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MPs want to ban religious schools from refusing LGBTQ+ students

Schools must never be allowed to refuse students based on their religion, sexual orientation or ideals, according to a SP motion meant to regulate the acceptance obligations for all schools by law. A large parliamentary majority of VVD, D66, SP, PvdA, GroenLinks, and others, supports this motion, NOS reports.

Discussions affecting religion and education is a sensitive topic in Dutch politics. Last week there was outrage when Education Minister Arie Slob defended Christian schools who had parents sign anti-gay statements before allowing their child. The Minister referred to Article 23, saying that these statements were allowed as long as the school provided a safe education space for all students. He later retracted that statement.

Article 23 states that anyone may establish a school and that public and special education are financially equal. It was first added to the Constitution in 1917. Over the years, multiple parties, including PvdA, D66, GroenLinks, and SP, submitted plans to modernize this article. But the Christian parties in particular are opposed to the amendment of Article 23, according to the broadcaster. Two of the Christian parties, CDA and ChristenUnie, are in the current coalition. 

After pleas to update this Article in 2006 and 2018, the PvdA is now submitting a bill for a constitutional amendment. According to the PvdA, Article 23 was intended to let parents choose a school that fits their ideals. But schools are now abusing that to refuse students, party leader Lodewijk Asscher said to NOS. "Because of a language deficiency or because their parents hold the wrong faith," he said. "Minister Slob unintentionally demonstrated perfectly why things really have to be changed."

Such a bill has to get a two-thirds majority in both parliament and the Senate, and changing the Constitution takes a long time. The SP therefore submitted its motion for the interim. SP parliamentarian Jasper van Dijk wants to "put an end to the door policy that special schools can implement," he said to the broadcaster. "It is too crazy for words that a school can refuse a child because they are not Christian. I'd prefer to see all children go to school together."

The VVD and D66 supporting the motion will likely cause strife in the coalition, as the Rutte III coalition agreement stated that the freedom of education and Article 23 will be left untouched in this government term.

D66 parliamentarian Paul van Meenen thinks that the SP motion was drawn up in such a way that "the pain in the coalition will not immediately drive the four parties apart," he said to NOS. The topic is indeed sensitive in the coalition, he said. "But the motion is not calling the government to do anything, a 'speak out' wording has been chosen. That is a start and can help a little bit."


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