- 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|
Mount Scopus Memorial College calls for the removal of discrimination against staff and students on the basis of sexual orientation.
Aleph Melbourne warmly welcomes Mount Scopus Memorial College’s submission to the 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.
On Monday September 4 2017 the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) issued a statement advising citizens to vote No in the upcoming federal government postal survey on marriage equality. A backlash to this statement ensued, with no less than Rabbi Daniel Rabin, President of the council that issued the statement, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry distancing themselves from the aforementioned statement.
On Wednesday the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) issued a statement calling for “a respectful debate in the lead up to the same sex marriage survey”.
Also on Wednesday Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Senior Rabbi of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, issued a statement explaining his rationale for participating in a position of silence on the postal survey.
On Thursday Rabbi Daniel Mirvis, Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi Centre, issued a statement saying of the upcoming postal survey: “I plan on remaining silent on the matter”.
On Friday Rabbi James Kennard, Principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College issued a statement urging “all who choose not to remain silent to ensure that all comments, on all sides, are made with respect, sensitivity and understanding”.
By calling for a “respectful debate” the underlying message being sent is that debate must be respectful over whether the Marriage Act should continue to exclude same-sex and other non-heterosexual couples. Ultimately this amounts to insisting on a polite conversation on the merit of legalised discrimination.
Engaging in silence on a matter of discrimination amounts to tacit endorsement of the status quo.
But what if the topic of conversation were not Marriage Equality, but instead the banning of non-medical circumcision, the banning of religious slaughter of animals, government support for BDS, or the removal of religious and racial protections?
Would it still be acceptable to have a debate, or maintain silence, on any of these topics, respecting the underlying premise of each issue?
Would Jewish community leaders stand around and silently tolerate the wider community respectfully debating the merits of these topics, with a laissez-faire approach to the conversations?
Yet it’s acceptable for some senior Jewish Community leaders to insist on tolerating a “respectful debate” or maintaining a silence over whether the government can continue to enshrine discrimination in the law against a marginalised and highly vulnerable minority group for no good reason.
And this isn’t double standards? Where is the respect in that?
I will not be making any comment on the Same-Sex Marriage survey, or on the various public statements that have come from members of the community, since it is not my role, as a Rabbi, or a Principal or even a humble citizen to tell any other person how to vote.
I would urge all who choose not to remain silent to ensure that all comments, on all sides, are made with respect, sensitivity and understanding.
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
Posted on Facebook by Daniel Baker on August 20, 2013 and reproduced with permission:
Mount Scopus continues to ignore the needs of its LGBTQ students. Here is my most recent letter to the Principal and the head of the Board:
Dear Rabbi Kennard and Ms Kennett,
Thank you for your email dated August 12.
I must say that I am disappointed with your response. My emails dated 24 June and 25 July were responses to and questions on Rabbi Kennard’s letter dated 18 February, and it seems disingenuous to suggest that that letter could somehow provide the answers to the very comments and questions it raised. I have explained in a number of emails why Rabbi Kennard’s response was insufficient and, in some cases, erroneous – for instance, in its comparison of homosexuality to Shabbat violation. The school’s refusal to respond to these concerns raises serious questions about its commitment to equality and student well-being.
Additionally, and beyond the immediate issue of same-sex attracted students, I must say that your response raises concerns about the way the School treats concerned stake-holders. When I began calling on Mount Scopus to join the SSCV, and when my campaign was gaining significant public attention, Rabbi Kennard urged me to keep this matter private. He promised a constructive and meaningful dialogue in the interests of protecting the safety and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students. While I appreciated his letter dated 18 February, I do not think that a single letter followed by continued refusals to engage further constitutes real dialogue. To the contrary, it seems to reflect a lack of good faith on the part of the Principal.
As I have acknowledged on numerous occasions, it is of course the prerogative of the Principal and the Board to determine the school’s direction. What I seek is not an immediate policy change along the lines I have suggested, but a considered response to the 5 key points I raised in my email of 25 July. Those points are directly raised by Rabbi Kennard’s letter of 18 February, and the School’s claim to care about its same-sex attracted students cannot be taken seriously until they have been addressed.
I note that according to your email the correspondence between me and Rabbi Kennard was addressed at a recent meeting of the Board. Are you willing to make the notes of this meeting available to the public?
I look forward to your response.
Letters to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
(250 words max and include not-for-publication contact details)
Comments posted on the petition, current as at 13:30 Jul 15 2013:
Bryce Kenny MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
As a gay student I felt as though my school was not a place I could be comfortable at, the issues surrounding sexual identity were ignored unless from an academic, religious perspective which was far from inviting.. I love the school and the community and that’s why I want it to be as positive of an influence on the life of each student and the community as it possibly can be
Lillian Poe WEED, CA
It is done by men who do not respect women and change needs to happen.
