Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Religious exemption from anti-discrimination law: the inescapable conclusion

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-07-22

As a hypothetical, let’s say that anti-discrimination laws allow discrimination by certain organizations based on the nature of the organization, such as religious institutions, including schools, wanting to be able to employ only those (whether as teachers, janitors or receptionists) of the same sect.

Then we invite the Education Minister to an interview:

  • Interviewer: Minister, how important do you think it is that children in our education system are not only given basic facts, but are provided with the skills to develop questions and hypotheses, analyze information, and come to the best conclusions based on the information available to them?
  • Minister: (cannot answer anything but "very" unless wanting a change of portfolio).
  • Interviewer: So, essential to the nature of a state education system, indeed any education with support from the state, is the need to question?
  • Minister: (cannot answer anything but "yes" unless wanting a change of portfolio).
  • Interviewer: The dictionary would define "skepticism" as questioning, wouldn’t it.
  • Minister: Ummmm, (quivering voice, starting to see what is coming) yes.
  • Interviewer: So, if religious institutions are permitted to exclude those with internal beliefs inconsistent with their doctrine, then it is fair for school principals, who have been given the power to choose teachers, to exclude from employment those who deplore questioning, i.e. skepticism, on certain topics?
  • Minister: Ummmm, (waffle, waffle)
  • Interviewer: With respect, Minister, you haven’t answered the question – should principals have the power to choose as teachers only those who espouse the need to question all assumptions and come to conclusions based on evidence and logic, indeed, do those principals have a duty to do so, excluding those who think that asking some questions is of lower moral worth than accepting things without evidence?
  • Minister: Ummmm, (waffle, waffle)
  • Interviewer: Are organizations that promote unquestioning belief as a virtue suitable educators of children?
  • Minister: Ummmm….(waffle, waffle)
  • Interviewer: Thankyou Minister, we are out of time.  And tomorrow we will be inviting the Attorney-General to discuss whether our judges should or shouldn’t make decisions based on all the evidence or lack of it…. oh dear, I’m just informed the Attorney-General is sick and cannot attend.  Well, we’ll just have to ask the Police Minister about exemptions to the law that permit violence to infants…. oh, just heard, that Minister is suddenly ill too.

If education systems are to train children in the methods to learn and come to decisions, and the internal belief system of teachers are important, then only skeptics, accepting no arguments without evidence, are suitable as teachers apart from the performing and visual arts.

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