The future of the Safe Schools program is up in the air with Labor leaders split on the program and NSW Labor leader Luke Foley ruling out supporting its reintroduction. The NSW Opposition Leader has rejected a return of the sexual and gender diversity program under a NSW Labor government, arguing that it does little to stop bullying. “I want to be clear, the Safe Schools program will not return,” Mr Foley said in Sydney. “Schools have a role to stop bullying, but what I won’t have is some theory that comes from a university sociology course doing it. That’s not helping to stop bullying.” The Safe Schools program is billed by its proponents as an anti-bullying tool that aims to boost a sense of inclusiveness at school for same-sex attracted, ­intersex and gender-diverse ­students. 

However it has been criticised for introducing radical gender ­theory into classrooms, while others have targeted its architects for promoting sexual and gender diversity rather than stamping out bullying. Federal funding for the anti-homophobia program ended in October, leaving state governments responsible for funding it if they wanted it to continue or to draft their own programs. NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes scrapped the program in April along with Tasmania’s Hodgman government, with both states replacing it with a broader anti-bullying program. Labor states have shown a willingness to continue funding the Safe Schools program, including South Australia and the ACT, and Victoria where the ­Andrews government committed to fully funding its own version of the program.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Paluszczuk has ruled out funding the program, leaving schools who want to take part to fund their involvement through their own finances. The Victorian opposition has seized on Mr Foley’s comments to question Premier Daniel ­Andrews’s support for the program that is expected to become an issue at next year’s state election. “NSW Labor has acknowledged that Safe Schools is damaging and ideological and declared it has no place in schools. But in Daniel Andrews’s Victoria, Safe Schools is compulsory in all state secondary schools,” opposition education spokesman Tim Smith said. “They have acknowledged what Daniel Andrews refuses to: that the Safe Schools program must be ‘gone for good’.” Mr Smith said he would ­replace the program with a broader anti-bullying program, as NSW has done.

Despite its removal in NSW, elements of the program have persisted. Last week, members of parent-run advocacy group You’re Teaching Our Children What? expressed concerns that links to the program were still available on the NSW Teachers Federation website. Mr Stokes was forced to intervene in August when a guide on “sexuality and sexual health orientation” for Year 1 to 10 was posted on the NSW Education Standards Authority website. We only have to see the appalling slide in our education systems , turning out kids from 12 years of schooling that are barely literate and numerate , destined never to achieve their potential, to realise we can’t trust those that have been in charge . This “safe schools” program is nothing but social engineering, doing far more harm than good.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Scott Morrison says he will fight back against discrimination and mockery of Christians and other religious groups in 2018, in comments that position him as one of the leading religious conservatives in the Turnbull government. Mr Morrison also promised to play a leading role next year in the debate about enshrining further “protections” for religious freedom in law, which will be informed by a review currently being led by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock. The Treasurer said he had made a conscious decision to “call out” discrimination and to stand up for people of faith. Before Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister in 2015, Mr Morrison had been seen as the man most likely to be the next conservative leader of the Liberal Party. 

Mr Morrison’s switch to Mr Turnbull cost him allies in the party room and Peter Dutton has gone past him as the leading conservative; Mr Morrison’s vocal public advocacy for greater religious protections in the same-sex marriage bill was seen in some quarters as a move to mend fences with conservative colleagues. Aside from his maiden speech a decade ago, in which he spoke openly about the importance of his deep personal faith, Mr Morrison has rarely discussed his religious views in public life. But in a year-ending interview with Fairfax Media, he declared that “it all starts when you allow religious freedoms to be eroded, mockery to be made of your faith or your religious festivals, it always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke, just like most discrimination does”.

“And I will just call that out. With what I’ve seen happen in the last year, I’ve taken the decision not to put up with that any more, I don’t think my colleagues are either. Where I think people are being offensive to any religion in this country, but particularly the one I and many other Christians subscribe to, well, we will just call it out and we will demand the same respect that people should provide to all religions.” Morrison said. On the Ruddock review of protections for religious freedoms, which will be finalised in March, Mr Morrison said he would ” play a role in that process as a senior member of government”. The Sydney MP also opened up about what it meant to receive the thanks of Christian groups, such as at a recent meeting with Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, “who were pleased someone stood up for them, and spoke with them, and understood their point, and didn’t forsake them”.

“I’m always reluctant to talk about the religion issue, but when it is front and centre in a debate like same-sex marriage then obviously, you can’t avoid it. I did again with Nick McKim.” Mr Morrison recently took the Greens Senator McKim to task for mocking Christmas, after he and fellow Green Peter Whish-Wilson posted an image on social media that stated “merry non-denominational seasonal festivity”. The Treasurer also claimed credit for being the “principal proponent of the plebiscite”, which helped resolve the internal impasse within the Coalition over same-sex marriage.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Editor’s note: Whilst this story broke some months ago it is still ongoing. Due to the need to concentrate on other issues in the interim we have not yet been able to give the background to it. This article will assist our readers to pray more effectively into the case.

A new anti-discrimination complaint will test the limits of free speech and religious expression in Australia, with two preachers, a Presbyterian pastor and a street evangelist, accused of offending homosexuals and atheists. Hobart pastor Campbell Markham and street preacher David Gee said the complaint, which had been accepted by Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt, was an attack on the rights of all Australians to speak their beliefs. Mr Markham said the accusations against him related to online blogs in 2011 in which he referred to the “distressingly dangerous homosexual lifestyle”, “appalling health risks of the homosexual lifestyle” and criticised posters, designed for school­children, normalising same-sex couples.

In a blog attacking the school posters, Mr Markham quotes the Bible: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Mr Markham said he was not advocating anyone be drowned but rather pointing out Jesus had said adults had a responsibility not to “misguide” children. He did not believe his blogs, which he saw as an extension of his preaching and aimed primarily at parishioners, were demeaning of, or hurtful to, homosexuals. “Has stuff I’ve said or written upset people?” he said. “Of course. I don’t set out to do that, but that’s part of being a human being.” Despite the legal challenge Mr Markham said he would refuse to modify his preaching. “I don’t think it’s right that people can be threatened with legal action for expressing what they believe is true,” he said.

“It applies to me as a Christian leader, but it goes far beyond that.” The complaint accuses Mr Gee, a street evangelist attached to Mr Markham’s Cornerstone Church, of offending atheists and homosexuals during his public proselytising in Hobart Mall’s “speaker’s corner”. Mr Gee said 14 pages of complaints referred to things he had said, written in blogs and distributed in pamphlets. It appeared the complainant, who had been engaging in debate with him for four or five years, was, as an atheist, offended by his proselytising and was seeking orders to ban him from speaker’s corner. Mr Gee said he was willing to apologise for some things he had said, but would stand by others. “For him to want to prevent me from speaking, I don’t think that’s a good thing or a right thing for Australian life,” he said.

“We should be able to have public debate and discussion, even if we radically disagree.” Tasmania has some of the nation’s broadest anti-discrimination laws, which make it unlawful to “offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule” someone on the basis of certain attributes, including sexuality and religious belief. Both preachers were receiving legal advice and did not believe they could, at this stage, name the complainant.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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