Australian rules on religious schools rejecting gay students

Australian PM Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended leaked proposals to let religious schools discriminate against gay students, saying that the proposals were already "existing law" in some states.

However, some states have passed their own discrimination laws and do not allow religious schools to reject students on the basis of sexual orientation.

"In the same way that all Australians, regardless of their gender or their race in Australia, can go about their lives each day with important protections that protect them from discrimination ..."

"Schools can not discriminate against a child or a teacher on the grounds of sexuality".

The review calls for laws to be amended in those two states.

Mr Morrison acknowledged he should have expressed his opinion on Wednesday and said he was happy to take the criticism.

"It is existing law", he told reporters on the NSW Central Coast.

"We remain deeply concerned that under a Morrison government this bill will be drafted without regard to the interests of LGBTIQ people and other minorities who now bear the brunt of religious discrimination", she said.

Other members of the religious freedoms panel include Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, former Federal Court judge Annabelle Bennett and Australian Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer Frank Brennan.

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"We reject this utterly, and remain concerned that conservative religious forces within the Coalition will be extracting their "price" for marriage equality".

Just Equal spokesman Rodney Croome told Guardian Australia he would support a law to prevent Australians being discriminated against based on faith which was "well overdue".

The recommendations, however, have not gone as far as some religious leaders hoped. "Very few religious schools or organisations submitted that this was necessary".

At the 2016 election the Greens promised to repeal religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law.

Former Liberal minister Phillip Ruddock, who chaired the review into religious freedoms, says the right of schools to turn away gay students and teachers should be enshrined in the Sex Discrimination Act.

But he tells Ben most religious schools would "manage the issues", and turning away students "is not the approach they would be taking".

"To the extent, however, that certain jurisdictions including the Commonwealth do allow this type of discrimination, the panel believes the exceptions should be limited by the requirement that the discrimination be in accordance with a published policy which is grounded in the religious doctrines of the school".

"To the extent that some jurisdictions do not now allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender characteristics, the panel sees no need to introduce such provisions", the report says.

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