Politician’s LGBTQI rights bill divides Catholic schools

Catholic schools in New South Wales are divided over a proposed anti-trans education bill.

The proposal seeks to ban any discussion of gender diversity in the state’s classrooms.

The state’s main Catholic education body supports One Nation leader Mark Latham’s the bill.

The large Parramatta diocese, however, is lodging a strong objection.

Latham’s bill proposes to prohibit the promotion of gender fluidity in schools, including the classroom and teachers’ professional development courses.

He says this is about “re-establishing the primacy of parents in shaping their children’s development and sense of identity”.

The Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta put forward a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the anti-trans education bill.

The Diocese described the proposal as “counter to promoting and respecting the human dignity of all”.

It is “an unacceptable incursion into the professional judgement of Catholic schools and school systems,” the submission continued.

If passed, the bill would probably cause discrimination and harassment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) students,” the submission said.

It warned “prohibitions on what can be discussed within the learning process can stigmatise these matters and people whose life experiences are connected to them”.

LGBTQI rights group Equality Australia says there is “nothing in this bill which merits further consideration by NSW Parliament,”.

They say it denies the existence of trans and gender diverse people, allows parents to withhold important lessons about the world from their children and makes teachers fear dismissal if they acknowledge that trans people exist.

In contrast, Catholic Schools NSW, representing the state’s 600 Catholic schools, 30,000 staff and 257,000 students, said parental primacy was paramount.

It supports the anti-trans education bill, with the caveat it must not prevent schools providing pastoral care to LGBTQI students.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, led by Archbishop Anthony Fisher, also supported the bill.

But the Parramatta diocese – which controls 80 schools with 43,000 students in western Sydney and the Blue Mountains – submitted that if parental “rights” clashed with the best interests of children, the latter must prevail.

“The bill not only fails in this regard but conspicuously and deliberately ignores these rights and actively detracts from them,” it said.

Greg Whitby, the head of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, said his schools had a duty of care to their students, informed by a Catholic world view and with parents “deeply involved”.

“It’s not for a school or a central office or dare I say even politicians to make those decisions,” he said.

“If you seek to codify those things, you are putting a personal perspective on what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Catholic Schools NSW chief executive Dallas McInerney doesn’t think the bill denies the existence of trans and gender diverse people.

“[It] is more focused on learning and curriculum and less on the culture wars or individuals. It is around what belongs in scholarship and school instruction and what doesn’t.

“Our support for the bill is contingent upon our schools being able to extend all support – pastoral, physical, counselling – [to] these kids in our schools.”




Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , , , ,