The report from the Australian government’s Religious Freedom Review has been leaked to Fairfax Media. The report was handed to the government in May, but is yet to be released publicly.
The review into religious freedoms was initiated after marriage equality was achieved last year, to appease coalition government conservatives who oppose marriage equality. Those conservatives, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, want to create a “license to discriminate” against LGBTIQ people with new laws protecting religious freedom.
Fairfax says the report will not appease conservatives as it rejects the idea that religious freedom in Australia is under threat and warns against allowing businesses to withhold goods and services to gay couples.
However, the report does contain bad news for LGBTIQ school children, with Fairfax stating that the report suggests amending the Sex Discrimination Act so there is a consistent Australia-wide framework under which religious schools can reject LGBTIQ students and teachers.
Religious schools are already exempt from anti-discrimination laws and these proposals would serve to strengthen those exemptions.
It is being reported that the review recommends that each religious school develops a policy on LGBTIQ students and then expels LGBTIQ students whose parents already knew the school’s policy.
"It's difficult to comment without seeing the report, but our general proposition is Labor doesn't expand discrimination opportunities," Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek told ABC News Breakfast.
"What kind of adult wants to turn away a child, wants to reject a kid because they are gay?"
The Uniting Network, the LGBT network within the Uniting Church of Australia, has rejected the recommendation for additional discrimination of LGBTIQ students and teachers.
In July the Uniting Church of Australia became the first Australian religious organisation to allow same-sex weddings, giving ministers and celebrants the freedom to perform same-sex weddings if they want to.
“We call on State Governments to wind back discrimination measures already in place at the state level impacting LGBTIQ staff and students,” the Uniting Network statement says.
“Children during their schooling (from primary and high school) come to understand their sexuality, sexual orientation and gender.”
“To permit an already vulnerable young person to be thrown out of a religious school as they become aware of their identity is not in the best interest of children and is likely to add to the already unacceptably high rates of depression, self-harm and suicide of young LGBTIQ people.”
“Further, we express our concern that all schools should have some relationship to representing the broader Australian society.”
“If religious schools are permitted to exclude LGBTIQ children from their schools, around one third of Australians will continue not to have any natural connection with LGBTIQ people, potentially ingraining homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Australian society indefinitely.”
“We also see no rational or religious reason to discriminate against LGBTIQ staff in religious schools except in the limited case of school chaplains and teachers for the specific religious teaching. There is no justification for the exclusion of LGBTIQ teachers in core curriculum areas such as Maths, Science, English or support staff and school caretakers.”
“The breaking of this news comes at the same time as the Federal Government is seeking the Productivity Commission to review Mental Health programs in Australia.”
“On the one hand, the Federal Government is seeking to improve mental health outcomes, and on the other proposes to implement policies that will continue to create mental health issues within the LGBTIQ community and in particular younger LGBTIQ people.”
“In our Christian context, Jesus gave two underpinning commandments, to Love God, and to Love One Another. This proposed action is providing religious, and in our context Christian schools, to disobey Jesus’ clear objective, as this form of discrimination shows that those schools will not love one another.”