Threat to schools (letter)

Threat to schools (letter)

Richard Congram

Anti-Discrimination law in Queensland prior to 29 November 2002 allowed all church schools to hire and fire staff at their discretion except on grounds of race or impairment. Thus, for example, a nominally Catholic pro-abortionist could have been refused employment on the grounds that his or her beliefs were anathema to Church teaching.

Following recent amendments to the law, that is no longer the case. If our hypothetical job-seeker is the only applicant and has appropriate academic credentials and experience it seems that the school is obliged to employ the individual or risk the wrath and punishment of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

When the Amendment Bill was introduced without warning on 6 November 2002, Church authorities reacted predictably and correctly. Archbishop Bathersby attacked the amendments as a threat to Catholic education on marriage and sexual morality.

A coalition of representatives of the Catholic Church and other churches opposed the amendments and pressed the Government for acceptable changes.

This campaign achieved only a couple of minor concessions and the minutely altered amendments became law. Amazingly, the Catholic Education Commission was satisfied with an outcome which means that teachers who deviate from the Catholic norm are acceptable in our schools as long as they "don't mention the War" between the hours of nine and three.

The new law effectively prevents the Church from protecting its children in its own institutions from the influence of people whose beliefs or lifestyles it condemns.

Ironically, the rot could have been stopped, even at the eleventh hour, had the bishops given the Premier the ultimatum they would close every Catholic school in Queensland unless the offending amendments were dropped. The only reason for the existence of Catholic schools is to impart the faith and doctrine of the Church to its children. Without that essential capacity they are superfluous, for their pupils can learn the three Rs just as well or badly in State schools at far less cost to their parents.

It is still not too late, for civil laws can be repealed as well as enacted. One cannot reason or negotiate successfully with completely dedicated ideologues. Only dedication and resolve greater than theirs will stop them. It remains to be seen whether the bishops and people of the Catholic Church have the necessary will.

Holland Park, Qld

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