The urgent need for religious freedom protection was further highlighted last week after a Queensland religious school, Citipointe Christian College, was reported to the Human Rights Commission for its religious beliefs.
Another Brisbane school, West Side Christian College, also came under attack from political activists and the Queensland Labor Government.
In tolerant multi-cultural Australia with its Judeo-Christian heritage, this would have been unthinkable five years ago.
Even today, most mainstream Australians accept and tolerate religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism and others promoting virtues which favour traditional family formation and resilience.
Sadly, a small group of political activists do not. They say religious schools are “harmful” and they are using taxpayer-funded legal action to force conformity with their worldview.
As a Christian school, Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane quite reasonably asks parents to agree to its Christian views on sexuality, marriage and gender.
In part, policies like this are designed to protect girls’ private spaces such as toilets and change rooms and fairness in sport.
West Side’s crime was advertising for staff who shared their views on marriage.
But Citipointe and its parent community now face potentially expensive and lengthy legal action for upholding their religious and scientific beliefs about gender.
A small group of parents of former students have mounted legal action with the help of the taxpayer-funded LGBT Legal Service.
During the 2017 same-sex marriage debate, leaders of “Australian Marriage Equality” such as Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster promised Christian schools would be free to uphold their ethos.
“Religious institutions and schools are free and are protected by our existing legislation and our constitution to teach their beliefs. That will not change because same-sex couples can get married,” Forster told Sky News.
Less than five years on, they have reneged and are going after Christian schools.
So far rainbow activists are yet to target Muslim, Hindu and Jewish schools which share the same values, but they seem to see Christian schools as low hanging fruit.
Earlier this year, Citipointe followed advice from the then Turnbull Government’s Ruddock Review into religious freedom and stated its Christian beliefs up-front and in good faith for parents as part of an enrolment contract.
According to media reports, the move was prompted in part by a male student, now identifying as a female, insisting that he wear a dress to the school formal in defiance of school’s policy and beliefs on the science of gender.
Confected outrage in mainstream media followed causing the then Prime Minister Scott Morrison, himself a Christian, to say he did not agree with Citipointe’s Christian enrolment policy.
The furore fed into parliamentary debate on the Religious Discrimination Bill leading to five Liberals crossing the floor to join Labor and the Greens in defeating it. (Four out of the five Liberals who crossed the floor lost their seats at the May 21 election).
Rainbow activists claim the Sex Discrimination Act, as amended by the Gillard government in 2013, gives religious schools the power to expel same-sex attracted or children identifying as the opposite gender.
This is a power not sought or used by Christian schools.
However, religious schools and their parent communities are fighting for the right to continue to teach their religious views of marriage, sexuality and the science of biological gender.
Family First supports the right of religious schools to teach and uphold their ethos.
Lyle Shelton is the National Director of Family First. Keep up with his political commentary by signing up here.