UNIVERSITY STUDENTS UNION THREATENS TO DEREGISTER EVANGELICAL UNION
The University of Sydney Union (USU) has threatened to deregister the Sydney University Evangelical Union (EU) from the Clubs & Societies program over the latter’s requirement that all members must make a declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. The Board views the requirement as exclusive to participation in the society and a discriminatory religious litmus test for eligibility to join the society. The EU has been given a short time to change their constitution to satisfy the USU. The EU’s constitution states that each member must sign a statement that they “desire in joining the EU to declare my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour, my Lord and my God”. EU members have voted by a whopping 71 to 1 against changing its membership rules to suit the tastes of the interfering union.
Members of the EU recently attended the USU Board meeting to petition the board to reconsider their position. President of the EU, George Bishop, gave a three minute speech to the Board. In it, he cited human rights treaty provisions protecting freedom of religion. The EU has also received formal legal advice on the matter. Olivia Ronan, Vice President of the USU said the Board saw the banning of identity requirements as “the best option for maximizing participation in the Clubs and Societies Program”. “The foundations of the Program and of the USU are accessibility and inclusion, and to limit the candidates for election to Club Executives to those who ascribe to a particular faith is no less exclusionary than requiring candidates to be of a particular sexuality or gender identity” she said.
Bishop emphasised the distinction between society participants and those eligible to be members. “The requirement is basically that to have the voting rights and be the leader of the Christian society, they need to be able to declare that Jesus is Lord,” he said. “We are not trying to shut up shop or close borders. We provide subsidies for non-Christians to come to the events.” Bishop further expressed dismay that the dispute had become so public. “This is essentially an internal and private issue. We believe that we’ve been acting in good faith throughout the whole discussion.” Bishop said “Ultimately, what I care about is that the EU continues to exist and proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ on campus.” A concern of the EU is the potential for atheist students to appropriate control of the society.
Basically the union is saying: “You are not being inclusive, so we are going to stop including you.” The student union is right that the EU is excluding certain people, people who don’t believe in Jesus. But that is a key part of freedom of association. In private organisations discrimination is not only acceptable, it’s essential. Catholic groups must be free to say only Catholics may join them. Left-wing parties must be free to exclude right-wingers. Gay men’s saunas must be free to tell straight women to go somewhere else. If such groups are not allowed to say what is required of members, and to reject those who fail to live up to those requirements, then the whole ideal of freedom of association falls apart.
If ruling bodies, whether the state or a student union can use pressure or threats to make private associations rewrite their constitutions, then we arrive at a situation where the authorities can dictate whom we may link up with and what we may believe. These attacks on our freedom of association and religion are happening in many places today. From the Tasmanian anti-discrimination officer’s investigation of the Catholic Church for publishing a booklet upholding traditional marriage to controversies over Victoria’s Equality Opportunity Act and its potential impact on the freedom of religious groups to employ people of their religion, the use of inclusion to bash freedom of association is unfortunately becoming more widespread.
ANTI-BULLYING HEAD LINKS SAFE SCHOOLS TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
One of the key architects of the Safe Schools Coalition made a speech at a gay marriage rally claiming the anti-bullying program was being undermined by “state-sponsored homophobia” that prevented gay and transgender people from marrying. La Trobe University academic Roz Ward, who co-developed Safe Schools and manages the program in Victoria, linked the schools program to the politically contested issue of same-sex marriage in May 2013. At the time of Ms Ward’s speech, the Safe Schools program was running in 100 schools. Railing against a “push to fit people into gender constructs that promote heterosexuality’’ at a Marxist conference in Melbourne last year, she alluded that Safe Schools was part of a broader strategy to change society.
“It is a contradiction to say we want the Safe Schools Coalition but you can’t get married to the person that you love,” Ms Ward told the rally. “Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’ve still got a long way to go,’’ she said. “Marxism offers the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality and gender can blossom in new and amazing ways.” More than 500 schools across Australia have voluntarily signed up to the program, with Victoria the only state to make it mandatory in all except independent schools by 2018. The federal government, which has provided $8 million in funds, recently announced numerous changes to the program, while the Victorian opposition has called on Premier Andrews to reverse the decision to roll it out to all Victorian state secondary schools.
