Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Outright discrimination

Campbell Live last night had a disturbing story about religious discrimination at Rangiora New Life School. One student was kicked out and several more punished for having sex or starting a family without being married.

This is clearly unlawful discrimination on the basis of marital status and family status, in violation of sections 21(1)(b) and s21(1)(l) of the Human Rights Act 1993. It may also constitute discrimination on the basis of religious belief in violation of s21(1)(c). Rangiora New Life School is a religious school, so it has an exemption for the latter - but not for the former. It can not legally exclude or punish students who have children or are in de facto relationships, any more than it can exclude or punish them for being divorced (or the children of people who are divorced). And hopefully the Human Rights Commission will be telling them that in no uncertain terms.

But there's another aspect to this: Rangiora New Life School is a state integrated school, and therefore effectively part of the state education system. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act therefore clearly applies. By discriminating against its students and denying them any involvement in the decisions about them, the school has violated the right to be free from discrimination and the right to justice. And that is something we should not be tolerating from any part of our government. Rangiora New Life School's board must be told to obey the law, cease its discrimination, and reinstate the student it has excluded. And if they do not, they should be replaced.