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The Future of Australian Christian schools now at risk

Earlier this year, the Australian Law Reform Commission (“ALRC”) sought submissions on the Federal Government’s proposals to change the way Commonwealth anti-discrimination law applies to religious schools and other educational institutions. The Consultation Paper set out some general propositions which, if adopted, would:-

  • make discrimination against students on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy in schools and other religious educational institutions unlawful, by removing exceptions currently available under federal law;

  • protect teachers and other school staff from discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy, by removing similar exceptions;

  • allow religious schools to maintain their religious character by permitting them to:-

    1. give preference to prospective staff on religious grounds where the teaching, observance or practice of religion is a part of their role (and it is not discriminatory on other grounds); and

    2. require all staff to respect the educational institution’s religious ethos.

Although the final point may give people hope that the reforms, if adopted, would lead to a preservation of the fundamental character of Christian schools, that is not the case. In fact, if the ALRC recommendations are enacted, Christian schools will be compelled to permit the promotion of ideology which contradicts Christian beliefs on marriage, sexuality and identity.

The Consultation Paper essentially engages in double-speak, which is fast becoming the predominant position adopted in cultural and political circles today. The Paper, while formally acknowledging the importance of religious freedom and parental rights, also effectively recommends the removal of protections enjoyed by religious educational institutions which were initially designed to safeguard the ability of these organisations to operate in accordance with their established religious beliefs. So, rather than fortifying any protections that should remain in place, the ALRC wants to effectively tear them down. The end result is foreseeable – once those protections are removed, the cultural masses will insist that these institutions conform to the majority (or in many cases the minority) views on sexual behaviour and gender identity, destroying the foundations of religious freedom for good. Despite the fact that we are told over and over by radical leftists that this exemplifies “progress” the ALRC have not been able to provide any convincing reason or evidence as to why they are advocating for the wholesale demolition of religious freedom for Christian schools. Instead, it seems that rather than supporting Christian schools who have served the Australian community so well for many years, the ALRC has fallen in lockstep with the DEI movement – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The irony is that in spite of the grandiose claims of this movement, so far as Christian schools are concerned, it would require a compulsory uniformity which would undermine the reason for (and the existence of) faith-based educational institutions.

Although written in the early 1900’s, G K Chesterton’s views on reforming institutions is just as relevant today as it was in his time. Consider this quote:-

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.

There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as a historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion. We might even say that he is seeing things in a nightmare. This principle applies to a thousand things, to trifles as well as true institutions, to convention as well as to conviction.

So, there you have it. If the ALRC reflected on the words of Chesterton, they might pause and ask why so-called progressivism calls upon the dismantling of religious freedom. It has nothing to do with progress and everything to do with undermining Christianity. To them, Christianity is the last remaining bulwark in their long march through the institutions. Therefore, the erosion of Christianity and its accompanying social institutions is an absolute necessity for radical leftists to promote their political and social ideology as the prevailing opinion in the social and political sphere.

Interestingly, whether the ALRC realises it or not, the propositions in the Paper appear to conflict with international law. For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that parents have the right to “ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (Article 18.4). Furthermore, Article 5(2) of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981) states that: “Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion and belief against the wishes of his parents or legal guardians, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.”

The ALRC’s position is just another example of anti-Christian sentiment which is infecting the governments of Western nations and sadly, growing worse by the day.

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