- 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”.
Moriah College’s statement on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
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.
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|