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Church persuades Beattie to rethink discrimination issue

Churches have forced the Queensland Government to water down controversial anti-discrimination laws which would have prevented church schools from refusing to hire homosexual teachers.

Attorney-General Rod Welford yesterday confirmed the proposed laws would be amended.

Non-government schools will be able to discriminate in favour of teachers who actively follow values integral to the religion espoused by the school.

But the schools will still lose the right to refuse employment to applicants solely because they are homosexuals or in a de facto relationship.

Church leaders last night said the proposed amendments appeared to address their concerns.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said he now hoped the issue could be resolved within days.

Under the changes, the "genuine occupational requirement" exemption will be widened to allow schools to discriminate in favour, not only of applicants who believe in the religion, but those who uphold its values.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Joe McCorley yesterday said the legislation was now likely to receive church support, subject to consultation with other denominations on the exact wording of the clause.

Mr McCorley said the change would not provide a way for schools to discriminate on the basis of sexuality without stating it outright. Mr Welford said the amendment would strike a fair balance between outlawing discrimination and allowing church-run schools to teach their students a certain set of values.

"We're hoping that for most of the schools we can achieve a win-win outcome where the character of the religious values presented in the schools can be preserved, while at the same time ensuring that unjust discrimination doesn't occur," Mr Welford said.

Opposition Leader Mike Horan said he was pleased the Government had backed down as churches should be able to run their schools according to their religion.


Talks deadlock (Catholic Leader)

Catholic newspaper drawn into discrimination law controversy (20/11/02)
Laws threaten Church values (The Catholic Weekly, reproduced from The Catholic Leader)
Catholic Leader front page 18/11/02
Church may fight Queensland discrimination laws (14/11/02)
Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland | Re: Discrimination Law Amendment Bill launch
The Queensland Cabinet | Government Updates Discrimination Laws (media release 6/11/02)
Gay law reforms to hit Queensland Catholic schools (8/11/02)
Catholic Education Commission Queensland
CEO Archdiocese of Brisbane

25 Nov 2002