• Kristin Perissinotto

Religious discrimination bill protects the already-protected

CW: christianity, mention of child sex abuse (no details)

I attended a religious high school. And for that reason, any children I choose to have absolutely will not. My attendance at such a school for five years, and the many years of necessary unlearning required, showed me exactly what this kind of school is about. Not academics, not fostering community or positive values, definitely not encouraging critical thinking and individualism. While at the school, there were two issues of child sex abuse that arose pertaining to two different men - one a perpetrator, the other an alleged. And while that was probably (hopefully) the worst thing that occurred throughout my secondary schooling, it wasn't the only issue I faced or saw.

I experienced the contradiction of evidence and fact in science class. I experienced different treatment than others in my class who came from the 'right kind' of family. One of my teachers, during my first week at the school, told me that my Catholic family members would be going to hell. I wasn't allowed a Harry Potter pencil case. I wasn't allowed to wear shorts, then was criticised for participating in 'unladylike' behaviour in my skirt. I was sent to the principal for changing my hair colour. I was forced to sign a pledge of 'purity' for my future husband. I was not given real sex education. I was told I 'don't have leadership qualities,' presumably due to my lack of a religious upbringing.

Discrimination was alive and well in my school in regional Queensland over a decade ago. Teachers, we heard, had to be practising christians to work there, except in very rare circumstances. Children of divorced parents had to plead their case to attend. Homosexuality was all but 'banned' - one school leader was stripped of her title when her sexuality was suspected to be what they felt was unacceptable. The idea that legislation must be passed to 'protect' these institutions is ludicrous. It's despicable. It's unacceptable.

There are few institutions more protected than the church (and politics). And the fact that any potential legislation pertaining to the protection of LGBTQIA+ students, those truly in need of protection, will be delayed, is disgusting. Gender and sexually diverse people can be vulnerable. Teenagers can be vulnerable. Children are vulnerable. The suggestion that the religious discrimination bill is anything more than blatant pandering to institutions strongly tied to the conservative government is ridiculous. The church, and religious schools, are notorious for protecting perpetrators and alleged perpetrators. We already know this. They are not the ones in need of protection.