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Church may fight Queensland discrimination laws

The Catholic Church in Queensland has signalled a possible legal challenge to Queensland's new anti-discrimination laws giving legal rights to de facto and gay couples.

The Queensland opposition has called for the new laws to be rewritten after concerns were raised by churches.

Under the laws, if a school considers its religious teachings warrant discrimination against a potential employee living in a de facto relationship, the school must take the case to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. Currently, non-government schools in the state are exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby has signalled possible court action against the laws, telling i the church viewed homosexual couples as "morally evil".

Opposition leader Mike Horan said the government's amendments were an attack on religious freedom and should be redrafted.

"It takes away freedom of choice of parents who pay fees and make a conscious decision to send their children to a particular school based on their values and religious teachings," Mr Horan said.

Attorney-General Rod Welford said he was "seriously disappointed" by Nationals' stance, saying their minds were "frozen in the 1950s".

Acting Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth confirmed last night that any institution willing to admit to discrimination would get the right to present its case for an exemption.

Association of Independent Schools of Queensland executive director John Roulston last night said that the proposed laws should be reviewed.

"Surely we can hold up the jolly legislation and work through these problems so we don't have to go to court every time we choose not to employ someone," Dr Roulston said.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Joe McCorley said religious institutions should be able to refuse employment to applicants who did not abide by the doctrine of the religion involved.

David Hutton, executive director of Catholic Education in the Brisbane archdiocese, said he did not believe the appeal process was a suitable mechanism because it reversed the onus of proof by requiring schools to prove an applicant should not be employed.

Courier-Mail (payment required)/The Australian

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

14 Nov 2002