A Baptist college in Sydney has sacked a gay teacher after years of employment seemingly as a result of an email sent from a member of the public, describing her as ‘demonic’.
Karen Pack told the ABC’s 7:30 that she was sacked by her employer Morling College in 2020 for being openly gay, despite being open about her sexuality throughout her employment. Pack had recently announced to her colleagues that she was getting married to her long-time partner Bronte Scott.
Morling College disputes these claims, saying Pack decided to leave the school because she could “no longer adhere to a key Morling value” about the “nature of marriage” as being solely between a man and a woman. Although the couple disputes the claim that Pack chose to leave rather than being sacked, the firing is nevertheless legal under current Australian law.
Under current provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act, religious institutions have a particular exemption that allows them to discriminate on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation. Similar laws are in place in NSW, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Following the same sex marriage vote, the Federal Government promised to review laws protecting freedom of religion. In 2019, the government started drafting a religious discrimination bill that would further enshrine the right for religious schools to dismiss gay staff that have different beliefs to the organisation. The IEU is publicly and actively opposed to such legislation.
Currently in NSW there is legislation passing through the NSW Parliament for a series of amendments to the Discrimination Act, proposed by One Nation MP Mark Latham. The proposed amendments were recently endorsed by a parliamentary committee, with the Committee Chair, Gabrielle Upton urging the recommendations be adopted and laws introduced by the end of the year.
The IEU was a signatory to a joint statement from a coalition of prominent of NSW health bodies, women’s organisations, unions, faith-based groups and LGBTIQ+ community groups criticising the Joint Select Committee Inquiry report into One Nation’s NSW Religion Bill, saying many concerns regarding the Bill have been ignored.
IEU Organiser Patrick Devery said, “the recommendations of this Committee would entrench the ability for faith-based organisations to continue to discriminate against workers who have different beliefs, no matter how well they can do the job required of them, even where religion is not relevant to the role.”
This means teachers in faith-based schools would remain vulnerable to losing their jobs, simply because they have different beliefs to their employers”
Promoting any single right, untethered from the broader suite of human rights, is untenable, and the IEU believes these issues are best handled under existing employment law. The One Nation Religion Bill is seeking the unfettered ability to discriminate openly against the LGBTQI community, and the IEU strongly opposes this, believing LGBTQI rights to be human rights.
This story has gained a lot of public attention, including on the union’s social media channels. See a selection of what your colleagues had to say below.
Cheryl - So basically they knew she was gay when they hired her and didn’t have a problem with it until a “member of the public” emailed and complained two years after she was hired. But then they claim they didn’t sack her but she prayed on it and left of her own will. Really, I think the employer has no morals.
Wendy - It was only a matter of time! Time to now stand up and oppose this in the strongest possible terms!
Kathy - I can’t believe this, it really upset me that this still happens.
Louise - She was working at a Christian faith-based school you have to abide by their faith.
Adam – Nothing Christian about this!
Simon – I wonder abut the reaction from the Catholic sector, but I also hope for reason and compassion to prevail.