Prior to the Federal Election unexpectedly won by the Coalition Government, Labour indicated its intention to remove religious exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act (Cth) which allow religious schools to ‘discriminate’ against staff and students in the process of upholding a religious ethos. Dr Deagon was asked to contribute on this matter to a special issue of St Mark’s Review: A Journal of Christian Thought and Opinion on the topic of religious freedom in Australia after the Ruddock Review. Other contributors to the special issue included:
- Professor Patrick Parkinson AM, Dean of Law at the University of Queensland,
- Father Frank Brennan SJ AO, Professor at the Australian Catholic University and member of the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review Panel.
Dr Deagon’s article, ‘Maintaining religious freedom for religious schools: options for legal protection after the Ruddock Review’, argued that there are persuasive theoretical, international and constitutional reasons to provide robust legal protections to religious schools seeking to select and regulate their school community. On the eve of the election, Dr Deagon also authored a shorter opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald summarising this argument: ‘Folau verdict aside, Labor threatens religious freedom in schools’. Given the significant swing against Labor in seats with stronger religious affiliations, religious freedom may have been a significant factor in the election result.
Earlier, in April 2019, Dr Deagon also participated in the ‘Religious Freedom after Ruddock’ conference at the University of Queensland. He delivered a paper entitled ‘Religious Schools, Religious Vendors and Refusing Services after Ruddock: Diversity or Discrimination?’ The paper argued that the religious protections for religious schools to refuse marriage services if it conflicted with the doctrines of the school should also be extended to religious vendors who refuse marriage services.
The paper was accepted for publication in a special forthcoming issue of the Australian Law Journal, along with other contributors such as:
- Professor Nicholas Aroney, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland and member of the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review Panel, and
- Professor George Williams AO, Dean, Anthony Mason Professor and Scientia Professor of the University of New South Wales Law School.
You can find out more about Alex’s research interests and publications here.