Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton has joined with 38 leaders of Christian and other religious groups in signing a letter to the Prime Minister urging him and the parliament to uphold the true meaning of marriage. Mr Shelton said such a demonstration of support from Australia’s faith communities for man-woman marriage and the rights of children it protects was a welcome development in what has been largely a one-sided debate. “It is so important our nation does not sleep-walk into a legislative change to the definition of marriage without considering the consequences,” Mr Shelton said.

The letter, signed by Catholic and Anglican Archbishops, as well as 36 heads of many other denominations including Pentecostal and orthodox churches,  senior rabbis from the Jewish community and leaders from both the Sunni and Shia Islamic communities, expresses ‘grave concerns’ regarding ‘Bills that have or will be introduced into the Federal Parliament to change the definition of marriage in Australian law’. It says the definition of marriage in the current law (the Commonwealth Marriage Act of 1961), which describes it as “the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life” reflects a truth deeply embedded across diverse communities, faiths and cultures.”

“To uphold marriage as the mutual love of a man and a woman, open to the gift of children, is not bigotry or prejudice. At many times throughout history, and sadly still today in some places, people with same-sex attraction have suffered injustice. This is to be deplored.” the letter says. “We should do more to ensure that our brothers and sisters who are same-sex attracted are treated with the dignity and respect owed to every human being. But this does not require the further deconstruction of marriage as traditionally understood.” The leaders say “Australia’s definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman is consistent with that of the vast majority of world nations, who represent over 91 per cent of the global population.”

“To date, only 21 of the 193 member states of the United Nations have changed their legal definition of marriage to incorporate same-sex unions. For the sake of children and to encourage men and women to commit to one another and to their offspring, marriage between a man and a woman has always been given the special recognition and support of the state.” the leaders say. “Any adult person can love and care for a child. But, as a couple, two persons of the same sex are not able to provide a child with the experience of both mothering and fathering.” The letter says overseas experience has shown redefining marriage will have consequences for everyone ‘as the truth about marriage becomes increasingly a truth which cannot be spoken’.

It speaks of ‘legal vulnerabilities’ for the millions of Australians who do not wish to see marriage redefined and the fact that in many overseas cases, expressing such belief has resulted in vilification and legal punishment of individuals and institutions. “This violates not only freedom of religion, but also the rights of conscience, belief and association, and the right of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs. The experience of these countries which have redefined marriage demonstrates that attempts to address these concerns through legislative “exemptions” have proven to be worthless.” the leaders say.

“We urge you and your fellow Members of Parliament to uphold the law of the Commonwealth of Australia regarding marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to continue to support the common good of our community by supporting true marriage.” It ends with a request for a meeting with the Prime Minister and MP’s to further discuss the issue.

Source: Compiled by APN using information from various sources

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Scripture books promoting “dangerous” messages about sex and male power are being used in NSW public schools according to a parent-run lobby group Fairness in Religions in Schools (FIRIS). They have raised concerns about a number of publications for students attending scripture classes in state secondary schools. The Anglican secondary special religious education (SRE) curriculum for public schools includes texts which FIRIS claims promotes sexual abstinence outside a “lifelong relationship” and the doctrine of male headship and female submission. A sample lesson from another provider,  claims divorce happens “because of human sinfulness and ignorance”.

FIRIS has targeted the publication “Teen Sex By the Book” and its companion manuals, produced by Australia’s biggest evangelical Christian school curriculum publisher, Christian Education Publications. FIRIS claims the book links teen sex to drug addiction and alcoholism, describes homosexuality as “misplaced sexual desire” and warns that girls who wear short skirts and low-cut tops might be “tempting their Christian brothers to lust”. FIRIS has been joined by Greens MP John Kaye who commented “If parents knew that Scripture was much more than quaint stories about men gadding about in togas and Roman sandals, enrolments would plummet.”  

