Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Religious schools discriminate against the vulnerable


'Discrimination' by Chris JohnstonShe was in year nine when people started to suspect she was gay. At about that time, she says, a lesbian teacher at her Catholic school 'was kicked out', and 'people targeted me even more'. 'The teachers wouldn't do anything ... one actually joined in,' she says. Years later this former student was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and placed on medication.

Such were the experiences of one young lesbian woman, recounted in a senate inquiry submission calling for an end to exemptions which allow religious schools to discriminate against students who are transgender, gay or pregnant.

The Labor-Greens Senate committee has recommended such exemptions remain. Which means that unlike a public school, it may be lawful for a religious school to expel or discipline a student on the basis of gender identity, marital or relationship status, potential pregnancy, pregnancy, religion or sexual orientation.

The senate committee has attempted to find a middle ground. It says it's okay for students to be discriminated against in religious high schools, so long as they know and understand the school's discrimination policies and whether exemptions would operate when they enrol at the high school.

Essentially, the committee has put forward a 'freedom of contract' approach emphasising choice, compromise and pluralism: if you don't wish to adhere to the values of a religious school, choose another school. This 'choice principle' is not without merit. It represents an attempted compromise in a contentious clash of rights, and works to some extent when applied to employment in the religious sector: if you don't like it, don't work there.

But the recommendation overlooks a crucial fact: most students don't choose which high school they go to (let alone whether they will ever fall pregnant or identify as gay later in their schooling life), their parents do. So arguably, the minor isn't consenting to anything. This is an important fact when you consider they are essentially being asked to forfeit their legal rights.

Anti-discrimination law exists in part to protect the rights of vulnerable members of the community. In this regard, it is hard to ignore that first and foremost we are dealing with the legal rights of minors.

Further, some studies suggest homosexual teenagers are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. Transgenderism is viewed a medical and biological phenomenon. In light of this it's hard to view discrimination on the basis of gender identity as anything but cruel in most circumstances.

Dr Tiffany Jones, a former school teacher and now academic at the school of education at the University of New England, submitted research to the inquiry based on interviews she conducted with GLBTIQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) students at religious schools. She told the inquiry they described having abuse complaints ignored by staff, being punished for reporting abuse or asked to leave their schools.

According to Jones, 'the majority of GLBTIQ students who attended religious schools rated them as homophobic spaces' and many students in religious schools suffered attempts to be 'converted to heterosexuality'.

It's difficult also to dispute the welfare needs of pregnant teenagers who can often slide into poverty and out of the education system. Certainly the overriding principle must be to keep them in school wherever possible — not force them to endure the humiliation of being made to leave.

The impact of discrimination must not be forgotten. Beyond Blue told the inquiry 'discrimination is a risk factor for poor mental health and wellbeing. Discrimination and prejudice can result in rejection by families, bullying, violence ... restricted access to resources, and internalisation of negative stereotypes.'

The right to belief, freedom of religion and the right to practice belief are legitimate rights that must be balanced against the concrete financial and psychological effects of discrimination. State intervention in religion might be undesirable, but too many religious groups have responded to the anti-discrimination debate with one-sided rights-based arguments that are completely lacking in empathy.

Jim Wallace, head of the Australian Christian Lobby, who was personally assured by our PM that the religious exemptions at schools would remain, previously told Fairfax Media in relation to the expulsion of a gay student from a high school: 'I would expect any church that found itself in that situation to do that in the most loving way that it could for the child and to reduce absolutely any negative effects ... I think it's a loving response.'

Wallace may regard this behaviour as loving, but the obvious question is whether the expelled student — almost certainly alienated from his peers, possibly having been rejected by his religious parents, maybe hating his own desires and occasionally engaging in suicide fantasies — would in fact feel loved?

Luke Williams headshotLuke Williams is a freelance journalist who is studying law at Monash University in Melbourne. 

