‘We’re anti-discrimination’: Arndell Anglican College principal

THE principal of Arndell Anglican College has sent a letter to parents and the school community, in an effort to quash rumours that the Oakville-based school discriminates against gay teachers and students.

Arndell’s principal, Dr Gareth Leechman, told the Gazette the rumours began following the circulation of a letter from the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney to Australian Members of Parliament on October 25, regarding the rights of faith-based schools and their current exemptions under federal anti-discrimination legislation.

INCLUSIVE SCHOOL: The principal of Arndell Anglican College at Oakville says the school is against discrimination, and remains committed to building a Christian community where all are accepted. Picture: Geoff Jones

INCLUSIVE SCHOOL: The principal of Arndell Anglican College at Oakville says the school is against discrimination, and remains committed to building a Christian community where all are accepted. Picture: Geoff Jones

Dr Leechman said the content of the letter - signed by various school leaders within the Diocese including Dr Leechman - focuses on two things: the leaders’ desire to see the current religious freedoms maintained within their sector; and their desire to maintain the right to employ staff aligned with their colleges’ ethos.

“I wish to make it clear, unlike what is being reported by various sections of the media, including on social media, we do not expel students based on their sexuality,” Dr Leechman’s letter stated.

“In fact, Arndell Anglican College continues to be very pastorally aware of the needs of our students, has actively supported students where necessary and has appointed students of a variety of sexual orientations to student leadership positions within the College.

“Secondly, we do no ‘sack’ or employ staff members based on their sexuality or relationship status. It is not and never will be our intention to engage in discriminatory actions.”

Dr Leechman’s letter, dated November 5, continued: “Arndell Anglican College remains committed to being and building a Christian community where all are accepted, developed and nurtured.”

The original letter from the Diocese stated: “There has been quite some discussion recently about the rights of faith-based schools and their current exemptions under federal anti-discrimination legislation. The debate has been polemecised as the right to expel gay students, with little evidence that this occurs, and the right to dismiss gay staff members, again with little evidence that this occurs.”

Dr Leechman told the Gazette the 34 heads of schools that signed the letter from the Diocese are arguing for “a religious freedoms bill, which is a human right”, as well as “a bill to enable us to employ staff based on our religious freedoms”.

He said he and the other heads of schools simply wanted to maintain their right for religious freedom, as well as their right to employ staff that are aligned with their schools’ ethos – much as a political party or any other company would endeavour to employ staff that shared their ideals.