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August 10, 2021

LGTBQ employees in religious schools in Australia are not protected by anti-discrimination legislation

LGTBQ employees in religious schools in Australia are not protected by anti-discrimination legislation

Steph Lentz, an English teacher at the Covenant Christian School in Sydney, was dismissed from her job after she came out as a lesbian, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. She is one of a number of people who have been pushed out of their jobs, or pressured to keep quiet about their sexuality, because of school policies and contracts. According to state and federal laws, Lentz’ dismissal was legal as government-funded evangelical schools have an exemption from anti-discrimination legislation.

“Australian law already allows the kind of discrimination that got me sacked for what I believe and who I am,” Lentz said. The federal government is planning on introducing the third draft of its contentious Religious Discrimination Bill to parliament this year and Lentz believes that “[t]he new bill will only reinforce that religious schools can continue to discriminate with outdated, stagnant views and processes.”

IZA World of Labor author Nick Drydakis has also found that sexual orientation affects job access. In his article he writes that: “Despite the passage of labor legislation against discrimination in the labor market based on sexual orientation in Australia, Canada, the US, and the EU, people who have a minority sexual orientation experience more obstacles to getting a job, lower job satisfaction, earning bias […], and more bullying and harassment than their heterosexual counterparts.”

Whilst the school praised Lentz for her teaching in December, it also noted that she didn’t affirm the school’s statement of Belief, including the “immorality” of homosexuality. In January, she was dismissed due to the fact that her beliefs were not consistent with the school’s. David Patterson, a committee member at Flinders Christian Community College south-east of Melbourne, sees this as a “systematic issue” and “not isolated to one school.”  “There’s too much pain, and too many lives are being negatively impacted,” Patterson said, who is not LGTBQ.

Read Nick Drydakis’ article Sexual orientation and labor market outcomes.