Topic tags: Luke Williams, anti-discrimination laws, Catholic schools, homosexuality



submit a comment

Existing comments

Oh dear, not another "only gay in the village" story on Eureka St. Is it so surprising that some studies suggest homosexual teenagers are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers when the acceptance of homosexuality as a problem is impeded by the denial of it as a problem, or to recognise homosexuals as performers of the problem? Homosexuality is not an effective way to resolve the true meaning of love, poor communication skills, and loneliness. The way to resolve homosexual suicidal tendencies is to firstly remove the denial of it as a real problem, and to find alternative ways to resolve the initial problems of poor communication skills, expressions of love and loneliness. Only when a problem is truly recognised for what it is can people begin to resolve themselves.

DavidSt | 01 March 2013  

I am quite offended by DAVIDST quite uncaring and un-Christian remark and I feel the need to respond and congratulate Luke on a brave and deeply compassionate article. DAVIDST, your comment is not only outside the recommendations of Catholic Church teaching, it is also at odds with the current consensus of psychology/psychiatry. When the World Health Organistaion removed the diagnosis of homosexuality as a mental disorder in ICD-10, it included the diagnosis of ego-dystonic sexual orientation under "Psychological and behavioural disorders associated with sexual development and orientation". The WHO's ICD.10 diagnoses Ego-dystonic sexual orientation thus: ‘The gender identity or sexual preference (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or prepubertal) is not in doubt, but the individual wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders, and may seek treatment in order to change it.’ The WHO notes that for codes under F66: "Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder."[1] This is often a result of unfavourable and intolerant attitudes of the society or a conflict between sexual urges and religious belief systems. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that "some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime." Unless you desire suffering and further deaths, DAVIDST, please stick to whatever your area of expertise – hopefully not counselling or pastoral care or psychology.

AURELIUS | 01 March 2013  

Like Aurelius, I too am disgusted with the comment by DAVIDST. All children ought to be entitled to a decent education in a supportive non-discriminating context. If religious, or other, groups want to participate in the provision of education, especially when using public funds for the purpose, they should be required by law to provide the appropriate non-discriminating context. If Jim Wallace made the statements he does as head of the Australian Islamic Lobby he would ignored by politicians and pilloried by the media.

Ginger Meggs | 01 March 2013  

Aurelius - you have quoted WHO studies regarding homosexuality to justify its practice in the way others do to claim for same-sex marriages and adoptions. Such studies do not prove homosexuality to be a positive occurence of life nor a psychologically problem free lifestyle. If gay teens are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, how can you say that there is no problem? How can you say that it's OK to be gay? Self-pity and suicide often go together and teenage years are times of emotional confusion and insecurity. So I question whether provoking a victim mentality in gay teens is really compassion at all. I'm sorry if I've offended you. I'll try not to do so. I can only ask that you tolerate me in the same way you would want me to tolerate others.

DavidSt | 02 March 2013  

On the interpersonal level I think we are in the situation between a rock and a hard place. Obviously Catholic and other overtly religious schools have a problem balancing their moral beliefs against the needs of vulnerable young people. I remember my all boys Anglican school. It was mostly day so there were not the problems you might have with a similar place in the middle of nowhere. Several people I remember were gay. As far as I am aware nothing else happened. There was no hard moral line pushed and no one was discriminated against. All terribly civilised. This was in Melbourne in the 1960s. But the Headmaster, later knighted for his services to Australian education, had also abolished both corporal punishment and bullying in the Senior School. It is famous and has an incredible list of alumni in all areas of life including a recent Prime Minister; famous cultural icons; academics; QCs; professors not just here but also Cambridge etc. Was there something about the ethos which encouraged both tolerance and success? I think so. I'm ashamed many Australian schools today aren't like ... was then. How awful!

Edward F | 02 March 2013  

The real discrimination to be feared in religious schools concerning sexuality and sexual orientation is that in regard to ignorance in the curriculum and a lack of resourcing of parents who are best equipped to lead their children in understanding it. Ill-conceived sex education programs in schools place too much demand on teachers and send the wrong messages to parents. What ends up happening is that the children are inculcated into nothing that resembles a Gospel understanding of sexuality, but only produces consumers for the culture decided view.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 04 March 2013  

This is frightening, absolutely frightening. A child can be asked to leave a "religious" school because he/she is gay! And the two political parties supposedly on the left, allow an exemption that permits it. What kind of country are we living in? I taught all my working life in religious schools without the inverted commas. The executives, the staffs, the students at those schools would have been appalled if anyone - staff or student - was asked to leave for such a reason. Would somebody please point out that the writer has somehow got his facts wrong.

