Most teens don’t support religious exemptions

Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen

AUSTRALIAN teens have overwhelmingly rejected religious exemptions and discrimination against staff or students based on gender or sexual identity, according to a new study. 

A team of researchers from the Australian National University, Deakin University and Monash University surveyed more than 1200 teenager ages 13-18 and conducted in-depth interviews with 30 teens.

“The religious exempting is really out of step with what young people are saying,” says Prof Mary Lou Rasmussen from the ANU’s Research School of Social Sciences.

Researchers found that most young people interviewed don’t support religious exemptions.

“This national survey demonstrates diverse young people’s emphatic support for inclusion of sexual and gender diversity at school and their emphatic rejection of religious exemptions,” says Prof Rasmussen.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of Australia’s teens think school students should be allowed to openly express any sexual or gender orientation, while 80 per cent agree sex education in schools should include information relevant to LGBTQI people.

“Many of the young people we spoke to were not aware of the existence of religious exemptions and surprise and shock was a common response to hearing about them,” she says.

“Young people strongly supported religious freedom, but not when it impeded their own, and others’, freedoms.

“They want to learn about religion in schools, and they want schools that are inclusive of sexual and gender diversity.”

During in-depth interviews teens were asked what they thought about religious exemptions, and specifically whether schools should be able to discriminate in relation to what gets taught at school along with hiring and firing staff in line with their religious beliefs.

“Most teens in the study rejected religious exemptions but some participants expressed an understanding for the position faced by religious institutions while still being personally against them,” she says.

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