CASE TYPE: Jobs under threat for religious expression in the workplace


Max* is a Christian teacher in NSW who was fired for his conscientious objection to using a male name and pronouns for a biologically female child at school. At the start of 2021, his school advised Max that a female student with gender dysphoria would be returning as a boy.

Following a training session on LGBTQ+ issues, radical new guidelines were introduced requiring teachers to affirm transgender identities in students. As a Christian, Max believes that confusing children about their gender is damaging and that it would violate his conscience to lie to a vulnerable student and use the wrong pronouns for her.

Max raised his concerns with his supervisor and the principal and was initially told he would not be forced against his conscience. The school placed Max on paid leave and removed him from the classroom while the issue was considered.

Max proposed solutions that would be non-confrontational to the student but would accommodate Max’s conscience. He suggested that the teaching roster could easily be changed and offered to find work elsewhere at the end of the year. The school was unwilling to accommodate Max’s conscience and terminated him. After collecting his personal effects, he was abruptly marched off the school premises, with the prospect of looking for a new teaching position in the middle of Term 1 with a summary dismissal on his teaching record.

With the assistance of HRLA, Max filed an employment claim against the school. At mediation, Max achieved a favourable settlement including a retraction of his dismissal, a letter of recommendation, an acknowledgment of service and a substantial monetary payment. While Max’s case had a good outcome, he still lost his job. Australian law provides virtually no protection for conscience to stop the same thing happening to others like Max who feel forced to affirm controversial ideology.

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