Ena Burstin MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Because when I was a young lesbian, Mt Scopus was so unsafe for me…I don’t want any young people to experience the fear and loathing I did. Please make this school safe, respectful and welcoming.
Tayla Rabie AUSTRALIA
Many gay friends and family members, they deserve to be happy too.
Mike Samuel AUSTRALIA
A safe environment is imperative for the wellbeing and mental health of GLBTIQ youth. Mount Scopus should join SSCV and lead the community in ensuring the safety of their charges.
Josh Steiner AUSTRALIA
Because everyone should feel secure
Vivien Ray NORTHCOTE, AUSTRALIA
As a counsellor, I see young people who tell me it is not safe to ‘come out’ at school. Help make them feel safe and accepted at school.
Gina Saben AUSTRALIA
I would hate to not feel safe to be myself within our school walls.
Zoë Kay AUSTRALIA
If I have rights to walk through school being who I am, people who like the same sex shouldn’t find life any different.
Brandon Zielinski MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Everyone should be allowed to love who they fall in love with. It doesn’t matter if it is a guy and a girl, a boy and a boy or a girl and a girl. Love is love, and that’s all that matters.
yonit chait DONCASTER, AUSTRALIA
Because everyone has and deserves rights no matter who they love and what they believe.
Daniella Wigdorowitz AUSTRALIA
Everyone deserves to love.
jade bresler AUSTRALIA
BECAUSE HOMOPHOBIA FUCKIN SUCKS
Guy Hipsher AUSTRALIA
I want my school to be a Safe school
Dahlia Goldberg AUSTRALIA
because everyone on this earth has the right to love.
Roy Freeman SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
SSCV is a great initiative; it educates children about subjects that would otherwise remain taboo in some communities and it makes schools safer for same-sex attracted and gender-diverse kids. The earlier kids are taught about this stuff, the more likely they are to grow up open-minded.
Montana Sharp AUSTRALIA
Here’s the thing..
I used to be indifferent. I used to not care about homosexuality and the phrases ”that’s so gay” and ”faggot” used to fly right out of my mouth. I was uneducated. Sure my aunty whom I hadn’t seen in years was gay, as was my second cousin, but I never really felt an emotional stigma to fight for rights to a concept I had no idea about.
In 2011, I became very close friends with a very quirky and intelligent guy whom I suspected was gay, not that at the time I really cared, as I said before I was incredibly indifferent. However, once you start to love and trust someone, and recognise that your carelessness is probably keeping them from trusting you, you know changes have to be made. I think education is important not just for those who are rabid homophobics, but for those who have no stance, like I once had. What most of these indifferent individuals need to recognise is that those seemingly harmless everyday words and phrases that we just throw around for the sake of fitting into the mainstream vernacular could be hurting anyone. You could be hurting your sister, your brother, your teacher, your peers, or even your best friend. The removal of the subtle undercurrent of homophobia that is ever-present in Mount Scopus is absolutely essential to the mental and physical wellbeing of the students of the present, and of the future. Let’s fix ignorance.
Ben Janover AUSTRALIA
Scopus should show its adhernence of the ethos of having a safe and welcoming learning environment for ALL – including students and staff. Being a current student at school here, I believe that the lid must be opened on this issue.
Marco Fink MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
To promote equality and support for all students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
David Donaldson AUSTRALIA
Because school is hard enough without having to worry about being queer or trans.
Mark Baker MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
I think the issue goes beyond creating a safe environment; it’s about communicating a message to all students that gays are an equal part of the Jewish covenant, and therefore carry the same responsibility to build authentic Jewish lives and homes. This affirmative message is as important for Scopus, as for a synagogue community.
Ralph Burd CAULFIELD NORTH, AUSTRALIA
Everyone deserves to feel safe and be able to have a voice
Jennifer Lee AUSTRALIA
Every child and adult has the right to feel safe and welcomed within their community and its institutions – creating and maintaining the dialogue is key.
Jonathan Danilowitz TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
To savethe lives of distressed youth under extreme pressure. To reunite families split apart
Linda Joseph RESTON, VA
I am a former student of Mt Scopus. My work as a rabbi brings me into contact with many folk from the GLBTQ community. Many of whom have gifted wonderful talents to Jewish life and continuity. If all of us are created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, shouldn’t GLBTQ students, teachers and members of the College community, not be cherished and accepted, just the way they have been created?
Sylvia Schey LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
I believe it is the right for everyone to choose the way they wish to live as long as it doesn’t impact on others. The prime minister of England has brought into law the ability for have a same sex marriage. It is after all, the 21st century
Roxanne Joseph JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Part of Habonim Dror Southern Africa, stand for LBGT rights!
