The Australian Senate is currently considering a bill sponsored by the ALP’s Senator Wong that, if accepted, will amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to remove ‘the capacity of bodies established for religious purposes that provide education to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status’.
The Senate inquiry, due to report mid-to-late February, should be seen in the context of last year’s Ruddock review of religious freedom that investigated how best to protect the inherent right we all have to follow the religion of our choice and the right religious bodies have to act according to their faith.
Also important is that ALP and the Greens party policies are directed at ending the right religious organisations currently have over who they employ and how they manage themselves.
That the ALP intends to compromise religious freedom is proven by the resolution carried at the recent national conference stating the party ‘will act against all forms of discrimination and harmonise antidiscrimination laws and procedures’ across Australia. In particular, the ALP’s resolution refers to the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of ‘class, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, religion, political affiliation, national origin, citizenship, ages, disability, regional location, economic or household status’.
In relation to faith-based schools the Greens party also argues that the current exemptions granted to religious organisations should be repealed and that education bodies no longer be allowed to discriminate ‘on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status or gender identity’.
Even the Australian Education Union, instead of focusing on rectifying students’ poor literacy and numeracy results, argues the right currently held by faith-based schools over enrolments and staffing must be abolished.
The AEU’s acting president Meredith Pearce believes that religious schools should not have the right to discriminate in relation to who they enrol or who they employ on the basis that ‘No school should have the right to turn away or discriminate against LGBTQI students or teachers’. It should also be noted that there is no evidence that faith-based schools have ever acted against an LGBTQI student. It’s also clear that the left-of-centre parties want to force faith-based schools to implement radical gender and sexuality programs like Safe Schools – programs that tell young boys they can self-identify as girls and that there is nothing unique or special about the love between a woman and a man for the purpose of procreation.
Taken to its logical conclusion forcing religious schools to deny critical aspects of their faith has far wider implications. The intention is that the school curriculum will impose a secular view of gender and sexuality and transgender students will be allowed to use the toilets and changing rooms of those students they self-identify as.
As with what is currently happening under a Western Australian ALP government, where Marxist-inspired gender and sexuality programs are being forced on schools, expect the same to happen nationally if Bill Shorten becomes Prime Minister. One only needs to note recent events in the United Kingdom where, in order to force schools to teach so-called ‘British values’, faith-based schools have been pressured by Ofsted to implement a radical, secular approach to gender and sexuality to see what will soon be happening in Australia.
A private Jewish school, the Vishnitz Girls School, has been evaluated as a failed school three times by Ofsted inspectors for not teaching girls under the age of 8 about gender reassignment and sexuality. According to Jibran Khan, a Fellow at the National Review Institute, six other faith-based schools were also targeted and penalised.
Khan also makes the point that the agenda behind the campaign to restrict the religious freedom enjoyed by faith-based schools is part of a broader secular humanist attack on religion described as ‘coercive secularism’. The British Chief Inspector of Education is quoted as arguing the state has the right to ‘use compulsory education to make sure children acquire a deep understanding and respect for the British values’. Even if such values contradict the religious beliefs of parents and schools. Debates about the Ruddock review and events in WA and Victoria illustrate a much larger battle between secular critics and those committed to Judeo-Christianity and the importance of religious inspiration and faith to the nation’s history and well-being.
Proven by last year’s debate about same-sex marriage, there are those who argue religious beliefs must be ignored. In the Fairfax press Aubrey Perry argued ‘This survey offers us a conscious opportunity to make a firm stand in support of a secular government and to reject discrimination or favouritism based on religion. It’s our opportunity to say that religion has no part in the shaping of our laws’.
The irony is that while secular critics criticise and undermine Judeo-Christianity and its teachings about the spiritual and transcendent sense of life and death they celebrate and applaud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spiritual beliefs and religious traditions.
In the national curriculum in subjects like history, literature, music, art and civics, Christianity is rarely if ever mentioned and there is no recognition of the central importance of the New Testament’s commitment to the inherent dignity of the person and the right each individual has to liberty and freedom.
Indigenous culture and religion, on the other hand, receive hundreds of references in almost every subject from kindergarten to Year 10. And the portrayal, much like Rousseau’s idea of the noble savage, is always positive with no recognition that there might be any shortcomings or flaws. The reality is secularism, which has become the new religion of the 21st century, has no right to consider itself preeminent and no right to deny religious freedom to those individuals and faith based institutions that seek to remain true to their conscience and faith. To do otherwise is to compromise a fundamental human right essential to liberty and that Western, liberal democracies like Australia must continue to protect.
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