More than half of Aussies oppose allowing religious schools to fire LGBT staff

More than half of Aussies oppose allowing religious schools to fire LGBT staff
Image: Swadge2 / Wikipedia



This story was originally published in the Star Observer.


More than half of Australians are opposed to religious schools being legally allowed to fire (or refuse to hire) people because they’re LGBTQI+.

With the religious discrimination debate ongoing and the proposals for law reforms once again at a stalemate, Just.Equal Australia’s new data shows that majority of Aussies believe religious schools shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against people based on their sexuality or gender identity.

The YouGov/Galaxy poll commissioned by Just.Equal Australia, polled 1,500 Australians about the Discrimination Act reforms, the proposed exemptions, and protections for LGBTQI+ staff and students at faith-based schools and services.

Key information from the poll includes:

  • 52% are against an exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act (which would allows religious schools to discriminate against people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status), while 35% support it.
  • 59% of voters are against funding for schools that discriminate, including 71% of Labor voters
  • 64% of Labor voters want teachers protected, only 35% of voters don’t
  • 65% of voters oppose discrimination by faith-based services including 76% of Labor voters

Just.Equal Australia says it’s clear where Australians draw the line

Spokesperson for Just Equal Australia Brian Greig said it was very clear where Australians drew the line on so-called “religious freedom”.

“These poll results confirm that a majority of Australians, and a strong majority of Labor voters, don’t support taxpayer funded discrimination and are saying to church groups ‘discriminate at your own expense and not on the public purse,” Greig said.

“These poll results should give added impetus to protect LGBTIQA+ school staff and students from discrimination, as well as tens of thousands of LGBTIQA+ staff, patients and clients of faith-based services, many of whom are already extremely vulnerable.”

“If Labor wants to stop voters who care about discrimination defecting to the Greens or independents at the next election, it must take action to repeal laws that allow discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people in faith-based organisations.”

“With the election less than a year away, Labor is running out of time to fulfil the promise it made to Labor voters that it will end discrimination in faith-based schools.”

An apology from Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College

This data comes out as Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College issued an apology for asking students to sign ‘enrolment contracts’, which Star Observer covered in 2022.

The contracts included a ‘statement of faith’ which made the signer acknowledge and agree that homosexual acts were “immoral” and “offensive to God”, and that transgender students should only be recognised by the biological sex.

Discrimination against LGBTQI+ in religious schools “endemic”

An Equality Australia report, titled ‘Dismissed, Denied and Demeaned: A national report on LGBTQ+ discrimination in faith-based schools and organisations’, was released in March.

It includes an in-depth investigation into the true extent of LGBTIQ+ discrimination in religious educational institutions and faith-based service providers in Australia, which the report says is “endemic”.

It also includes 26 personal stories from LGBTQI+ people who have lived experience of discrimination from religious institutions, such as:

  • A Queensland student who left her school in 2021 after a religious counsellor told her it was a ‘choice to be gay’ and spent lunchtimes ‘praying the gay away’ with her
  • A principal at a Queensland Christian school told a teacher to stop being openly gay in 2015.
  • A parent who is moving her family from Sydney’s Northern Beaches after two religiously affiliated high schools refused to enrol her trans daughter and another two threatened to impose extreme conditions as a condition of her enrolment.
  • A a tertiary college in Sydney fired a teacher after she became engaged to her same-sex partner in 2020.

“We have uncovered the tip of an ugly iceberg of LGBTQ+ discrimination,” says Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh.

“For every person who speaks publicly there are countless more who have either been discriminated against because of who they are, or are hiding it because they fear the repercussions.”

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