Frank | 04 March 2013  

Luke, I believe were we to ask God's opinion of your piece and Davidst and Aurelius' comments, this is most likely what He would have to say."God seeks what has been driven away".It is always the case that God seeks what has been driven away ( favoring the victim )You find when a righteous man pursues a righteous man. "God seeks what has been driven away". When a wicked man pursues a wicked man. "God seeks what has been driven away". And the more so when a wicked man pursues a righteous man." God seeks what has been driven away." The same principle applies even when you come around to a case in which a righteous man pursues a wicked man."God seeks what has been driven away" - from a Theological Commentary to the Midrash : Leviticus Rabbah by Jacob Newman

Damaris | 04 March 2013  

Many thanks Luke for drawing our attention to an obvious area of intolerance. Discrimination against people who are 'different' from the general mob is typical of religious organisations that cling to absolute laws at the expense of individuals. It's a double standard as far as I'm concerned and nothing about the love which religious organisations should be exemplars of.

john bartlett | 04 March 2013  

...and by the way DAVIDST, gay teenagers who have suicidal tendencies are only that way inclined because of the intolerance and discrimination shown by religious authorities who judge them as having 'evil tendencies'. Non-religious gay teens don't seem to have the same problems.

john bartlett | 04 March 2013  

Can I add my objections to the comments of DAVIDST? The most likely reason that many young gay people are depressed and that some even commit suicide is the self-righteous prejudice (dressed up as religious and moral rectitude, with a dash of pseudo-psychology) directed towards them. And DAVIDST, there is no such thing as "a psychologically problem free lifestyle"! No-one - gay, straight, bi, whatever - is free from worry, stress, angst or other psychological problems.

Monty | 04 March 2013  

Time overdue for the Christian enterprise - across all its sects - to start sorting out what are the tribal legacies running through its theology of sex, from what is true to a Gospel of love, and its encouragement to holiness. Whether God abides sexual "deviation" or is indifferent to it, is (shock! horror!) irrelevant. It is how we treat one another, within the love of Christ, that matters - even to God. All the rest seems so much self-serving verbiage. As an ageing Catholic, I have long been fed up with people with beams in their eye pontificacting about the motes in the eyes of others.

Fred Green | 04 March 2013  

I was taught in the "Sunday School" I attended in a country town that had no Catholic School that there were 2 great commandments ---Love God and love your neighbour as yourself> Why do churches and religions have to complicate this message. How you love God is of course a matter of debate BUT there is no debate possible about loving your neighbour--regardless of their colour or their culture or their background OR their sexual orientation. So for me, discrimination of any kind is not acceptable--particularly by those who profess to be Christian.

Bill Armstrong | 04 March 2013  

Luke, thank you for this article. You are right when you tackle the hypocrisy of preaching love and acceptance, while at the same time acting in quite the opposite way. I am not sure how Jim Wallace could possible imagine that someone could be effectively 'driven out into the desert' in a way that was, and was felt to be, loving. However until the Church can have the capacity to address its underlying teaching in the light of new scientific knowledge and modern Biblical scholarship, there is always going to be a problem in forming policies that overtly insist that GLBTIQ people are treated equally and with respect, and that students are nurtured and supported in their exploration of their God-given individuality. I have seen a great shift in the public school system in the forty years that I worked there, and although it is not perfect, it is improving. Attitude change can be made. I know many Catholic high Schools do attempt to create a loving environment in spite of the teachings, and my biggest hope is in many of the young students, who act for change within their space.

Pauline Small | 04 March 2013  

Yet another example, of many one could list at the moment, of where the Church needs to learn tolerance, humility and common sense from the "secular" world. Remembering that not long ago democracy, free speech and association, and even essentially conscience etc etc were all condemned...and now the Popes claim these as core Catholic values. Well, there you are.

