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Fr Frank Brennan SJ addresses the Catholic Schools NSW symposium (The Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli)

Australia has struggled to strike the right balance between freedom of religion and the right to non-discrimination in the wake of the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite, says Fr Frank Brennan SJ. Source: The Catholic Weekly.

The respected lawyer said public discussion around rights are tending to “become more shrill and less civil” due to identity politics and “cancel culture”.

In his keynote address to the 2023 education law symposium held by Catholic Schools NSW on July 6, Fr Brennan said religious schools “should not be able to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.

“But religious schools should remain free to teach their doctrine respectfully and reasonably, in season and out of season. And the law should make that perfectly clear.

“We all need to concede that some religious teachings can be confronting and upsetting. But it is not for the state to rewrite the Bible or the Koran.”

Fr Brennan cited Jesus’ strong teaching on the corrupting influence of wealth, saying that schools are free to teach it even to students from wealthy families.

The Gospels’ message on human anthropology and marriage must likewise be freely taught, even when it may challenge some members of school communities.

“There’s no doubt that Jesus’ teaching on divorce has been counter-cultural for a long time; so now, his teaching on marriage,” he said.

“A Christian school must be guaranteed the freedom to teach what Jesus taught, respectfully, reasonably and counter-culturally — respectfully because the dignity of all persons must be affirmed, reasonably because a school has a fundamental educational purpose, and counter-culturally because many of the things Jesus taught will never appear in the political manifestos of the Liberal Party or the Labor Party.”


Religious freedom debate yet to strike the right balance: Brennan (By Adam Wesselinoff, The Catholic Weekly)