Monday, May 10, 2010

The Exclusive Brethren violate the Human Rights Act

The Herald this morning has a piece on the Exclusive Brethren's network of private schools, and the oppressive demands it makes of its teachers. The article reveals an intellectually oppressive regime, where children's minds are stunted and students are actively discouraged from going to university (something Will de Cleene calls "female circumcision of their intellect"). That's bad enough, but the article goes on:

A copy of an employment agreement obtained by this newspaper lists some remarkable requirements: teachers must disclose their "personal circumstances", forgo union membership and agree that evolution is a falsehood.


The one supporter said she felt more support than at any other state school she had worked at.

The rest had different views particularly about the employment agreement clause requiring staff to "fully disclose his/her personal and domestic circumstances".

"If you refused or were too different you would never get the job," said one former teacher.

She said Exclusive Brethren members monitored staff to ensure they were no immoral activities.

"There were late-night visits. They would turn up at your house, uninvited, at around 9 or 9.30pm. They weren't trying to befriend you; they don't do that. They were just checking up on you. The clear intent is to catch you off-guard, to see your living conditions: are you living in sin outside marriage, are you getting a divorce, do you have a boyfriend, or - heaven forbid - have a woman partner. You feel like you are being spied on."

(Emphasis added)

For some reason, the Independent Schools Education Association said that this was legal. It's not. While private religious schools are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religious or ethical belief, they are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of family status, marital status, or sexual orientation. That is illegal. The fact that it is being permitted is bad enough - but its worse, because these discriminatory institutions are being funded by $2.6 million a year of taxpayers money. Your tax dollars are helping the Brethren impose their bigoted views on their employees, contrary to law.

This can not be tolerated. The Brethren must be told that their educational institutions must comply fully with the Human Rights Act. If they refuse, they should be defunded. Taxpayer's money should not be used to pay for unlawful discrimination. It is that simple.

Update: And they're violating the Employment Relations Act as well. Section 8 of the Act makes it clear that a contract can not require an employee not to join a union; sections 9 and 104 prohibit discrimination against members of unions (by, for example, refusing to employ them). While the Brethren have an exemption regarding unions, this only applies to their right to access workplaces - not to the right of employees to join or be represented by them. The Brethren's behaviour regarding employment and unions is illegal and discriminatory.

Again, we should not be permitting this, and we certainly shouldn't be funding it. Who wants to put up a member's bill to remove their exemption?