Observations and Questions about ‘Safe Schools’

I have read some of the stories being recounted in the media of teenagers being bullied and abused because of their sexuality. I would not wish such experiences upon anyone. It is because bullying is so detrimental to children (and adults too) that it is vital for schools to have in place effective and fair programs. In my view, Safe Schools is neither.

Despite what Bill Shorten and some others are claiming, it is possible to be concerned for these children and believe that Safe Schools is not the answer. It is possible to want these children supported and to see them flourishing, and have reason for believing that Safe Schools may cause more harm than good.

1. Bullying is real. Children are bullied in schools for all kinds of reasons, including race, religion, weight, social status, mental ability, and sexuality. Safe Schools doesn’t address any of these other forms of bullying and focuses solely on sexuality. This is not to ignore bullying on the basis of gender, but would it not be sensible to provide an overarching program that teaches children to respect and care for other people in all these areas? Indeed, many of our schools already run such programs, and to great success.

2. Session 2 of the program for year 7 and 8 students asks the question, ‘Imagine you are attracted to someone of the same sex…’ and students are then encouraged to pursue this path of possibility. Is this suitable for 11-13 year old children?

3. Why is an anti-bullying program providing links to websites where students can buy ‘sex equipment’, attend masochist training, and watch pornography? I understand that some of these links have been taken down, but why were they ever there in the first place, and who is to guarantee that they won’t reappear at a future date? These things may not be part of the formal curriculum, but they have nonetheless been added for students who wish to investigate further.

4. What materials and support is offered to students who experience same-sex attraction and do not wish to encourage or live out these desires? I am yet to find anything in all their website that will help these children.

5. Safe Schools teaches the false dichotomous view about peoples attitudes to gender differences: either you support and encourage all sexual variants, or you are a bigot and homophobe. This is simply not true, and to insist of such simplistic and erroneous positioning is intellectually and morally dishonest.

6. Heteronormativity is dismissed and alternative sexual expressions are encouraged. A child who believes  heterosexuality is normal or desirable is labelled with heterosexism.

7. The material makes use of the Blooms Taxonomy, which is designed to make learning more than merely impartation of information and ideas, but to change behaviour and attitudes. In other words, Safe Schools is no mere anti-bullying program, it is carefully constructed to re-engineer how children think about gender and sex.

8. Why does the Safe Schools Coalition website cite statistics that lack scientific credibility?

Safe Schools

These statistics are offered as assumed facts, however according to recent studies, the numbers are significantly lower than those suggested on the website.

I understand that gauging accurate numbers for sexuality and gender is near impossible given difficulties over definitions and categories, as well as social and cultural stigmas, and other reasons that may prevent some people from aligning with LGBTIQ. On top of that, other people find that with age and experience their self-understanding and lifestyle may change. Keeping all those variables in mind, the statistics presented by Safe Schools differs significantly to the major studies conducted around the world.

Safe Schools want us to believe that 10% of the population have same-sex attraction, whereas most scientific studies put the figure under 4% (and that includes bisexual people), and other research suggests even lower.

While the Safe Schools material states with confidence that 1.7% of people are intersex.

The American Psychological Association suggests the figure to be about 1 in 1,500, not the 1 in 60 which Safe Schools would have us accept as scientific fact.

And this research directly contests the 1.7% figure:

“Anne Fausto‐Sterling’s suggestion that the prevalence of intersex might be as high as 1.7% has attracted wide attention in both the scholarly press and the popular media…If the term intersex is to retain any meaning, the term should be restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female. Applying this more precise definition, the true prevalence of intersex is seen to be about 0.018%, almost 100 times lower than Fausto‐Sterling’s estimate of 1.7%.”

This kind of misrepresentation of facts and science straight away raises questions about the legitimacy of this program. It is analogous to a political party taking 10 polls, publishing the one that is favourable and deleting the 9 which are less supportive. Or it’s like coming home after a cricket match and telling everyone I scored 185 runs, when in fact it was 42.

Smaller numbers does not of course reduce the value of people who find themselves in these categories, nor does it excuse us from providing care and support for children struggling with identity questions.

9. Is it the role of the Government and schools to teach sexual ethics to children? It’s a question worth asking.

For a course designed to remove ‘stereotypes’, Safe Schools successfully stereotypes many people including some LBGTI people, by not giving legitimacy to people who for personal and sometimes religious reasons, do not believe in living out same-sex thoughts and feelings.

