Words: Alastair James; picture: Unsplash (posed by models)
A teacher in Australia says she was fired from her job at a religious school because of her sexuality. It comes as LGBTQ campaigners Down Under warn that LGBTQ teachers and pupils could face discrimination as a result of a new bill that has been put forward.
The Religious Discrimination Bill, which was introduced to the country’s parliament on Thursday (25 November) by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, would protect religious people and groups and allow them to express their beliefs.
Morrison said it was to protect people’s beliefs as long as it didn’t result in the "harassment, vilification or intimidation of anyone."
"The Morrison Government’s proposed law fails on all fronts"
Stephanie Lentz, who identifies as LGBTQ and an Anglican, told a debate programme on Thursday she had been fired over her sexuality.
ABC reports Ms Lentz revealed she’d worked at the unnamed school from 2017 to 2019, saying: "I really enjoyed the colleagues and the relationships with students, but in January this year the school fired me.
"They fired me because they disagreed with me that you can be Christian and also live true to the biological realities of your sexuality or gender."
She said she had offered to uphold the school’s ethos on sexuality but not elements she said would be harmful to students.
The new bill, making its way through parliament for the third time, would allow schools to give preferential treatment regarding employment and student enrolment to people of the same faith, but those policies would need to be clearly explained.
Responding to questions over how to manage situations such as Ms Lentz’s a pastor on the same programme said it was "complicated," but defended the ability for places to employ who they wanted based on belief.
"Women, LGBTIQ+ communities, people with disability, school students and minority faith communities should not fear unfair treatment and harm as a result of the Morrison Government’s proposed law.”— Human Rights Law Centre (@rightsagenda) November 23, 2021
Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre says the bill is unfairly balanced and prioritises freedom of religion over equality.
The Centre’s legal director, Adrianne Walters, says: "Women, LGBTIQ+ communities, people with disability, school students and people of faith should not fear unfair treatment and harm. The Morrison Government’s proposed law fails on all fronts."
It also says the bill will allow people to express harmful views and comments in work, schools, and health services.
The law is due to be voted on in the country’s Senate next year.
The Attitude December issue is out now.