Nowra Anglican College principal Lorrae Sampson has apologised for the “deeply hurtful” discourse on religious freedom following the circulation of an open letter urging the maintenance of exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation.
Mrs Sampson’s statement echoed an earlier statement from Sydney Archbishop Dr Glenn Davies, who apologised for the hurtful impact on gay students and teachers of the open letter signed by numerous Anglican school principals.
“A recent decision I made to support a letter to Federal MPs about religious freedom has had an impact on many people. For this, I apologise,” Mrs Sampson said.
“While I still seek a positive protection for freedom of religion, I can see how a public discourse about maintaining legislation as an exemption in discrimination acts has been deeply hurtful to many in our community.
“I am glad that Archbishop Davies is seeking an immediate bipartisan approach to remove these exemptions.”
The full text of Archbishop Davies’ apology:
The letter was addressed to Federal MPs and the intent was to promote religious freedom for Anglican schools but I realise that it had the unfortunate consequence of affecting many gay students and teachers in our schools, for which I am deeply sorry.
I have been told by the Heads of our schools of the distress the letter has caused. There were fears that gay students were going to be expelled or gay teachers sacked. This really saddens me. Our schools do not expel students or dismiss staff on the basis of their sexuality, nor have they ever wanted this right. All people are created in God’s image and valued in his sight, and in the sight of our schools. Our schools are open to everyone, without discrimination, for parents who desire an education for their children in the Anglican tradition.
The Heads, councils and staff of our schools are committed to the welfare of students and have been tireless in addressing the concerns expressed by their school communities. I commend them for the statements they have made and their caring responses.
This past week has demonstrated it is untenable that religious freedoms be expressed as exemptions in discrimination acts. Some exemptions, such as those relating to sexuality, we do not use and have no wish to preserve. But the mere fact these remain on the statute books has alarmed people. Therefore, I have approached the government and the opposition for an immediate bipartisan approach which would remove these exemptions and create legislation which provides a positive protection for freedom of religion.