Should the government protect educators in religious schools against being fired because they are LGBTQ?
In Australia, religious schools are exempt from federal and state discrimination laws, allowing them to discriminate based on their beliefs. Does that sound right for your nation, too? Here in 'Merika we do have the idea of separation of church and state, but does it actually happen?
Tanya Plibersek, Australia's Labor Deputy Leader, stated that her party will not look to change the law, will defend the current exemptions, but will not rule out changes in the future in regard to religious freedoms.
Why is this becoming an issue now? Well, we are sure it has always been, but now with Marriage Equality being the law of the land, the National Catholic Education Commission of Australia desires to “teach and foster a school environment that reflects the mission and identity of the Catholic church” a.k.a. same-sex marriage is still bad in the eyes of the father, son, and the holy ghost.
Plibersek said, “I don’t expect to see a spate of people sacked because of their sexuality.” So if they happen, can we call her out on it and have her pay the lost salaries of the LGBTQ teachers?
The removal of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws for schools was promised to be removed by another party in 2016, but, well, we're here talking about them still. A religious freedom inquiry panel will report in March on their findings. Their first meeting is next week.
Should religious institutions be able to fire a teacher because of sexuality?
Let's flip that around…
Should a state school be able to fire a teacher for being too religious?
I remember when looking for my first teaching position, one of my big question was if my sexuality would be an issue in finding the right place to become an educator? That was a stupid question. Of course for it was a big concern as I searched central Maine for a place to make a living. But I think it was an issue for me, internally. I knew I did not want to throw myself into a hostile environment, but was there a school district that might be accepting of a gay teacher in 1996 rural New England? I remember during the interviews I didn't try to put on a straight face or carry myself differently. Just be me and if they didn't like what they saw in the interview, then the process would not move forward. I lucked out on both of my teaching positions in Maine, first teaching at a high school of 300 students in a town of 3,000 residents and then doubling both numbers for my second school and community.
But what about those teachers that didn't luck out like I did? What about those that are in a semi-hostile environment? I of course say good luck and thanks for fighting the fight. Representing the LGBTQ community within a school is hard and in a school that doesn't want you there, no fun. I had teaching friends that were let go and run out of town because of their sexuality while straight teachers in the same schools were sleeping with students, married principals were sleeping with married secretaries, and so on. Fun times.
But I knew I was gay. I knew that I would not belong in a religious institution. I don't believe in or practice a religion. But there are those that are gay and do believe. Their faith drives them to be in a religious environment and they want to teach. Some of us may think they are foolish while others may call them warriors or pioneers. I just know I wanted to be a teacher first and not have my sexuality be up for discussion. For most of my teaching career it wasn't. It didn't let it define me or affect my teaching. The students were always great and fellow teachers and parents were wonderful, until the bigots came into power. But that's another story.