The battle to remove Christianity from public school curricula is not a new one. A spokesman for the Anglican Church said “Christian SRE, teaches what the Scriptures teach.  SRE teachers explain such things as the forgiveness of sins, hope for life after death and wisdom for living now.  SRE teachers teach children to honour their parents and love their neighbour and, in age appropriate contexts, offer Biblical wisdom on many issues including human sexuality.” “The SRE curriculum has no secrets and does not attempt to hide anything from parents.  SRE teachers and SRE providers will happily spend time talking with parents about the content of their classes” the spokesman said.

As one Christian leader in Sydney has asked, “What is surprising or wrong with Christians teaching the children of parents who select Christian SRE that we believe monogamy is God’s good purpose, and that sex is best reserved for marriage?”  The book FIRIS wanted banned is written by Dr Patricia Weerakoon, a sexual health expert and honorary senior lecturer at Sydney University’s Westmead Clinical School.   If the Greens and FIRIS had done their homework properly they would know that the book is not part of the authorised SRE curriculum. If they had done their homework and deliberately sought to associate the book with SRE, one can only assume that they have some seriously sinister motives.

Author Patricia Weerakoon said the book was intended to be used by Christian parents and their teenagers. “It does not in any way portray same-sex attraction as a sin,” she said. Chief executive of Anglican Media Sydney Russell Powell said Teen Sex by The Book was not intended for use in SRE classes, however it is listed alongside other SRE materials in a Christian Education Publications catalogue. The Greens education spokesperson, John Kaye, called for greater scrutiny of material being used in scripture classes in public schools. “This is dangerous stuff. Abstinence messaging and homophobia have real consequences for vulnerable young people.”

Source: Compiled by APN using information from various sources

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Australians are consuming less ­alcohol than any at time in the past 50 years, as abstinence, self-restraint and, in some cases, drug use combine to reshape the ­nation’s drinking culture.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were an estimated 9.7 litres of pure alcohol per person consumed in 2013-14, assuming total supply was averaged among everyone aged 15 or above. That is the lowest rate since 1962-63 and continues a downward trend that defies public perception. Apparent alcohol consumption in Australia peaked in 1974-75, at 13.1 litres per person, and then fell away.

It began to rise again in the middle of the last decade, but has been on the decline for six consecutive years, due to factors ranging from health concerns and personal circumstances to price and personal safety. Separate government survey data — which charts an increase in illicit drug use and pharmaceutical drug misuse — gives a more human picture of alcohol trends: daily drinking has fallen to 6.5 per cent of the population, the lowest since 1991; the proportion of the population never to have had a standard drink has increased to 13.8 per cent and the age of first alcohol drink is older, now 15.7 years on average.

An interview with Sydney University students illustrates the trend.  One young lady says she didn’t have her first drink until she was 17½ and has a glass of wine over dinner “maybe once a week” but abhors binge drinking. Another student said she was “very much into health and fitness so I don’t like that feeling of feeling sluggish.” Amongst the nation’s drinkers there have been notable changes. The ABS data shows beer is being shunned by people, whereas wine has almost become Australia’s favourite tipple. The consumption of spirits, in contrast, has remained relatively steady, apart from a slight increase in the first half of the last decade before the Rudd government introduced a controversial alcopops tax.

In recent years, cider has grown in popularity. “Fifty years ago, beer made up 75% of all alcohol consumed, but now makes up only 41%,” said Louise Gates from the ABS. “Wine’s share has increased over the same period from 12% to 38%.” White wine is still more popular than red, while, surprisingly given the overall trends, full-strength beer has remained relatively strong against alternatives. “Over the past decade we have seen the popularity of mid-strength beer grow at the expense of low-strength beer,” Ms Gates said. “Mid-strength beer now makes up 19 per cent of all beer consumed in Australia, while low-strength beer accounts for 5 per cent.” The government surveys show 18.2 per cent of Australians are still drinking more than recommended.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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