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The recommendation that religious schools be able to discriminate against students is an easy headline to be angry at. The reality is quite different.
This morning, newspaper type castigated a recommendation of the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review that would see religious schools institute discriminations against the sexual orientation, gender identity and/or relationship status when considering students.
Without context, it bristles, but it’s worth mentioning that some schools already take this into consideration when hiring staff. The problem seems, of course, that children should be spared this discrimination at an early age, and I agree, but it’s not gospel yet.
Morrison mentioned that it was a just consideration at this stage, and not canon. “This is an independent report to Government, not a report from Government…we will protect religious freedom, and get the balance right.”
The report also suggests that schools outline their individual policy on this matter.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions. Morrison is openly religious, so, therefore, he’ll take any opportunity to discriminate under the guise of “religious freedom”.
Assumptions are easy, the reality is more difficult.
The current standard is hard to figure. It exists, but it doesn’t exist. I’ve worked with colleagues that I’ve known to identify as gay. It didn’t matter. As an educator in the Catholic system, there’s no outright rule discriminating against candidates, but some tacit understanding in higher echelons that some will not be considered for certain positions. As an example, a colleague who had the experience, but not the religion, so she was deemed ineligible for a management position. She wasn’t told this, it wasn’t said out loud, but that was clearly the reason why. A non-Catholic wasn’t considered to run a Catholic school. But that’s at the highest level, and that’s one example. I’ve worked with non-Catholics, and the above example I taught for twenty years in the system.
Maybe a uniform ruling on the standard would help, but I’d expect it’d operate on a school-to-school basis, as every institution is different. Some are more moderate than others, some are rooted to tradition.
As for applying this recommendation, in my experience, I don’t see it working. It’s not practical, and it’s not grounded in reality. I’ve conducted interviews with parents in concert with their kindergarten-age children, and the questions we ask are about faith, not sexual preference. It’s quite possible that the child is too young to know their sexuality, but the faith of the parents trump their sexual alignment. It’s the more important issue. In all honesty, with dwindling parish numbers, we can’t afford to be as discriminatory as the Ruddock Review recommends.
I realise that the opportunity to be discriminatory is the sticking point, but these easy assumptions (or either side) don’t move with reality. This recommendation looks to protect religion, but the modern implementation of faith isn’t as black and white as it used to be. We now paint in shades of grey.
Which is the problem for some, others the solution. If this recommendation becomes fact, it’d become a question of individual preference. Each school would follow their own ethos. In getting the balance right, Morrison would have to protect the modernity of the church for what it is.