Surely there is a better way forward where we can encourage children to show respect and kindness, and to support children wrestling with identity issues, without pushing a course with questionable science, material, and that has already begun estranging children in our schools.

‘Safe Schools’ and the Danger of Polemical Rhetoric

Just days after writing a piece on how to speak and engage in public, today the Australian public has witnessed further examples of immature and dishonest debate.

Earlier today in the halls of Parliament there was a brief and unpleasant exchange between Bill Shorten and Cory Bernadi. Mr Bernadi called Mr Shorten a ‘fraud’, while Mr Shorten yelled out, ‘At least I’m not a homophobe, mate’.

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SBS News

In today’s The Age, Jill Stark has presented what is now an all to  common false-antithesis: either we are progressive, enlightened and support gender theory, or we are conservative, culturally regressive bigots.

She writes,

“We cannot let the march of equality be held to ransom by a powerful minority of religious zealots who dress up their bigotry as concern for children.”

“These are desperate acts from ideological crusaders who refuse to accept that the inequality they have built their privilege on is in its death throes.

But fear is a powerful emotion. If you can scare conservative voters into thinking the by-product of equality is a world in which their children will be forced into some sort of state-sanctioned gay induction camp, facts are no longer necessary.”

Is Stark right? Are our only options, be caring citizens who support Safe Schools or hate-filled degenerates who wish children harm? Of course not.

  • There are many Australians who don’t identify with conservative politics and who reject current gender theory.
  • There are many Australian Christians not aligning with the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), and who affirm the historic Biblical understanding of gender and sexuality.
  • It is possible to be appalled and saddened by bullying in schools, and not support the Safe Schools program.
  • It is possible to actively care for and support families who have children identifying as LGBTQIA, without introducing Safe Schools.
  • It is possible for our schools to teach values such as respect and kindness amidst diversity without pushing specific and questionable gender theory. Many schools are doing an excellent job discouraging bullying without needing Safe Schools.
  • It is possible to have legitimate concerns over Safe Schools and not be homophobic and all the other insidious and untrue name calling that Jill Stark and others are resorting too. There is a sad note of irony in how  these anti-bullying advocates are among the most quick to disparage and heckle those who don’t support their social engineering project.
  • It is possible parents don’t want their 11 and 12 year old children  children being encouraged to explore sexuality in school.
  • It is possible many parents would be concerned if our schools permitted male students to use female toilets and change rooms.

I know many many people in the community who fit all the above statements, although most remain quiet and anonymous because they fear retribution from the kind of journalism Jill Stark is scripting.

Finally,  Jill Stark tries to reassure readers with this concluding remark,

“For the record, Safe Schools does not teach children how to be gay. It encourages young people to be themselves without fear of persecution or judgment, and fosters empathy for those who are different to them.

There is no “gay manual” because sexuality is not something that can be learned. Any suggestion to the contrary is a deliberate attempt to deny the very existence of LGBTI people.”

While I understand her logic, I can only assume Jill Stark hasn’t read all the material and that she has ignored the links on the Safe Schools website. Also, as a parent I am all to aware how what my children read and what they watch influences how they think and behave. It is simply benighted, or least naive, to conclude that Safe Schools will not impact the behaviour and thinking of children.

I am not interested in the politics of this debate, but I am speaking as a concerned parent, and as a person who is concerned by the continued untrue rhetoric certain journalists and politicians would have us believe about Australians who dare question current gender ideology.

Lessons in how to disagree with popular opinion

When children speak in favour of atheism or secularism or GLBTI issues, they are praised and receive vocal public support.

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sydneyanglicans.net

Last week, several anonymous female school students received wide public backing when they expressed to the ABC, “shock and frustration” by the “outdated” ideas Archbishop Davies promoted.  Archbishop Glenn Davies had spoken at the annual service for Anglican School Leaders, and as part of his address he made comments about gender equality; nothing radical, he affirmed the historic Christian understanding.

But when a teenage girl spoke out on Friday in favour of the Bible and the Bible’s teaching about marriage, the story was sadly very different. Paige Katay wrote a piece for The Drum, and was also interviewed by Julia Baird for The Drum’s evening television program.

