After significant community backlash, the joint acting heads of Blue Mountains Grammar have apologised for supporting a letter that sought to “entrench discrimination” against gay staff, admitting they made a mistake.
Megan Hastie was among 34 Anglican principals who signed an open letter to all federal MPs, supporting the preservation of powers that would let them discriminate against gay staff. It stemmed from Anglican officials concerned about losing religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws during debate brought on by the recent religious freedom review.
On Friday afternoon Mrs Hastie and joint acting head, Andrew Beitsch, posted an apology on the school’s Facebook page.
“To expel a student or dismiss a teacher because of their sexuality is unacceptable, and, as many of you have stated, such actions have no place at Blue Mountains Grammar School. To this end, we acknowledge that an error was made in supporting the retention of these exemptions and we apologise unreservedly for the hurt caused,” they write.
“We unreservedly apologise for the way supporting the letter has caused members of our school community to feel alienated or marginalised. We value diversity, inclusion, tolerance and acceptance.
“The school withdraws its support for the retention of the provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 as stated in the final portion of the Open Letter of the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney. There are lessons we can learn from this.”
On Monday, a group of former Blue Mountains Grammar students wrote to the school’s board and started a petition calling on the school to retract its signature from the letter. The petition has attracted more than 3000 signatures.
Speaking on behalf of the 1996 BMGS alumni, Darren Rodrigo welcomed Grammar’s retraction of support for the open letter.
“We applaud the courageous stance taken by acting heads Megan Hastie and Andrew Beitsch. In their letter they've demonstrated they are genuinely sorry for the hurt their actions have caused and have moved quickly to correct their mistake,” he said.
“This win demonstrates the power the community can have when it raises its voice together.”
He thanked the Blue Mountains community for their support, and the current BMGS year 10 students who courageously took a stand at school by wearing rainbow coloured 'pride' pins. “Your actions are inspiration to us all,” Mr Rodrigo said.
On Thursday, Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, apologised for the open letter signed by the 34 schools and said it was untenable to express religious freedoms as exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. Several principals who had originally signed the letter also apologised earlier in the week.