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The Presbyterian Church of Australia, which oversees two of Victoria’s most elite private schools, has told a review of Australia’s discrimination laws it should be able to refuse students who have pre-marital sex or are gay from becoming school captain.
In a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission, the church group said these students “would not be able to give appropriate Christian leadership in a Christian school which requires modelling Christian living.”
The Presbyterian Church of Australia says its schools should be free to stop gay students from becoming school captain.
The Victorian wing of the Presbyterian Church of Australia operates five schools in the state, including Presbyterian Ladies’ College and Scotch College in Melbourne’s inner east.
Islamic, Jewish, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventist and Uniting Church groups also made submissions to the inquiry which the federal government established to review Australia’s religious exemptions for schools in its first formal step toward drafting religious discrimination laws.
The Presbyterian Church’s rejection of same-sex school captains was in response to an example from the ALRC’s consultation paper which proposed banning discrimination against students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles told Channel Nine on Friday the government was trying to ensure religious Australians were protected, but was uncomfortable a church group wanted to exclude gay students or those having premarital sex from school captaincy.
“Leadership and the qualities of leadership are not a function of people’s sexual orientation, and we need to make sure we have the widest pool of people for leadership positions across our society – and that should apply here as well,” Marles said.
“It’s really important that we do not walk down this road [of] discrimination against children.”
“Leadership and the qualities of leadership are not a function of people’s sexual orientation, and we need to make sure we have the widest pool of people for leadership positions across our society – and that should apply here as well.”
The Presbyterian Church of Victoria also made a separate submission to the review and did not explicitly object to same-sex students becoming school captains, but rejected the review’s proposal barring discrimination against gay students.
Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Executive Director Jim Miles said at the heart of the debate was a parent’s right to choose a school that reflected their values and beliefs.
“These values and beliefs are not ‘add-ons’. They permeate all dimensions of the Catholic school community, supporting young people in their spiritual development and fostering a contribution to society,” Miles said.
“Catholic schools should have the ability to employ and teach according to their faith, while operating with deep care and respect for all students and staff, nurturing and supporting them on their life journeys.”
Scotch College and Presbyterian Ladies’ College have been contacted for comment.
More to come.
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