The Safe Schools Coalition is ostensibly an apolitical anti-bullying program designed to promote acceptance and understanding of children dealing with questions of sexuality and gender. Parts of the program have come under fire from conservatives who argue that it pushes a leftist ideological agenda and transcends its pursuit to reduce bullying of homosexual and transgender students. It has been criticised for promoting a politically correct approach to sex education, with teachers told not to refer to students as “boys and girls”, as the terms are “heterosexist”, and pupils as young as 11 encouraged to role play as homosexual teenagers. Ms Ward oversees youth orientated projects at Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, which gets $315,000 a year from the state government.
QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT TO CHARGE PARENTS TO KNOW WHETHER THEIR SCHOOL IS A SAFE SCHOOL
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has expressed dismay that the Queensland Government wants to charge $1100 so parents can know if their school is running the controversial “Safe Schools” program. ACL has been told by the QLD Government that it may be liable to pay $1100 for a Freedom of Information request to receive the list of 32 QLD schools which have signed up to the Safe Schools Coalition which promotes the idea that children’s gender is fluid. ACL QLD Director Wendy Francis said the decision by QLD Education Minister, Kate Jones, to deny parents access to the list runs contrary to Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s undertaking that parents had to be made fully aware if their school is teaching “Safe Schools” gender theory.
The Department of Education and Training claims it will take 39.5 hours to retrieve the short list of 32 schools. Ms Francis said the ACL had been waiting 5 weeks for the list since it lodged a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on February 25. “One phone call to the Safe Schools Coalition could get the names of the schools. There is simply no justification for the charges or for the estimated time the Department of Education and Training has said it could take to get the information,” Ms Francis said. “It is not good enough and very disappointing. The list of schools signed up to the program is available elsewhere in the country but in QLD we have the ridiculous situation where the Government is imposing onerous costs on anyone who wants this information and is taking every measure to keep the information secret.
The QLD Government has an obligation to work with parents and the community and make this list freely available.” Ms Francis said there was deep concern about the way the QLD Government is defending the program. More than 9,200 people have signed the ACL petition calling on the QLD Government to release the names of the schools. “We ask Minister Jones to explain why she and her Department are stalling in providing this information,” she said. Ms Francis said the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, should ensure that States cooperated with the Federal Government in ensuring schools are safe from contested gender theory. “We call on the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, to impress on the QLD Government their duty to be open and transparent,” Ms Francis said.
SAFE SCHOOLS TELL CONCERNED PARENTS THEY CANNOT STOP THE PROGRAM
Safe Schools operatives have been coaching educators to dismiss parental concerns over the contentious sex and gender-diversity program, asserting that parents are powerless to shut it down. A Safe Schools national symposium was told by the program’s Victorian co-ordinator, Roz Ward, that schools could ignore concerns raised about the agenda. “When people do complain then school leadership can very calmly and graciously say, ‘You know what? We’re doing it anyway, tough luck’!” she told more than 300 attendees. Leaked video footage from the event, which has emerged, also appears to confirm what critics of the program have long suspected: that it was more about promoting radical political ideas around sexuality and gender than preventing schoolyard bullying.
“It’s not about celebrating diversity; not about stopping bullying,” Ms Ward said. “It’s about gender and sexual diversity. About same-sexattraction, about being transgender, about being lesbian, homosexual, bisexual — say the words — transgender, intersex. Not just, ‘Be nice to everyone; everyone’s great’.” Safe Schools project manager Joel Radcliffe, a fellow academic at La Trobe University, which spawned the program, told the audience that the issue of parental concern came up a lot when schools were considering whether to join the program. “Parents seem to have a lot of power in schools,” he said. “Parents don’t have the power to shut this down.”
Elements of the program, including homosexual role-play and asking students to consider gender as a fluid concept unaligned with sex at birth, have alarmed some parents. Education Minister Simon Birmingham has ordered organisers to curb their classroom campaign or lose their remaining $2 million in funding. “Just as proselytising is not part of the school chaplaincy program, advocacy must not be part of the Safe Schools program,” Senator Birmingham said. FamilyVoice Australia national research officer Ros Phillips said the video showed that the program was about pushing “rainbow ideology” not stopping bullying. Ms Phillips said the organisation had received feedback from a significant number of parents who had been rebuffed when raising their concerns with principals.