A leaked report from the Dutch government has said that religious schools can refuse to employ gay teachers.
The report came from the Council of State, the highest advisory body to the Dutch government. It said that religious schools can exclude gay teachers if their behaviour is contrary to school beliefs, regardless of whether it is outside the classroom.
The advisory paper, which had been prepared for the government, was leaked to a newspaper with Christian values, NRC Handelsblad reports.
Although it said schools must not discriminate, the report said they have the right to demand “explicit loyalty” from staff with regard to school ethos. The vast majority of religious schools are, like non-denominational schools, state-funded.
In April, the village of Emst saw a gay male teacher suspended after he spoke to fellow members of staff at the school where he worked about being in a relationship with another man.
According to the school board, his sexual orientation was in conflict with the school’s mission.
In the same month, the Dutch Labour party’s minister for education, Ronald Plasterk, wrote to high schools and primary schools saying that they should not exclude gay staff on the grounds of Christian beliefs.
The school’s dismissal of the teacher in Emst, and the leaked report from the Council of State both seem to contradict article one of the Dutch constitution which states that: “All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.”
The Netherlands’ current law on anti-discrimination policy states that no schools in the country, even religious schools, can allow the “single fact” of a person’s sexuality, race or gender to affect whether they are hired for a position, or dismissed.
However the law currently allows what is known as “additional behaviour” to be taken into consideration. If a teacher leads “a certain lifestyle” which the school that employs them considers contrary to what the institution represents, they could run the risk of dismissal.
The Council of State has suggested removing the “single fact” rule from the anti-discrimination law. It would instead allow schools to consider “additional circumstances” and make distinctions and decisions based on these.
While religious schools praised the Council’s report, which has yet to be officially released, it was met with condemnation by gay rights groups and left-wing parties.