Scotch College rejects Presbyterian Church’s stance on gay and sexually active students – The Age

Scotch College rejects Presbyterian Church’s stance on gay and sexually active students - The Age

High-fee Presbyterian boys’ school Scotch College has sought to distance itself from the church’s view that sexually active heterosexual or LGBTIQ+ students should not be school captains, stressing that its school council – not the church – governs the college.

In a letter to the school community, Scotch College school council chairman Alex Sloan said the school did “not tolerate discrimination towards our staff or students, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy”.

Scotch College in Hawthorn.

Scotch College in Hawthorn.Credit: Joe Armao

“We nurture and care for each individual and encourage them to take leadership positions without discrimination,” Sloan said.

He said Scotch was governed by the school council, not the Presbyterian Church. Five of the council’s 17 members are appointed by the church.

The federal government is looking to remove anti-discrimination exemptions for religious schools, which allow them to discriminate against staff or students because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy.

However, schools will be able to give preference, in good faith, to people of the same religion when hiring where the teaching of religions is part of their role, as well as require all staff to respect their religious ethos.

In a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Presbyterian Church of Australia said it was essential that its schools “have the freedom to employ staff who are not merely in agreement with our ethos but who also live in a manner consistent with that ethos”.

The church said its schools “do not refuse or terminate enrolments for students on the basis of sexual orientation” and were not seeking to do so.

However, it argued that schools should have the right to stop sexually active heterosexual or LGBTQ+ students becoming school captains.

“If this [LGBTQ+] student were in an active same-sex relationship, they would not be able to give appropriate Christian leadership in a Christian school which requires modelling Christian living,” it said.

“This would also be the case for a student in a sexually active unmarried heterosexual relationship.

“In both cases, the proposal removes from schools the ability to determine an ethos by selecting appropriate leaders.”

After the church’s submission was reported by the media last week, Sloan responded on Friday by telling the school community that Scotch “aspired to reflect a community that embraces boys from families of all faiths, backgrounds and countries”.

“As the times potentially become more turbulent, the more important it is to assess that our responses are consistent with the ethos and values that have served us so well to date, while keeping pace with our evolving world,” he said.

On Sunday, Sloan said Friday’s letter did not adequately convey the school’s position.

The Presbyterian Church of Victoria has five schools that educate 4300 students, including Scotch, Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood, St Andrews Christian College in Wantirna, Belgrave Heights Christian School and King’s College in Warrnambool.

PLC on Friday said it was strongly committed to its Christian ethos and governed independently by its college council.

“Contrary to what has been portrayed by the media, PLC maintains its priority to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all within its community which reflects the imprint of God’s grace for all students and staff. It is a place where all are encouraged to grow into the full measure of God’s love,” it said.

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