Daniel Etzion AUSTRALIA
Im an ex student of the school, and have many friends who are homosexual.
Lanna Newman-Plant AUSTRALIA
It is so important that schools are a safe space for everyone.
Rebecca Burns AUSTRALIA
Every single person deseves to be treated the same
Ariela Jacobs AUSTRALIA
You could save a lot of lives. No one should have to feel uncomfortable within their community, nor should they feel that way with their day to day school environment just because of who they are.
Eric Rollett AUSTRALIA
I feel it is important for our society to be more inclusive of something that is not an option or choice for a young person.
Selma Browde JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Should be important to any intelligent thinking person.
Jaryd Kay CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Everybody has the right to dignity.
Daniel Browde JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
I believe in standing up to bullies and violence and however we can do that, we should. With kindness and solidarity, we really can make the world a better place.
Paul Browde NEW YORK, NY
as a boy i lived with the tyranny of homophobia, as an adult and a psychiatrist i see the terrible effects of homophobia on adolescents with higher suicide rates among gay youth.
Romy Browne MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Everyone, children and adults, deserve to be in an environment where their sexual orientation is respected, they feel safe and where tolerance and acceptance towards and others is not only taught, but enforced. This is a fantastic initiative, you have my full support.
Merv Barnett AUSTRALIAEach and every person, without exception, deserves equal rights and freedom to exist in harmony and complete safety amongst their peers. Schools and other youth organisations must adopt a zero tolerence for homophobia. Protection of our children is paramount whilst they grow and try to find their way in life. I speak from the experience of being a totally supportive parent of a gay son.
Julie-Anne Lilienthal AUSTRALIA
We want all members of our community, particularly our children, to be given the confidence to be who they are not, not who we want them to be.
Harold Zwier ELSTERNWICK, AUSTRALIA
Putting your name publicly to this petition might encourage others to also sign it and effect change.
Melissa Scrutton AUSTRALIA
Family member that was bullied at school due to sexuality.
Tessa Manoim JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
because it is important and can save lives
Nathan Cherny MACCABIM, ISRAEL
I am a concerned former student and uncle of the school captain
Osher G CAULFIELD NORTH, AUSTRALIA
As one of the largest educational organisations of Jewish children in Australia, its integral that our children are brought up and educated in an environment which fosters positive attitudes, tolerance, acceptance and understanding of differences in colour, Race, Creed, religion and of course Sexual preferance
Naomi Goldwater AUSTRALIA
Becoming a member of SSCV would show Scopus’ commitment to supporting its GBLTQR students and staff
Justine Kuran AUSTRALIA
I don’t tolerate any minority groups being discrimated against on any basis!
Mark Cherny GAOTING TOWN, CHINA
There should be no place for homophobia or discrimination based on sexual preferences or orientation within our community.
Tal Spinrad CLARINDA, AUSTRALIA
I’m Jewish. Everyone deserves Kavod…everyone deserves to be treated as they were and are created in the image of G-d.
Michael Winn MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
I swam at Mt Scopus for 8 years, I know they’re a great school and can do a lot of good
Daniel Roitman AUSTRALIA
As an alumni of this school, as well as the sibling of a gay alumni of this school, I feel it is crucial Mount Scopus gets with the time and provides every single student and teacher a safe environment in which they can thrive. This should be independent of sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or anything else.
Benjamin Russell WOODFORD, AUSTRALIA
As a gay student, I found life extremely difficult going to a school where homophobia was abundant. I would like all schools to be safer and more tolerant, which this petition will hopefully provide for your school.
Kerry Wolfe AUSTRALIA
All children are entitled to a SAFE environment regardless of Race, Color, Creed or Sexuality !
Samantha Elsworthy MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Growing up is a tough time. We, as adults, remember how hard it was. We need to create as many safe spaces as we can, and actively promote acceptance and love. Please take this small step, join the SSCV, because though it may not directly affect the adults at MSMC, it will mean THE WORLD to the students who you help. It will make their time at your school so much more enjoyable. Thank you.
Gregory Storer CARNEGIE, AUSTRALIA
I have family attending the school, it would be good to know that they are in safe hands. These initiatives are important for the on-going safety and security of all students
Tahlia Hyams AUSTRALIA
Mount Scopus should show its commitment to providing a safe and respectful campus environment for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other queer students and teachers, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that its campus is a safe space for all, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Michael Barnett ASHWOOD, VIC, AUSTRALIA
In particular, my niece and nephew are students at Mt Scopus and I want them to have the safest environment possible. No student should fear going to school because of bullying because they are different. The school must set the highest standard possible and protect all their students, immediately.
Megan Efron AUSTRALIA
I came out when I was at Scopus, I think this is a good initiative.