had an easier time at school, experienced less bullying and felt less isolated if the school had told me it was ok to love boys and that I could even marry a man when I grew up. That validation would have made a huge difference to me, particularly at that formative stage of my life”.
Every current and future student at Bialik can now know that when they attend school, their friendships and relationships will be equally valued within their school community and that gender identity, sexual orientation and intersex status will not be a barrier to full inclusion.
This is a proud moment for the Jewish community in Australia. It also brings Australia one step closer to removing the hurtful and pointless discrimination in the Marriage Act.
All Jewish schools, and those beyond the Jewish community, must step up to the mark, in the name of equality and for the best outcomes for their students, and similarly add their name to the Australian Marriage Equality list of academic supporters.
Further comment available from Aleph Melbourne convenor Michael Barnett on 0417-595-541.
Today I received a copy of the Bialik College newsletter Shelanu (Issue 4, Sep 2015). On the back page is a list of Births, Engagements and Marriages. Ever hopeful, my eye was caught by the marriage announcement of 2004 student Deborah Konopnicki to Amy Hespe. Ground breaking news. Mazal Tov!
To the best of my knowledge Deborah is the first female past student of Bialik College to marry a same-sex partner and the first to be announced in the school newsletter. As a past student of Bialik College myself (1981-83) I am probably the first (male) past student of the school to marry a same-sex partner, having travelled to New Zealand in January 2014 to undertake the formalities.**
Aleph Melbourne wishes Deborah and Amy many years of happiness together (alongside all the other Bialik married couples). Hopefully our marriages to our same-sex partners can be solemnised and/or recognised under Australian law sooner than later.
** We’ll gladly acknowledge as first any former student of Bialik College who has earlier married a same-sex or gender-diverse partner.