To be fair, and probably in view that a 17 year old school girl was speaking, many people dampened their rhetoric from some of the usual delights. It should also be noted that  a significant number of people encouraged Paige for her courage, clarity and conviction. However, underlying many the comments was a streak of condescension, with frequent references to ‘brain-washing’  and ‘indoctrination’.

Here are some examples from the comments section on ABC’s The Drum:

“Good that this poor child is having her washed brain questioned by @cassandragoldie who knows what happens when men rule”

“Spirited defence, but I suppose a girls Anglican school has to rationalise like this in order to stop the girls smelling a rat when the law of the land says they are equal to their brother….”

“Your “belief” that males and females have different gender based roles in society and relationships is incredibly sexist. This type of “belief” ALWAYS results in *MEN* occupying the primary positions of societal authority and power, whereas you interpret it as “a beautiful kind of harmony”. Yep, you’ve been very effectively and thoroughly brainwashed by your religion.

Yes, the Archbishop has you thoroughly controlled and brainwashed. After all, nearly 2,000 years of brutal Christianity has shown it’s all about domination and control of others. Luckily, old style violent Christianity has been slowly defeated over the past several hundred years by secularism ….. by secular morals, secular freedom, secular democracy and secular decency. Hopefully Christianity will never return to it’s bad old days.”

And among the responses on twitter (some tweets are sadly unrepeatable):

“Poor brainwashed indoctrinated Child.”

“Paige Katay believes in invisible men in the sky & has been indoctrinated from age zero. Her opinions are worthless.”

“I had been mightily impressed with how today’s young people seem so progressive and socially aware. Then along came Paige Katay.”

As I observe Australians debating important issues, I can see three main approaches:

The first approach (and most common) is where there is no engagement with an opposing view with reasoned argument or questions, just ridicule and bullish tactics.

This has become all to common when discussions use the word ‘gender’ or ‘marriage’. 

I had believed that bullying was a reprehensible act, and the public outraged at any whiff of children being intimidated, but apparently it is okay if the person in question is a Christian teenage girl affirming her beliefs. 

The second approach is somewhat better, although far from ideal. Here, there is no engagement with the views actually presented, but loaded with assumptions about what we ‘think’ the person has said or should be saying, a critique is offered. But arguing against a caricatured position is hardly fair and it does little to progress debate.

This was evident on Friday’s episode of The Drum, when Tom Allard was asked a question about Paige Katay’s views. He began by rebutting an idea that Paige never articulated, and when Julia Baird corrected him, he then spoke against a view of the Bible that no Christian that I know of, believes or teaches.

The third approach is where each party listens carefully to the others, and can repeat accurately the views you disagree with, and then offer a respectful critique, and finally outline your own position. It requires humility, honesty, and kindness, even when you feel strongly about the issue.

As Australians talk to polemical social and moral issues, I am not surprised that many are choosing to interact in the first two ways,  although I am nonetheless disappointed and saddened, especially when politicians and ‘leaders’ resort to these machiavellian tactics. Here, I want to encourage people, especially Christians to work hard at exemplifying the third way. Paige Katay has given us a wonderful example, as have many other Christians in the public space. Indeed, non-Christians such as the now former Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, also give us an example.

I remember watching a short video conversation on the Gospel Coalition website between Tim Keller, Matt Chandler and Michael Horton, where they agree that we want to be in the place where we can express the views of our opponents better than they, such that they can see that we understand them.

Meekness may not be easy, but Jesus certainly thinks it is the way to go. Let’s resist hateful speech, false representations, and parodies, and insist upon words and a way of communicating that reflect the Lord Jesus. 

The Gospel Coalition Australia: Victoria

Around 50 church leaders from across Melbourne met yesterday (Feb 17) to pray for our city.

The Gospel Coalition Australia (TGCA) launched in Brisbane last year, and a Victorian Chapter of TGCA is starting this year.

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Photo courtesy of Shebu John

I appreciated the thoughtful approach taken in organising this first public gathering:  there was no mass advertising beforehand, no elaborate staging with a ‘worship’ band belting out Christian anthems and celebrity preachers taking the stage. I’m not criticising doing any of those things, but to begin by saying, ‘hey, come and join us so that we can listen to God’s word and pray for Melbourne together’, communicated something beautiful about the tone and purpose of the event.

