Book launch: Religious Schools and Discrimination Law

Professor Michael Quinlan and Greg Walsh

17 December 2015

The importance of appropriately regulating the employment decisions of religious schools under anti-discrimination legislation was addressed at the launch of the book, Religious Schools and Discrimination Law, written by Dr Greg Walsh, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, Sydney of The University of Notre Dame Australia.

Dr Walsh discussed the limitations of the current approach adopted in NSW to regulating the employment decisions of religious schools and argued that the area is in need of reform. He expressed the view that the protections currently provided under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) should be amended as they fail to demonstrate appropriate respect for religious liberty, the right to equality and a range of other considerations.

In his book, Dr Walsh considered whether an inherent requirement test, which is favoured by many advocates in the area, would be an appropriate alternative.

Although he acknowledged that an inherent requirement test has the advantage of providing greater protection to those who may be excluded from employment with religious schools while still providing some protection for religious liberty, Dr Walsh considered that this alternative approach was flawed.

“I argued that the inherent requirement test was inappropriate as it requires courts to be actively involved in addressing religious questions beyond their competence and it fails to recognise the important role that all employees—both teaching and non-teaching—can play in promoting the identity and culture of religious schools,” Dr Walsh said.

The final model considered by Dr Walsh was an opt-in model that allows religious schools to register for the protections that they consider they need with the registration process subject to limited, but effective, review by government and the courts. Such an approach, he argued, demonstrated a more appropriate respect for equality, religious liberty, and a range of other considerations relevant to determining how religious schools should be regulated under anti-discrimination legislation.

In launching the book, Professor Michael Quinlan, the Dean of the School of Law, Sydney, discussed the importance of religious schools and noted that a good religious school educates ‘the whole person’. Professor Quinlan warned that the protections provided to the employment decisions of religious schools are increasingly under attack and commended the book to the wider public as an “important contribution to a vital area of life”.

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Theresa Kyne: Tel (02) 8204 4141; Mob: 0407 408 177;