Eugene | 04 March 2013  

For eleven years I was Principal of an all boys' Catholic school. If boys were expelled it was for clear violation of expellable expectations. Never would I have contemplated expelling boys for their sexual orientation, but the school did all it could to create an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance. I agree with the observations of Fr Mick and Fred Green.

John Boyd-Boland | 04 March 2013  

I'm with Frank on this one: I've had over 30 years in Catholic schools and I cannot think of one instance where a student was asked to leave because of sexual preference or pregnancy or anything like that. Having said that, I'm sure that there have been many students who struggled with their sexuality in a world which does not tolerate difference, including race, colour and creed, very well.

ErikH | 04 March 2013  

Homosexuality is not normal. When a person realises that she/he is homosexual mostly sometime in early teenage years then that is an additional problem. Parents, educators should assist not condemn. Homosexuals should also not claim that it is normal.Biology cannot be denied. The same principles apply to "transgender" but even more forceful

Theo Verbeek | 04 March 2013  

I am with Davidst on this one. Much too consistently, the research has shown that there is a strong association between mental health issues and homosexuality. Yes, young people are being discriminated against (for all sort of reasons, not just homosexuality), but the best way to help them is to recognise that they need help with their mental issues, among other things (like providing good role models), rather than normalising their sexual lifestyles. Tiffany Jones did not mention that her own research has shown youth engaging in a homosexual lifestyle are twice as likely to get pregnant, engage in sexual activities whilst very young and acquire STDs than youth with religious or CALD background. It's time those who advocate that Christians be held responsible take some of the responsibility for the harm that these youth suffer themselves. If we remember, it is only lately, since the 'gay liberation movement' that we have seen such increases in youth suicides - some 'liberation', eh? But it's easier to blame the Christians and heterosexual norms than to admit that you're wrong, I guess.

Dan Noblesky | 04 March 2013  

This is a very balanced and compassionate article. Of course, like all of us I'm concerned for freedom of religion. I don't see, however, that excluding or ignoring GLBT students from church schools is an expression of this freedom. In fact "they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided". That's the Catechism. It appears that some Catholic schools may be unaware of this, and are, in fact, in breach of their religious duty. I don't believe anyone wants to maintain the exemption in order to exclude students. I hope it's because they need to be able to discriminate against teachers who openly speak against church teaching in a church school to young members of the church.

Joan Seymour | 04 March 2013  

To EDWARD F, if there is a need to "balance" or compromise between moral beliefs and the needs of vulnerable people, may I suggest no other conclusion than such moral beliefs be either flawed, totally immoral, or not based on Christian values.

AURELIUS | 04 March 2013  

Can I also add to DAVIDST's comments on psychological problems and bullying - when I was a lad, my circle of mates was bullied and teased by our peers for being "different" - some might have been gay, a couple were fat, wore glasses, were Asian or mediterranean, had red hair, freckles, stuttered, spent the lunch hour in the library - but we were generally what is regarded as "nerds" or "geeks". Many of these colleagues I have been in contact with through facebook recently - and the majority are happily married with children and successful careers, including international scientific researchers medicine. A couple of them are gay - and while they suffered the same bullying - are also now fully integrated and happy adults, with the same spectrum of psychological challenges as the general population.

AURELIUS | 04 March 2013  

I totally agree with DAVIDST's comment and I will not apologise. Remember; First Tolerance, Then Acceptance (Homosexuality) and Finally Embrace (Same-Sex Martriage). No thanks.

Ron Cini | 04 March 2013  

Thanks Luke for an excellent and important article. I am surprised that in all the commentary, it has not been noted that these schools are run with government money - these days well over 80% of church schools' funding comes from the public purse. They can, and do, argue that they have the right to employ only teachers who appear to abide by church teaching - but now it is clear they also claim the right to expel young Australian citizens, simply because they are gay - and all this is funded by the secular government of our country. Do these students, as citizens, have no rights in these matters, when these schools are run not as privately funded clubs, but as publicly funded institutes registered and approved for educating the next generation of citizens? I am glad to hear that many Catholic schools, as John Boyd-Boland suggests, do act in loving and just ways towards all their students - the issue here is, however, whether that is at the discretion of the individual school,principal, or church leader. Again - do these students, these young citizens, have any rights in these situations? Apparently, our political parties think not.

