Gays angered by school ban
Wednesday, 14th December, 2011
By Erica Visser
A NSW gay rights activist group has described Sacred Heart Parish Primary School’s rejection of a five-year-old child due to her parents’ homosexuality as “appalling”.
The child’s parents, who wish not to be named, are in a relationship and attempted to enrol their daughter at Broken Hill’s only private school earlier this year.
One of the child’s mothers said that she was informed of the school’s decision by Principal Trevor Rynne, who said that the church was given the final say.
“It was the church and the priest’s final decision. It was more or less based on (the fact that) marriage is between a man and a woman and it goes against the Catholic Church’s beliefs,” she said.
“At first I was shocked, as I thought the Catholic Church accepted all families into the school, but then saddened as I felt it wasn’t fair.
“Being 2011, and as she’s an innocent girl, I thought our sexuality wouldn’t come into it.”
The mother said that her partner was baptised a Catholic and that the couple had wanted their daughter to attend the school for the best education.
“I thought being a private school it would have smaller classes, which would be beneficial. Her best friend was going and to give her a bit of an understanding about religion so later in life she can make her own decision,” she said.
A spokesman for ACON, an organisation for gays and lesbians, said that the decision was “outrageous”.
“This is a bit of a first. I’ve never heard of anything quite as outrageous as this,” he said.
“It seems incredibly cruel to punish a child based on her parent’s sexuality.”
The spokesman said that while the organisation understood why religious institutions wanted to observe their values, education was a separate matter.
“Exemption from private schools due to sexuality is allowed,” he said.
“Church bodies providing public services, education, hospitals and so on, if run by a religious body can use the exemption rule but most would never take advantage of it.
“But it’s more that almost all private schools are heavily subsidised by the public funding and they are offering a public service.
“We don’t see why the public purse should support this.
“In a modern, secular society...I find it hard to reconcile how they could do this.
“It’s really out of date in modern society and if it were a public school it would be illegal.”
A spokesman for the NSW Education Department said that this situation would never occur in a public school.
“Public schools and TAFE institutes are open to all students regardless of cultural background and have always stood for equality of opportunity, fair play, acceptance of diversity and democracy,” he said.
“New South Wales’ public education models the values that represent the beliefs and aspirations of the Australian community.”
The child’s mother said she had enrolled her daughter at a local public school and would not be taking the matter further.
“I would just like people to be aware of it and that if other families are in our circumstance...they’re not made to feel like there’s something wrong with who they are,” she said.
Both Mr Rynne and the Wilcannia Forbes Catholic Office declined to comment.