Rushed Bill Aiming to Protect LGBTI Students, Has Been Put on Hold – Hope 103.2

Rushed Bill Aiming to Protect LGBTI Students, Has Been Put on Hold

By Clare BruceMonday 3 Dec 2018Hope Afternoons

Listen: Stephen O’Doherty chats to Laura Bennett about the Sex Discrimination Amendment bill.

A bill aiming to protect LGBTI students, which Christian leaders fear could jeopardise religious freedom in schools and churches, has been put on ice in the Australian Senate today.

The bill, known as the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, was introduced by ALP Senator Penny Wong on Thursday (November 29).

It was initially introduced as an “urgent bill”, putting it on track to be rushed through the parliament in a matter of two days, with debate capped at only a few hours. But cross-benchers who opposed the rushed nature of the bill, voted for changes which have essentially slowed that process down.

The bill has now been sent to a senate committee to be looked at in more detail, giving senators and MPs more time to look at the bill and its implications, and to take into consideration the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review.

After watching the debate, Open House presenter and former head of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O’Doherty, told Laura Bennett that while the issue of potential discrimination in schools needs to be cleared up, it shouldn’t be rushed.

“Many Christians were concerned about it rushing through,” he said.

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“Schools have made the point they don’t want to discriminate against students on the basis that they are same sex attracted… [but] it remains a legal possibility.

“This issue does need to be dealt with. These laws need to be cleaned up and I hope in the next Parliament they will be, if not before. But it needs to come after a considered debate around what the Ruddock report actually says.

“[The Labor Party] didn’t leave enough time for people to think through the perhaps unintended consequences.”

“Students Need Protection – But So Does Religious Freedom”

Mr O’Doherty said while the bill was designed to stop discrimination against LGBTI students, many Christian leaders feared it would have had an affect far beyond just protecting students.

“It may have affected things including Bible studies, church teachings in the pulpit, and things done by theology colleges and Bible colleges for people [who] wanted to be chaplains,” he said. “No-one was really sure what effect it would have on the fundamentally important principal of religious freedom.

“At the end of the day, people who care about religious freedom should be pleased about what happened [today]. The parliament didn’t make what could have been an horrendous mistake.”

The Sex Discrimination Amendment bill is expected to be reintroduced next year for further debate.

Advocates for religious freedom are hoping that the right of Australians to practice their faith, will be protected with a positive affirmation, rather than by exceptions to laws around discrimination.

An article on the Christian Schools Australia website explains why schools are concerned about losing their freedoms to teach their faith: “As claims have been made that teaching a traditional, Biblical view of marriage, sexuality and sexual conduct is imposing a detriment on LGBT students it is not hard to see how removing the protections of section 38(3) will remove the protection for faith-based schools to teach in accordance with their beliefs.”

The Sex Discrimination Amendment bill is expected to be reintroduced next year for further debate.

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