Michael B Kelly | 04 March 2013  

I would not have a problem with the comments of DAVIST, RON CINI and DAN NOBELSKY - as long as they don't claim that their comments are based on Christian values. Many people who go through suffering and sacrifice also suffer mental health issues - but remember that some forms of suffering are redemptive and life-giving.

AURELIUS | 04 March 2013  

There seems to be some sort of consensus here, in support of Luke Williams' opinion, and expressed by john bartlett and Monty, that somehow homophobic religious bigots like myself are driving vulnerable teen gays to self-destruction. If that is true then our influence over others must be extraordinarily powerful. This flatters my vanity. If I felt I had this sort of power over others I would be tempted to become an Alistair Crowley. However, in truth I can tell you that my influence over others, teen or not, straight or gay, is insignificant - almost non-existent. People do not kill themselves because of what I think or say about them. But for the sake of argument let us assume that I am wrong. That if we could get the Church out of the way or at least get it to abolish it's insistence that homosexuality is a sin and if we could silence narrow-minded bigots like myself, and as a result gay teens were not automatically at a greater risk for self-harm than straight teens, then what would that all prove? It would not prove that the Church was wrong in forbidding homosexuality. It would only prove that we are weak. But we already know that. It is the essence of the human condition.

DavidSt | 04 March 2013  

Thx Luke, Again I am appalled and ashamed about discrimination practiced in the name of christianity. And the affirmation of 21st C. governments supporting discrimination. Discrimination is no part of the Four Gospels of Jesus Christ, nor of the gospel of St Paul. How do they do it?

The Rev'd Patricia Bouma | 04 March 2013  

Theo Beek left handedness is not normal - less than 50% of the population are lefthanded. Being 193 cm tall is not normal - most people [blokes] come in at 177 cm [approx]. I'm left handed and 183 cm tall - I'm not normal. Has it been a problem for me? Not that I can recall. The sisters didn't even try to correct my hand writing. Have I been discriminated against because of not being normal? No. So why do we discriminate against gays for not being 'normal' [to use your word]?

Mike Bowden | 04 March 2013  

Could Luke Williams, in the interests of transparency, please post a link to the relevant submission? I would like to verify for myself what this poor woman had to say before commenting further, but there are about 600 submissions posted on the Senate Committee's website.

HH | 04 March 2013  

Thanks to everyone for their comments and feedback it is appreciated. Debate is important! HH thanks for your question - the student's story was featured in a submission by the Lesbian Health Coalition on pages 8-9. There are a range of other examples which may also be of interest.

Luke Williams | 04 March 2013  

THEO VERBEEK, homosexuality is not "normal" if you mean that by "not the norm/majority" which I think is obvious... but whether homosexual people are biologically/genetically homosexual or whether it's a result of environment is a highly debated topic - suffice to say that in the lived experience of most homosexual people - it's out of their control, and therefore part of their nature/sexual identity. Condemning or establishing prohibitions on expression of ANY sexuality is not the role of churches and religions, because a person's sexuality is part of their personhood which the Catholic Church maintains the utmost respect.

AURELIUS | 04 March 2013  

This new film clip by American artist sums of the feeling of many people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0

AURELIUS | 04 March 2013  

Once again - the Church does not teach that homosexuality is a sin! It does say that it's an 'objective disorder'. Homosexual practice is accorded 'grave matter' status, but the direction of our sexuality isn't freely and knowingly chosen and can't be a sin. I doubt that there are large numbers of Catholic schools that are unaware of this, but all schools have a duty to know, understand and practise the Church's teaching in its fullness. (Even though I may have difficulty accepting parts of the teaching, schools don't have that choice)!

