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Australia torn between allowing religious freedom and equality

by Courtney Deeran - Copy Editor
Tue, Oct 30th 2018 09:00 pm
SCRUTiNIZED The Australian government is in deep waters after proposing to allow religious schools to deny students and teachers due to their sexual orientation. The decision comes after pressure received by the religious community.
SCRUTiNIZED The Australian government is in deep waters after proposing to allow religious schools to deny students and teachers due to their sexual orientation. The decision comes after pressure received by the religious community.

Australia has recently come under fire after the Prime Minister released a statement regarding the leaked proposals that could allow religious schools to deny students and teachers due to sexual orientation. This proposal comes just after Australia’s decision to legalize same sex marriage last year, and is due in part to religious freedom that was commissioned after last years decision, according to BBC.

In response to the leaked proposals, the prime minister Scott Morrison, said that this law had already been in place, which sparked debate over unlawful discrimination, according to CNN. When asked for his own opinion on the matter, Morrison simply stated that this is the “existing law.” Apparently, in saying this, Morrison was referring to a section of the sex discrimination act. This act allows some freedom over discrimination requirements for certain religious institutions, although many states have passed their own laws not allowing religious schools to reject such people.

According to Morrison, the appeals have not been debated by the cabinet yet but will be carefully considered, as reported by BBC. Conservatives had asked for these reports as they fear their rights to practice religion will be restricted due to the legalisation of same sex marriage. However, a study done by Fairfax did not find any threat to religious freedom in Australia. Additionally, Fairfax spoke on business’ rights to turn away patrons due to their sexual orientation, saying that it would “encroach basic human rights,” according to BBC.

In the United States there have been similar conversations coming out, especially after a Colorado bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012. Currently,  the federal laws only protect people based on their race, religion and national origin. But while there are currently no federal laws forbidding a company to discriminate based on the sexual orientation of a customer or employee, many states have put anti discrimination laws in place to protect same sex couples, according to findlaw.com.

Many took to social media to express their outrage over these Australian laws. Some people pointed to the discrimination that happened during the 1960s where people could be rejected from businesses or schools due to their race. Others argued that that was an extreme comparison, but did point out the issue of human rights at play in this scenario.    

But amidst the fighting, the Deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek, brought to light how awful the discrimination against children is in this scenario, according to New Zealand news outlet Newshub. That is one thing people have seemingly forgot, these laws are pertaining to children and their right to an education.

Whatever your religious stance or sexual orientation, one has to step back and ask the question, is freedom of religion more important than a child’s basic right to an education?