A few years ago a small group of pastors began meeting to pray for Melbourne and to discuss how evangelicals can more effectively work together in order to see the Gospel grow; not that God is constrained by our prayers and unity, but Scripture teaches us that these things are desirable and useful. Yesterday, was the first of gatherings, purposed to encourage Victorian Christians with the Gospel, and to find ways for working together for the sake of the Gospel.

The morning began with a exposition from Romans 1:1-17, ‘what is the Gospel?’ Andrew Reid (of Holy Trinity, Doncaster) exhorted us to be clear about the Gospel, and to remember that God’s power to save is in this Gospel of Jesus Christ, and not in our methods and personalities. Such a message may be Christianity 101, but it is always good to hear it again, and was particularly relevant given the nature of yesterday’s gathering. If the Apostle Paul felt the need to remind his readers of the Gospel multiple times in every letter, I think we would do well to remind each other when we meet.

Peter Adam then gave a brief and insightful history of Christianity in Melbourne. It was encouraging to be reminded of how God has graciously worked throughout our history, and to consider, if God has worked through his Gospel in the past, can he not also do so today?

For much of the morning we prayed together, for Melbourne itself, for God to grow his Gospel throughout Melbourne, and for each other’s local ministries. It was a rare although enthralling yet ordinary scene, seeing 45-50 Melbourne leaders from many denominations, churches, and organisations, expressing our unity in Christ, and a common desire to see men and women coming to faith in Jesus.

TGCA Victoria will meet again in June/July for another morning of prayer, and there is a more formal event being organised for November with William Taylor (of St Helen’s Bishopsgate).

For details email admin@tgcavic.org

A letter for the community of Mentone

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Como Parade, Mentone

Dear community of Mentone,

I am writing to address an issue that is impacting our local community.

Last week a member of the community spoke to me about a story regarding a local Catholic priest in Mentone, which is being reported in the media. Both the Herald Sun and The Age have run update stories today (Feb 10).

As many people will be aware, I live in the local area of Mentone/Parkdale, and I am a father of 3 children who attend a Mentone school (not the two schools mentioned in the media), and I Pastor a Church in Mentone. To hear any story of abuse in the community concerns me because I am a parent, and because I am a Pastor, and because Mentone is my home.

I ought to preface the statement with these two points:

i. Apart from media reports, I am not privy to the particulars of what has taken place with the accusations levelled against John Walshe.

ii. Even though I am a Minister in Mentone, I don’t know John Walshe (Priest at St Patrick’s, Mentone), and have only spoken to him once, about 9 years ago, albeit briefly on the phone in relation to a school Christmas event.

The issue concerns an incident that took place in 1982, when Walshe allegedly abused a seminarian, shortly after Walshe had been ordained. News of this incident has caused concern and outrage amongst many parents at the two schools under the jurisdiction of St Patrick’s parish, St Patrick’s School in Mentone and St John Vianney’s School in Parkdale. It should be added, there are other parents expressing support for John Walshe, and both school councils have indicated ‘unanimous support’ according to The Age.

In reading the media’s report, parental concerns become clearer because of a contradiction between what John Walshe says took place, and what the ArchDiocese of Melbourne determined.

According to an ABC report, John Walshe, said “while his conduct was contrary to his religious beliefs, the encounter with X was completely consensual.”

The Catholic ArchDiocese of Melbourne however concluded that the victim was sexually abused and gave him compensation. Given that this is the case, it does appear incongruous that Walshe is permitted to remain in the ministry.

First of all, I want to ensure Mentone (Baptist) that we hold extremely highly the qualifications set out in Scripture for church leaders.

As I said before, I am not privy to all the information regarding the alleged abuse case, however I know that at Mentone Baptist Church, should a pastor (or any one at the church for that matter) sexually abuse anyone, their tenure would be terminated, and the authorities contacted. And should any of the Church’s leaders engage in sexual immorality (having sex with a person to whom they are not married), they would also be required to step down.

Sadly, I understand how many people have become suspicious of ecclesial organisations,  given the lack of transparency that exists among some. Many are not like this, an example of humble transparency and honesty is that of Peter Jensen, the Former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, who gave testimony at the Royal Commission last week. But the offering of silence, as seems to be the case here, when there are legitimate concerns, is as helpful as clanging cymbals being hit half a beat behind rest of the band (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).