Joan Seymour | 04 March 2013  

Thanks, Luke for your prompt reply. I'll just point out: 1) The woman herself is not here calling for an end to religious exemptions to discrimination in the proposed new federal anti-discrimination law. In fact, this report is excerpted from an interview that occurred in 2009. (A fuller version is here: http://www.erinyes.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/ERINYESonHumanRights2010.pdf) 2) She also doesn't ascribe her grave maltreatment to her school as an institution being religious/Catholic. In fact, she points out that the discrimination continued when she left her Catholic school and went to university, and to bars, etc. 3) From the fuller version, we learn two other relevant facts. 1. The lesbian teacher at her school was sacked for making comments inconsistent with the Catholic faith in class: as the woman puts it: “because in class she (the teacher) mentioned that a good form of contraception was to be gay, ‘cause you wouldn’t get pregnant”. 2. The ex-pupil mentioned in the post was herself removed for carrying on a relationship in year 12 with a year 11 pupil. As tragic and totally unjustified as her circumstances may have been in terms of the persecution she endured from individuals merely for being identified as homosexual, carrying on a homosexual liaison - with another pupil - would seem to me entirely to justify removal from a Catholic school - after, of course less extreme attempts to alter the situation have failed (the school did try counseling). It is interesting to note that the school actually permitted her, once removed, to come back and visit her partner on campus. This seems to me to be imprudent of the school. Nevertheless, it seems well intentioned, and runs counter to the claim that the school as an institution was prejudiced against her. All in all, I submit, this is not a convincing example of a religious school, as an institution, “discriminating against the vulnerable”.

HH | 04 March 2013  

Well, Aurelius, I can see no conflict in having conventional moral standards and exercising tolerance on certain issues. I believe there is increasing evidence that there is a genetic tendency to homosexuality. Having that tendency is not ipso facto morally culpable. Any Moral Theologian worth his, or her, salt would tell you that. I think those in the Catholic education system who have commented so far are in line with this.

Edward F | 05 March 2013  

Well, EDWARD, the implication in the act of "tolerance" is that the Catholic education system is expected to endure or resist the action of some negative presence or force in its midst. If homosexuality is neutral, then tolerance is not more necessary that tolerating someone from a different racial background.

AURELIUS | 05 March 2013  

I should also point out that the graphic on this post is a rather bizarre caricature, with obvious agenda. (I suspect, Luke, you had nothing to do with this.) A collared ("traditional"?) priest headmaster of a co-ed school, bible in hand is depicted banishing lesbians and a pregnant girl. I'm a bit out of touch with religious schools these days, but does anyone know of a Catholic school in recent memory that has EXPELLED a girl merely because she was pregnant - as opposed to, perhaps, removing her to an alternative situation at her and her family's ready consent for reasons of prudence? (Indeed, how many Catholic co-ed schools have in recent years been headed by a collar-wearing Catholic priest?)

HH | 05 March 2013  

I am tired of Eureka Street constantly bashing Christians for the the alleged bigotry against homosexuality. The so-called discrimination amounts to nothing when compared to the intolerance that gays and lesbians meet in Muslim nations. Eureka Street has dealt with the issue a few times. However, the editors and the authors appear to be much more ready to gird their loins and do battle with Christians than with Muslims on this issue. The traditional Christian teaching is a call to repentance for a life that is deemed to be contrary to the Lord's teachings (along with sundry other failings). In Islam the penalty for homosexuality is death. No cigar for guessing which one is more "homophobic". Come on Eureka Street get a sense of perspective!

MJ | 05 March 2013  

Flawed sense of logic and reasoning , MJ - and may I also suggest you read the church's teaching on homosexuality? The church does NOT call for repentance from homosexuals - it calls for repentance from ALL sinners, regardless of their sexuality. And if you want to compare the justice system in some theocratic dictatorship, you would need to go back to medieval Christian times when heretics were burnt at the stake.

AURELIUS | 05 March 2013  

Here here MJ I agree. Also I might add that it seems to me that the proponents for the acceptance of homosexuality to be regarded as merely just another form of social and sexual relationship that is equal for the status of marriage, are becoming unreasonably forceful and even arrogant in their view point and quite unquestionable. As a seeker of truth I personally believe that all things should be up for questioning and debate.

John Whitehead | 05 March 2013  

So much for, Love Thy Neighbor.

