English teacher claims she was fired from her Christian school for being gay

An Anglican teacher claims she was fired from her Christian school for being gay, and more like her will lose their jobs under new laws.

The school on Sydney’s northern beaches is said to have fired English teacher Stephanie Lentz 10 months ago because of her sexuality.

Hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced a religious discrimination bill to parliament, Ms Lentz responded to ABC’s Q+A program.

English teacher Stephanie Lentz (pictured center) says she was fired from her Christian school for being gay

‘I really enjoyed the colleagues and the interaction with students, but in January of this year the school fired me. And they fired me because I’m gay,” she said.

“They fired me because they disagreed with me that you can be a Christian and also live true to the biological reality of your sexuality or gender.”

The law passed by Mr Morrison aims to exempt Australians who make ‘statements of faith’ from existing discrimination laws, but only if those statements ‘do not threaten, intimidate, harass or defame any person or group’.

The prime minister quoted Ephesians chapter 4 from the Bible on the floor of the federal parliament on Thursday to justify the bill.

“Religion and faith is also about humility and vulnerability. It’s about love. It’s about compassion. It’s about speaking the truth in love, as the scriptures say,” he said.

North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who is gay, said he was concerned about the loopholes.

“The detail I would like to have clarified is whether by allowing schools to have policies that can guide their employment,” he said.

“Whether there are loopholes that could find effective ways to regulate the hiring and firing of teachers based on their sexuality or other personal characteristics.”

Anglican Reverend Michael Jensen (pictured) replied 'It's complicated' when asked how situations like Ms Lentz's could be resolved without job losses under the proposed new legislation

Anglican Reverend Michael Jensen (pictured) replied ‘It’s complicated’ when asked how situations like Ms Lentz’s could be resolved without job losses under the proposed new legislation

Q+A host Stan Grant asked Ms. Lentz if she was fired ‘because you were gay or because you could no longer teach the ethos or doctrine of that school? Did you offer to do that?’

“I had volunteered to promote the school’s sexuality ethos,” she replied.

“Obviously, despite things I thought would be harmful to the students, I did offer to support the school’s position on many things.”

She claims that the school – the exact location of which she has not disclosed – was unwilling to discuss the matter and “resigned my employment because of my sexuality and my belief that it is okay to be gay because God is fine with it.” .

Her accusations sparked a heated debate over Q+A.

Anglican clergyman Michael Jensen – a guest on the show – was asked how freedom of sexuality and religion can coexist and how situations like Ms Lentz’s can be resolved without job losses under the proposed new legislation.

“It’s complicated,” he replied. ‘What we have to do in an open society is make room for different kinds of visions, different kinds of expression.’

Liberal MP for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman wants details of proposed new law 'clarified'

Liberal MP for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman wants details of proposed new law ‘clarified’

The proposed legislation would allow religious schools and organizations to give preference and priority to the employment of people of the same faith.

The institutions should have clear policies explaining how their religious views would be upheld.

Mr. Jensen defended the right of religious institutions to employ whomever they please.

What does the religious discrimination bill do?

* It prohibits discrimination based on a person’s religious affiliation in many areas, including employment, education, the provision of goods, and access to facilities and services.

* It overrides state law, including proposed Victorian laws to limit when schools and organizations can prefer to hire people based on faith.

* Religious schools should make these kinds of policies public.

* The bill includes a ‘declaration of faith’ to protect people who profess genuine religious views.

* Malicious statements or statements deemed by a reasonable person to be threatening, intimidating, harassing or defaming any person or group of people are not covered

* The bill does not affect the operation of other federal anti-discrimination laws and does not allow discrimination based on currently protected attributes.

* Accompanying amendments establish an independent Commissioner on Religious Discrimination under the Australian Human Rights Commission.

CASE STUDY:

* It is not discriminatory for a religious elementary school to require all of its staff and students to practice their faith, should this be necessary “to avoid harm to the religious sensibilities of people of that religion.”

* For example, a Catholic holiday camp may prohibit non-Christian groups from renting its accommodations or facilities if this is a policy made public in good faith and consistent with the doctrines, principles, beliefs and teachings of the religion. But if the camp accepts an application from a Protestant group, it would be illegal to restrict that group’s access to parts of that facility.

Source: AAP

“The current legislation before Parliament is about faith,” he said.

“It’s specifically about whether or not you sign up for a statement of faith, rather than say something about someone’s identity or their behavior,” he said.

He said the existence of “difficult cases” should not prevent “religious groups and religious institutions from being able to employ whomever they may reasonably and with clarity about their doctrinal pronouncements and positions.”

Ms Lentz said some Christians no longer believed she “belonged” there because of her sexuality.

Pastor Jensen said this is “an issue for the Christian community to talk about and for you to contribute to that particular theological debate.”

NSW MP Jason Falinski – in whose electorate Mackellar is the school that would have fired Ms Lentz – said no one should be fired because of their sexuality.

“The role of any government is to ensure that (liberties) are protected because if our nation is to mean something, people must have the freedom to express themselves within that context,” he said.

Another guest on the show, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who is gay, said Ms Lentz’s situation was ‘terrible’ and she would have to move to teach in Canberra.

‘You are most welcome in our city. We will appreciate you for who you are and the great professional skills you can bring to our education system,” he said.

A controversial element of the proposed legislation, the so-called ‘Folau clause’, was removed from the bill being tabled in parliament.

In 2019, Israel Folau was fired by Rugby Australia for anti-gay social media posts, the latter of which said homosexuals, drunks, adulterers, thieves, liars, fornicators, atheists and idolaters were all headed for hell.

Folau and RA reached a settlement and he has not played rugby union in Australia since.

Q+A guest Melinda Cilento, chief executive of Australia’s Economic Development Committee, was asked how companies would deal with religious views broadcast in the workplace if the bill passes the Senate.

“You’re already seeing companies and business groups reflecting that they’re not sure how this plays out and how they’re dealing with this and what the implications are for them as they deal with the laws and regulations of this,” she said.

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