Second, I have lots of empathy for the concerned families of these schools. After all, this is my community where my family and I live, and it grieves me to see this situation unfolding over the neighbours fence, so to speak.

I am happy to meet with concerned parents, should they think it helpful (email is pastor@mentonebaptist.com.au)

Finally, we are praying for all concerned. As we pray, we do so trusting that godly resolution will come soon.

I don’t know John Walshe’s heart, and it is not for me to doubt the sincerity of his apology. I understand that the event took place over 30 years ago, and following the incident he sought counselling. But I also know that time doesn’t equal repentance, and time doesn’t heal all wounds.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, who said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

And

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In other words, Jesus both judges and comforts, he brings justice and he exercises mercy. Jesus Christ does not offer cheap formulaic remedies like we find in the self-help section of a book-store, but these are words of the God who became man and took onto himself all the pain and sin of the world in order to bring healing and peace. The cross is a picture of ugliness and suffering, and for that very reason it is also a story of forgiveness and hope.

Moral failure in leaders disappoints, hurts and can lead to a hundred questions and doubts. It is not wrong to set the bar high for those who would oversee a church or ministry, but even with that justified high standard we must rest our hope in Jesus, not in people, for only in Him will we find what we most need.

‘Respectful Relationships’ & ‘Safe Schools’

“Respectful Relationships”

It has been positive seeing media report this week on the Safe Schools program. No matter what one thinks of the program, it is important for parents to be informed about what their children are learning in school. We want to know what direction our children are being led as they grow and learn in our schools. Indeed, where is the train going?

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Last week I wrote a piece about the Victorian Government’s plan to introduce compulsory General Religious Studies into our schools from 2017 (prep-10). While this content coincides with the removal of SRI from normal school hours, the program replacing SRI is in fact Respectful Relationships (as Premier Daniel Andrews announced in August 2015). The program was piloted in some schools last year, and is this year being implemented across Victoria.

Here is a useful and succinct summary of the program, supplied by a Government source,

“Respectful relationships education is located within the health and physical education and personal and social areas of the Victorian curriculum.

Students will develop knowledge, understanding and skills to enable them respectfully relate to, and interact with, others, as well as learn strategies for dealing with relationships when there is an imbalance of power caused by bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence (including discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality). This includes a focus on students protecting their own safety and the safety of others.”

At face value it sounds promising, until one reads the curriculum.

It is unclear what the connection is between Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships (I’m sure someone can clarify this for us). Apart from having different names, and one being a Federally funded program while the latter has been introduced by the Victorian Government, there appears to be significant overlap in the general ethos of the programs and in the material being taught. The most notable difference is this, Safe Schools is optional, whereas ‘Respectful Relationships is now compulsory (from prep-10).

I imagine (and trust) that parents would strongly support our schools teaching students about the harms of bullying and violence. Through the work of Rosie Batty and many others, the dreadful realities of domestic abuse have been exposed and spoken too, including the staggering statistics that reveal how commonplace violence against women and children is in our communities. We rightly want our homes, and our schools, to be safe places for our children.

It is somewhat ironic and disappointing to learn of parents who’ve been subjected to verbal abuse and bullying because they have publicly raised concerns about these programs. Sadly, it has become an all to common, but effective method to keep dissenting voices quiet.

It needs pointing out that our schools already have in place effective and well designed programs to teach our children common values, including respect, care and resilience. Anti-bullying programs have existed and worked in our schools prior to Respectful Relationships.

The issue with Respectful Relationships, as with Safe Schools, is that it extends well beyond anti-bullying education, to teach and encourage children to doubt their sexuality and to explore alternatives.

Here is a contents page for the first part of the course:

contents page

Here is a sample activity for students:

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In Unit One there is a session designed to:

“This session enables young people to explore the impact of particular understandings of gender on expectations about being male or female. It provides a background for the other activities in this resource. The session has been designed to enable students to explore the concept of gender and the associated notions and expectations that have an impact on sexuality. It also provides them with the opportunity to connect issues of gender to different positions of power central to adolescent sexual behaviour. The activity also aims to extend their understanding of gender by exploring traditional notions of gender in a case study that examines the experience of a young transsexual person.”