Amber Thomp[son | 06 March 2013  

“Flawed sense of logic and reasoning” Aurelius? Really? I would possibly plead guilty to a charge of not being clear enough. When I said that the Church called people engaged in homosexual acts to repentance I included the phrase in parentheses ‘along with sundry other failings’. That was my attempt to say exactly what you said regarding the Church calling all sinners to repentance, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of the sin. With the cleared up, I may suggest that your own logic is flawed. Nowhere in your response to my article do you deny what I say about how Muslims treat gays and lesbians in the 21st century. You counter with a nos quoque defence from the medieval period. Please! Muslims are harassing gays and lesbians here and now. The Christian Churches have moved beyond barbarity of the Middle Ages. Islam has not. There are many websites run by your fellow gays that chronicle the discrimination and persecution of gays and lesbians in the name of Islam. This is done both by government officials and self-appointed thugs. As I said, I would like Eureka Street to move its cross-hairs off the Christian Churches and take aim at a target more worthy of condemnation for homophobia.

MJ | 06 March 2013  

Well, MJ, if a Catholic person commits a murder, is it fair to say "Catholics are murders"? In the same way, does a dictatorship in an Arab country commiting atrocities against ethnic groups, women and gays represent "Muslims"? Whatever the case, your so-called "Muslim" persecution of gays is bases on the SAME flawed logic as Christian discrimination against gays here in Australia, regardless of whether they are beheaded, or driven to suicidal depression. If it's all just about calling for people to repent from their sins, which you refer to "all and other sundry failings", then why are homosexual people singled out? Why not start a campaign against masturbation? And who decides what a "homosexual act" is? Our sexuality is more than just what we do with our genitals.

AURELIUS | 06 March 2013  

MJ makes a good point. It needs to be pointed out that all the Abrahamic faiths forbid homosexuality. They support the Catholic church's prohibition on homosexuality. So the point Luke Williams makes at the start of his article could equally have been made against an Islamic or Jewish college. But would it - even considering that gays and lesbians come in all religious stripes? Perhaps there is a case to be made that the Catholic Church is unfairly painted in the darkest colors on Eureka St. Do the Jesuits really hate the Church that much? Some would think so. Or is there some politically correct prohibition preventing reference to any faith except one's own? These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own; and these are the days when those who hate Christianity call their hatred an all-embracing love for humanity.

DavidSt | 06 March 2013  

DAVIDST and MJ, Catholic Church teaching is really not that complicated. The Catholic Church does NOT condemn homosexuality. The article above by LUKE WILLIAMS talks about discriminating against homosexuals as persons with human rights - it's not a discussion about church teaching on genital actions which apply to ALL sexual orientations.

AURELIUS | 06 March 2013  

Where is the evidence to back up this author's claim that religious schools actually expel students for being LGBTI or pregnant? I'll check out this research. At my catholic all girls school, we had pregnant girls undertaking their HSC.

ex Catholic student | 06 March 2013  

Having now read the Jones research, it is curious to me that this author has chosen to address only discrimination against LGBTI youth in religious schools. Of the students surveyed, 65% were from government schools. Why aren't the hurdles faced by all LGBTI students in all schools addressed in this article? Clearly an agenda here.

ex Catholic student | 06 March 2013  

Purity is the ability to recognize the essential nature of any form. It is the ability to distill any error that has been attached to a form whether the error is ideological, psychological, or physiological. Purity is the ability to liberate oneself patterns of error that are present in perceptual reality and instead to experience the intent of cosmic order. The only way one can experience the true nature of form is through the eyes of Purity.

Game Theory | 06 March 2013  

David 1972 left the door open and are asking you to comeback so they can close it again.

indi | 07 March 2013  

Rejection of and discrimination against gay people, of either gender, by any religion in the Western World is an absolute disgrace. For goodness sake, gays are born like that. It is not about choice. I'd be furious if a child of mine was rejected by a religious private school because he or she happened to be gay. How ridiculous. Jim Wallace is a big pain in the neck, in my opinion. So-called Christians of his ilk should hang their heads in shame.

