THE deputy principal of a private Christian school in Victoria has expressed his fears on national television about religious institutions losing their power to discriminate against staff based on sexuality.

Red Rock Christian College deputy principal Kevin Muslayah appeared on the ABC's Q&A program from the audience on Monday night to discuss the proposed removal of existing laws which allow "faith-based schools" to hire and fire staff dependent on their sexual preferences.

Mr Muslayah said it was "certainly an issue" that religious schools could be disempowered in this way.

"I grow increasingly concerned that schools like mine will one day lose its ability to preference staff that align with, and are committed to promoting, the values and faith-based position within our school community, under provisions of current anti-discrimination legislation," Mr Muslayah said.

Mr Muslayah said if he found out a staff member teaching the school's religious doctrine was gay, they would be sacked on a "case-by-case" basis, while the law permits.

"And despite public criticism around that, the very preface that we are a Christian school, there is a particular alignment of values," he said.

"When that comes into question we have to ask the thing: how is that having an impact on that value base and how we promote that?"

Queensland Labor MP Terri Butler wasn't having a bar of it.

"Aren't your values love thy neighbour?" she asked Mr Muslayah of his Christian faith.

"Why would you discriminate on sexual identity?

"A gay teacher doesn't teach gay maths. They just teach maths."

Red Rock Christian College deputy principal Kevin Muslayah in the audience of the ABC’s Q&A.
Red Rock Christian College deputy principal Kevin Muslayah in the audience of the ABC’s Q&A.

Religious schools in most states have been able to exclude LGBTI students and teachers since 2013, but have not been using the powers. However, the federal Parliament will this week remove the power of faith-based schools to discriminate against children on the basis of their sexuality. Labor leader Bill Shorten wants to extend this further by scrapping the ability of religious schools to hire and fire staff based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said teachers would have to wait for the same protections as students.

"They are important issues, but the issues we need to address right here and now relate to the children and ensuring we protect them against discrimination," he told Parliament on Monday.

"There are many other issues that will be addressed as a result of the religious freedoms review, and there will be a time and a place to address those issues."

Monday night’s Q&A panel on the ABC.
Monday night’s Q&A panel on the ABC.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also expressed support for the laws to be changed.

"I don't think there's any room for discrimination, be it a student or against a teacher," he told the ABC.

"I do think we need to ensure that there is no discrimination in either our workplaces or in our schools."

Liberal candidate for Wentworth Dave Sharma, who is facing a crucial by-election on Saturday, said schools should "absolutely not" have the right to discriminate against gay teachers.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB the debate should be approached with caution.

"By all means let's protect people against discrimination," he said.

"But let's be very careful that anti-discrimination laws designed as shields are not converted by activists into swords," he said.

An Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson said freedom of religion required church bodies and organisations to "be able to select members who share their faith or ethos".

The debate around the issue has been prompted by the Ruddock review, led by former attorney-general Philip Ruddock, which recommended legislation that allow religious schools to discriminate against gay teachers and students.

The review was handed to the Federal Government in May, but it is yet to provide a full response.

 

- With AAP

 

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin

 

Queensland Labor MP Terri Butler on the ABC’s Q&A panel.
Queensland Labor MP Terri Butler on the ABC’s Q&A panel.


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