One of two learning goals for this session is to ‘identify implications of narrow understandings of gender’. In other words, it is encouraging children to explore and perhaps even identify with a view of sexuality that is not just boy and girl, or that biology and gender and necessarily connected.

The Principal of Scots school Adelaide, said of Safe Schools, ‘It feels like a ham-fisted attempt to change a culture.’ The same can be said of Respectful Relationships, only that in Victoria it is compulsory.

If parents are concerned about these programs, you may wish to your local member of Parliament. It may be helpful to talk to your school principal, and to learn what your school is doing.

I would also encourage parents to read the program materials for themselves. Finally, it is important to read this piece in todays, The Australian (Feb 10):

Eleven-year-old children are being taught about sexual orientation and transgender issues at school in a taxpayer-funded program written by gay activists.

The Safe Schools Coalition teaching manual says that asking parents if their baby is a boy or a girl reinforces a “heteronormative world view’’.

Religious groups yesterday criticised the “age-inappropriate’’ manual, which suggests that sexuality be raised in every subject area. “Whatever the subject, try to work out ways to integrate gender diversity and sexual diversity across your curriculum,’’ the manual says.

The All of Us teaching manual, designed for Years 7 and 8, says that children often realise they are lesbian, gay or bisexual between the ages of 11 and 14, while the ­average age for “coming out’’ is 16.

A lesson plan on “bisexual ­experiences’’ requires students to imagine they live in a world “where having teeth is considered really unpleasant’’. Students take turns telling a classmate about their weekend, without showing their teeth.

“How did it feel to have to hide part of yourself?’’ the students are asked. “Do you think that some lesbian, gay or bisexual young people feel that they need to hide part of themselves? How might this make them feel?’’

Children are shown short films about the personal stories of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

In a lesson on same-sex attraction, students as young as 11 are told to imagine they are 16-year-olds who are “going out with someone they are really into’’. The class is divided into students pretending to be going out with someone of the same sex, and classmates pretending to like someone of the opposite sex.

The children have to answer 10 questions, including whether they could “easily talk to your parents about your sexuality”, and to name four famous Australians of the same sexuality.

The teacher then instructs the children to stand, and slowly counts backwards from 10. Each child can sit down when the number called out by the teacher corresponds with the number of times they answered “yes’’ in the quiz — meaning that a student who answers “no’’ could be left standing in front of the class.

The Safe Schools manual ­appears to reach beyond promoting tolerance, to advocating activism by students. It tells students to defy teachers who refuse to let them put up LGBTI posters.

“If you can, it’s a good idea to get permission to put your posters up, so you avoid getting in ­trouble,’’ the manual says. “If your school or teachers say no, ask for reasons and see if they make sense. If they don’t seem reasonable, you may have to be creative about where you place them.’’

Safe Schools also advises ­students to “use your assignments to start conversations’’.

“For example, some students have chosen to do their English oral presentations on equal marriage rights or their music or art assignments on how artists express their sexuality, gender or intersex status through their work,’’ it says.

The Safe Schools Coalition suggests that schools paint a rainbow crossing, provide unisex toilets and hand out stickers to supportive teachers.

The federal government has provided $8 million in funding for the program, which has won support from the Australian Secondary Principals Association, beyondblue, headspace and the Australian Education Union. The Victorian government will require all state schools to join the Safe Schools network by 2018, but the program is voluntary in other states and territories.

So far 490 primary and high schools nationally have signed up, although the list of 24 schools in Queensland is secret.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Safe Schools program was an “opt-in’’ for schools and run at arm’s length from government.

“Homophobia should be no more tolerated than racism, especially in the school environment,’’ Senator Birmingham said. “The resource is intended to support the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school.’’

A La Trobe University study of more than 3000 same-sex-attracted young people in 2010 found that 75 per cent had experienced some form of homophobic bullying or abuse — with 80 per cent of those occurring at school.

Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman Wendy Francis said the Safe Schools material pressured kids into accepting LGBTI concepts and “confuses them about their own identity’’.

She said forcing students to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship was a “form of cultural bullying’’.

Ms Francis said the material was not age-appropriate, as 11-year-old children were too young to be taught about sexual orientation and transgender issues. “A lot of children are still pretty innocent about this stuff — these are adult concepts,’’ she said.