Louw | 08 March 2013  

DAVIDST take the time honoured "blame the victim" approach. I can not see why religious schools should be allowed to discriminate; especially as these schools receive substantial public money. Under section 116 of the Australian Constitution the state is not allow to promote religion and this includes enabling religious based discrimination. 116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth." I was also under the impression that minors could not legally agree to contracts but beyonfd that there are some contracts that should not be possible, selling your child into slavery for example. This issue is just yet another issue where Labor has gone AWOL on principles. The attitude of Labor towards its supporters as it kow tows to the religious right is "where else can they go". My answer to this arrogant attitude is to tell Labor where they can go.

Peter | 09 March 2013  

If private schools want to be allowed to discriminate in any way, or push any values that are grounded only in blind faith instead of rational thought, then they should not share in the public purse. Our anti-discrimination laws have been a hard fought battle and should not be diluted by anyone. Religious teaching often amounts to no more than propaganda with little or no evidence-base to back up the beliefs that are being touted as "truth". Religious schools are by their very nature discriminatory so Governments should not be giving them any money.

Anne | 12 March 2013  

The issue here is that religious schools are asking for a special legal exemption to be able to expel gay or pregnant students. So how then can people claim that religious schools don't discriminate as much or are being picked on, when they are asking for a special exemption to discriminate. This doesn't make sense. There is much defensiveness in these comments.

MG | 13 March 2013  

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/us/group-that-promoted-curing-gays-ceases-operations.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130621&_r=0 http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=35210#.UcpV2Ds3CWk Now that many countries have legalized gay marriage. Australia needs to finalize the argument about the right to religious freedom in private schools as compared the rights of minors within these school. While I can accept that private schools may not want to foot this bill for reducing discrimination, there is a lot of public money being given to these schools. This needs to go towards teachings which may be counter to the religious beliefs, eg. the science of global warming, methods of avoiding unwanted pregnancies, sexual orientation and the UN children's rights. http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/humanrights/resources/plainchild.asp If discrimination is against the law, then minors need to be protected against discrimination from institutions, including schools. This is particularly problematic when you consider that most parents choose their children's schools and this choice is for 6 years. The school choice is not like employment where a person can change more easily. The government has a responsibility here, either they disallow this discrimination or they at a bare minimum equip and fund the public schools so that pubic schooling is a real option and at least a competitor in academic outcomes. The government can not have it both ways and allow this discrimination and only supply a weak alternative. This is in itself coning the discrimination and setting it up for success. The Human Rights of Children need to be placed before any adult's right to express their religion. I wonder if the child clerical sex abuse would have been as bad had we prioritized this way earlier?

Janine | 26 June 2013  

Excellent article Luke. The essential component of the debate is that if private schools want to reserve the right to discriminate then they must relinquish their tax payer funding. It would also make for interesting results if private school parents were surveyed on whom they would prefer to teach their children: the best teacher or the best religious role model for the job? We all know what the results will be don't we. I remember being taught that Jesus was welcoming and forgiving. He did not have a discrimination policy did he?

Martin Snodgrass | 15 January 2014  

Looking back over time, one is taken aback by the absence of any discussion on Catholic Education Commission policy directives on these matters. My initial foray into the discourse came from a background in Catholic Social Teaching, which provides the foundational values for the Catholic school. While policy directives may not cover all exigencies, least of all the discretion of school leaders to exercise justice, wisdom and the constraint of 'the staying hand', it is certainly true that, despite the widespread establishment of state-based Commissions and diocesan CEOs in the 1970s, numerous cases emerged of buck-passing. I discovered in my Masters (in Policy, UWA, 1988) a plethora of unprofessional practices, even within the systems, whereby expulsion, under whatever name, was left to the discretion of Principals. In one tragic incident, a Yr 10 student suicided at her home. The school was so enveloped in trauma that its leadership failed to review its policy in regard to what happened and no HODS were ever invited to participate, let alone informed of the aftermath. More recently, I encountered practices in a low-SES region in SE Queensland, where it was still acceptable to expel pregnant students, despite Fr Boyd-Boland's extraordinary discretionary comment above..

Dr Michael Furtado | 14 October 2016