SYDNEY Anglican schools which participated in an open letter sent this month to Federal parliamentarians warning them against removing anti-discrimination exemptions have been the subject of an intense public backlash.
The letter, signed by the principals of 34 diocesan schools, was written in response to calls for the removal from the Sex Discrimination Act of an exemption that allows schools to discriminate against gay teachers and non-teaching staff. Removing anti-discrimination exemptions would deny them the right to employ only staff who “support the ethos of the school”, the principals said.
As well as an angry social-media response, almost 3000 current and former students of the some of the schools have written to their schools asking them to retract the letter. The principal of one school, Barker College, Phillip Heath, in a letter to parents and alumni, said that it was now clear that “the letter has generated unintended hurt and division”.
He also said that the school had signed the open letter “in response to a request from the diocese of Sydney”. He continued that “the advice I received was that it would help support the parliamentary debate into religious freedom”. Sydney diocese is strongly promoting the introduction of religious-freedom legislation to protect its right to discriminate.
The principals of some other Sydney Anglican schools not included in the open letter have publicly stated that they do not want the legal right to discriminate.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has responded that the letter had been “misinterpreted” as homophobic.
The Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, and the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy, have assured their dioceses that their diocesan schools do not discriminate against teachers or staff on the basis of sexual orientation.
Same-sex marriage blessings. A second diocese in Australia has called for services of blessing for same-sex marriages.
At its annual synod meeting at the end of last month, the diocese of Ballarat in regional Victoria called on the Bishop to allow clergy to bless same-sex couples after civil weddings. Canon Peter Treloar, who moved the motion, said that every year he blessed “multitudes” of pets including earthworms and hermit crabs. “Why then should we not bless two members of our congregation who want to stand before God and commit themselves in love to one another for the rest of their lives?”