Ms Francis agreed that bullying against LGBTI students “absolutely has to be stopped’’.

“Every child should be safe at school,’’ she said.

Safe Schools Coalition national director Sally Richardson said students at safe and supportive schools did better academically and were less likely to suffer poor mental health. “Our resources are designed to provide teachers with tools to help them have conversations with students around inclusion and diversity in the community,’’ Ms Richardson said. “We provide schools with practical ways to foster a positive school culture where students, staff and families of all sexualities and gender identities feel safe, included and valued.’’

Ms Richardson said all the Safe Schools materials — including the All of Us teaching guide — were used at the discretion of individual schools.

The principal of Scotch College in Adelaide, John Newton, said his students had “embraced’’ the Safe Schools message of support and tolerance.

But he did not approve of the lesson plan that required children to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship.

“That wouldn’t be a method we’d use,’’ Dr Newton said.

“It feels like a ham-fisted attempt to change a culture.

“Our children are well ahead of the issue and happy to talk about it — they seem to have a very mature approach.’’

Safe Schools is also used in Shenton College, an independent public school in Perth. “We strive to be a welcoming, progressive and inclusive public school,’’ said principal Christopher Hill.

“We can’t turn away from the fact that schools need to deal with these sorts of issues.’’

The Safe Schools guide cites statistics that 10 per cent of people are same-sex attracted, 1.7 per cent are intersex — born with both male and female features — and 4 per cent are transgender.

  

Super Bowl Doritos Advert turns people off corn!

I ate a packet of Doritos last week, and enjoyed it. Cheese Supreme and Cool Ranch are my two preferred flavours, although with a rich tomato relish dip, plain is always better. Today, I discovered that is there is more to my Doritos than I realised.

Of the big headlines coming out of today’s Super Bowl, is not the Broncos winning or the game itself, nor is it the half time performance by Coldplay et al, or even Lady Gaga’s pretty sensational singing of the American national anthem; it is the Doritos ad.

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What kind of controversy could a corn chip possibly incite? Obesity? Cholesterol? Close…well, not near close. Pro-abortionists are up in arms because the ad, “ humanises foetuses”. That’s right. They are offended because the advertisement shows an unborn child in the womb, in such a way that suggests that it is human.

Here is the exact tweet sent by NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League):

“#NotBuyingIt – that @Doritos ad using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses & sexist tropes of dads as clueless & moms as uptight. #SB50”

First of all, when one sees an ultrasound of a pregnant woman, one is in fact seeing a human being in the womb. He or she is not an inanimate object, nor plant life or four-legged creature; the fetus is a human being.

Leaving that simple fact aside for a moment, there are no religious connotations in the advert, and there is no subversive social engineering occurring, to my knowledge. As far as I can tell,  there is no intent, whether deliberate or subconscious, to promote a pro-life agenda.

This is a simple and humorous promotion of a corn chip.

In fact, if NARAL hadn’t begun this surge of twitter outrage, I doubt if I would have thought about a connection between Doritos and abortion. Now, everyone does, and we all seeing how wonderfully made an unborn child is, even if CGI has helped out a little.

This irrational and over-the-top response by NARAL exemplifies however, a growing trend in western societies. ‘Freedom of Speech’ is fast becoming a phrase devoid of its intended meaning. Dissenting views are tolerable so long as they keep quiet. Diversity is society’s clarion call, unless of course you are a Christian who trying to present a view in the public realm (or a chip company).

In case you think that this Doritos’ advertisement is a one off example:

Before Christmas an advertisement featuring the Lord’s Prayer, was produced for the Church of England, and was quickly banned from British cinemas.

Here in Australia, in August last year, a paid advertisement by the Marriage Alliance was banned by several radio stations and by Channels 7 and 10, despite the fact that the ad did nothing more than affirm the current law in Australia regarding marriage.

This is the bizarre world in which we now live, and we shouldn’t be surprised to find this happening more and more.

What is a Christian response? I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4, words we need to take to heart as we prepare for an increasingly hostile culture in Victoria, Australia and beyond.

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

 

Finally, back to this non-religious pro-corn chip eating ad. I need to be transparent and make a confession, it is true, I am biased toward this ad, and it’s not because of baby – apparently the creator is an Australian filmmaker! So naturally, I think it’s greatest advert of all for SuperBowl 2016.