In relation to religious freedom and the inherent right faith-based schools and organisations have to remain true to their faith Catholics have every right to be concerned if the ALP wins the forthcoming election; especially if a Bill Shorten government depends on the Greens Party for support.
In relation to who they employ and who they enrol religious schools and other educational bodies are allowed to discriminate to ensure staff and students uphold the organisation’s religious values and beliefs.
While Tanya Plibersek, the shadow education minister, recently implied at a forum in NSW that an ALP government would not remove the exemptions to anti-discrimination laws currently in place the official policy of both left-of-centre parties is to do the opposite.
The ALP policy pamphlet A Fair Go for LGBTIQ Australians signed by Bill Shorten does not equivocate when it states “A Shorten Labor Government will amend the Sex Discrimination Act to remove the exemptions that permit religious schools to discriminate against students and staff on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity”.
Religious schools in the sights
There is also no doubt what the Greens Party intends to do if it forms an alliance with an incoming ALP Government. Its policy also denies religious freedom when it states, “The Greens will protect LGBTIQ+ rights in law, through a Charter of Rights and by legislating to remove religious exemptions in federal and state anti-discrimination laws”.
And contrary to the ALP’s statement “We do not believe that the removal of these exemptions will hamper a religious school’s capacity to continue to teach it’s religion and operate according to its traditions and beliefs” it’s obvious that Catholic schools, in particular, will be adversely affected.
As stated in the ‘Don’t Mess With Marriage Pastoral Letter’ distributed to Catholic schools during the same-sex marriage debate the “Catholic Church opposes all forms of unjust discrimination. We deplore injustices perpetrated upon people because of religion, sex, race, age etc”.
Will Catholic schools lose their right to be Catholic?
At the same time the reality is that Catholic schools do not exist in isolation as their primary duty is to embody and uphold the teachings of the Church. As stated by Canon Law “The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life”.
Especially in the area of LGBTIQ gender and sexuality and same-sex marriage Church teaching is clear. As stated by Pope Francis marriage is defined as an “exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman” for the primary purpose of procreation.
His Holiness also criticises Marxist inspired gender theory when arguing “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of ideology of gender that denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family”.
While it might surprise ALP and Greens Party politicians Catholic schools, while they are an essential part of the broader Australian community, have a unique mission to fulfil in terms of the Catholic faith and the teachings of the Gospel.
What happens to parent rights?
The uniquely religious nature of such schools is also vitally important as many parents choose such schools because of their faith-based nature. Parents have the right to expect that the schools religious beliefs and values will be in tune with those in the home; a right guaranteed by a number of international covenants and agreements.
It also should be realised that removing the current exemptions is only the first step in a much wider campaign to impose a radical gender and sexuality agenda on Australian society. As stated in the Labor Party’s LGBTIQ policy paper “While the changes to the Marriage Act were a giant step towards greater equality, it wasn’t the end of the road”.
At the same time the ALP refuses to appoint a religious freedom commissioner to the Human Rights Commission the shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus has signaled that if they win the election the Shorten Government would appoint an LGBTIQ commissioner.
Lurking behind the scenes: ‘Safe Schools’
Even of greater concern is the plan by the Greens Party to reintroduce the Marxist inspired Safe Schools program. A program that its designer Roz Ward admits is not about anti-bullying but rather a program about “sexual diversity, about same sex attraction, about being transgender, about being lesbian, gay, bisexual – say the words transgender, intersex”.
There’s no doubt that faith-based schools and the Church are being threatened as illustrated by the ALP and the Greens Party seeking to deny religious freedom. At the same time, witnessed by the fate of Israel Folau for quoting from the Bible, it is also obvious there is a much wider extreme secular agenda seeking to banish religion from the public square and society in general.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of How Political Correctness Is Destroying Education.