The Presbyterian Church of Australia has submitted a paper to the Australian Law Reform Commission requesting the right to prevent students in same-sex relationships or those who engage in premarital sex from taking leadership positions in prestigious schools.

The submission was part of the review of Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws, wherein the church questioned the capability of LGBTQIA+ students to serve as school captains.

While proposed amendments would not deny enrollment based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy, the church argues that LGBTQ+ or sexually active students should not be considered fit for leadership roles.


The submission cited the example of an LGBTQ+ student being elected as a school captain, stating that if the student were in an active same-sex relationship, they could not provide appropriate Christian leadership in a Christian school that requires modelling Christian living.

The same would apply to students in sexually active unmarried heterosexual relationships.

Under the government’s Religious Education Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws, religious schools are granted certain exceptions.

According to the Australian Law Reform Commission, discrimination by religious schools on particular grounds is not considered unlawful under federal law if done “in good faith” and “to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed.”

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles expressed concerns that the proposed changes could lead to discrimination against children. They emphasized that one’s sexual orientation does not determine leadership qualities and that society needs the broadest possible pool of candidates for leadership positions.

Presbyterian Church leader John McClean clarified that the submission contends that anti-discrimination legislation should not limit schools when selecting student leaders who adhere to consistent Christian lives. He further noted that the request does not represent the policy of schools associated with the Presbyterian Church, which does not directly operate any schools; individual schools determine their policies and procedures.