Religious Freedom Review Unlocks Horrible Memories For Former Students

The Federal Government's Religious Freedom Review wants to give all religious schools the right to refuse and ban LGTBIQ students and teachers.

A portion of the review was leaked to Fairfax media, and outlines how religious schools, nationally, should be allowed to refuse enrollment to LGTBIQ students.

NSW and Queensland already have exemptions to the relevant anti-discrimination laws in place for students at religious schools, while other states have less clear legislation.

These recommendations, if accepted by the government, would not only strengthen discrimination against LGBTIQ students, but would see it unified across the country.

Kate*, 25, who identifies as bisexual and went to a religious school in rural NSW, told ten daily how her school began holding religious assemblies "explicitly about lesbianism" after she was caught kissing her girlfriend.

"Teachers would tell students that it was a Christian school and if I couldn't respect it, I should leave," she said.

"Students really picked up on that message from the adults around them that it was okay to bully me, and did. When my sisters came to the school, they were bullied by association with me and begged me to go back in the closet."

Jess*, 23, who came out as gay only after leaving school, told ten daily that there was "no way" she could have come out while still enrolled.

"I would have been ostracised and certainly would not have had the opportunity to be elected captain or had such a glowing reference written about me by a principal," she said.

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At the time, she was tutoring former students on campus, and was warned by a colleague who did not share the school's views that she should move her tutoring elsewhere. She was also told that they might remove her from the captain's board, although she doesn't know if this eventuated.

"I feel like the reaction was ridiculous. I was not even a student anymore and they wanted to erase my history," she said.

"[The experience] has made me a stronger human being and highlighted those in my life who truly care for me, [but] I just don’t want other LGBTI+ students to experience what I did."

The review recommendations have also been slammed by Amnesty International on the grounds that religious schools receive government funding.

"Organisations which receive public funding to provide education or services should not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws -- they should provide services to all Australians on an equal basis," said Advocacy Manager Emma Bull.

“The sanctity of religion should not be used to justify discrimination or marginalisation."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has  assured voters that the government has not accepted any recommendations yet -- and will not do so without first considering by the Cabinet and "developing a balanced response".

The review, which was chaired by attorney-general Philip Ruddock, was commissioned by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following the same-sex marriage result.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: AAP

*Names have been changed.