Talk to us

CathNews, the most frequently visited Catholic website in Australia, is your daily news service featuring Catholics and Catholicism from home and around the world, Mass on Demand and on line, prayer, meditation, reflections, opinion, and reviews. And, what's more - it's free!

Exceptions in current law mean that discrimination on certain grounds by religious schools is not unlawful where it is “in good faith” (Unsplash)

The Australian Law Reform Commission is today expected to release its report on religious educational institutions and anti-discrimination laws. Source: ABC News.

Federal anti-discrimination laws ban discrimination across many settings against people on grounds including sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy. But the laws provide exceptions for religious educational institutions, including schools.

These exceptions mean that discrimination on certain grounds by religious schools is not unlawful under federal law where it is “in good faith” and “in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed”.

The exceptions recognise the impacts that anti-discrimination law, which protects fundamental rights to non-discrimination and equality, may have on the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

The Albanese Government has committed to reforming anti-discrimination laws to ensure that a religious educational institution must not discriminate against a student or staff member on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy, but at the same time can continue to build a community of faith by giving preference, in good faith, to persons of the same religion as the educational institution in the selection of staff.

The Government asked the ALRC to consider what changes should be made to federal anti-discrimination laws to ensure, to the extent practicable, that these laws reflect the Government’s commitments in a manner that is consistent with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

Law academic Mark Fowler, who specialises in religious liberty and is an associate in the law schools at Notre Dame and Queensland universities, told the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report there were many factors to consider in making any changes.


Religious concern over discrimination act (ABC News)