Ashpenaz’s Children: ALP National Platform to separate children from parents

“In you they have treated father and mother with contempt” (Ezekiel 22:7a)

“How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands!” (Lamentations 4:2)

Like many people watching from Australia, it has been distressing to see footage of children being separated from their parents along the United States’s border with Mexico. The Trump administration’s ploy to discourage undocumented migration is cruel and immoral. The policy may have been put in place by an earlier administration, but President Trump has made it clear that he is using these children to discourage illegal migration into the United States.

Russell Moore (President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) is one of many signing a public letter to the Government, saying, “The traumatic effects of this separation on these young children, which could be devastating and long-lasting, are of utmost concern.”

While we in Australia look on with disgust at this violation of the family unit, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have announced their national platform, which includes a policy to remove children from a new wave of ‘disgraced’ parents.

ALP Conference.png

According to policy initiatives that are to be presented and adopted at this year’s ALP national conference, parents who don’t support their child’s wish to transition to another gender, are guilty of abusing their children and therefore will subject to a new range of laws.

“LGBTI Conversion Therapy

Labor accepts the scientific evidence that claims by those purporting to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity are both false and harmful and does not accept that such claims should continue to be made or, worse, be acted upon. Those who make these claims prey upon those vulnerable to the anti-LGBTI prejudices of the circles in which they or their families move.

Current laws regulating false and misleading conduct in trade or commerce, or professional misconduct in the health professions, are inadequate to deal with perpetrators who can evade health regulation by not being registered, and evade consumer protection laws by claiming to be conducting religious activities.

Labor will:

  • Ensure, in cooperation with the States and Territories, that adequate laws and systems are put in place to ensure the protection of children, adolescents and others from the false claims and psychological harms of so-called “ex-gay” therapies
  • Ensure that child protection authorities acknowledge attempts to “cure” Same-Sex Attracted or Gender Questioning children and young people as serious psychological abuse; and
  • Acknowledge these harms, when suffered within the family, as domestic violence against the child.”

(Chapter 8, pp 236-7)

“Labor opposes the practice of so-called conversion and reparative therapies on LGBTIQ+ people and seek to criminalise these practices.”

(ALP 48th National Conference (Consultation Draft 2018), chapter 8, p.205)


Child abuse is a very real and very terrible evil in our society. It is incumbent upon us to guard our children against such ignominious harm. But what are the facts here? Is this domestic violence?

In 2016, Prof Patrick Parkinson published an important evaluation of the Safe Schools program. In this research paper Prof Parkinson noted that contrary to Safe Schools, which claims that 4% of the population is transgender, research suggests that the real number is about 0.35%. This number encompasses a broad definition of transgenderism, based on surveys rather than proper diagnosis by medical professionals. Prof Parkinson then cites The American Psychiatric Association which estimates the rates of gender identity disorder for natal adult males to be at 0.005% to 0.014%, and for natal females, from 0.002% to 0.003%.

The numbers of children who identify as gay or lesbian is significantly higher, but percentage remains relatively small, somewhere between 2-4% of the population. It needs to be said that because these numbers of small, doesn’t diminish the importance of these kids, and of their need for love and support; no child is insignificant.

In the most recent edition of The Atlantic, Jesse Singal has written a thorough piece, exploring the complexities of treating children with gender dysphoria, cautioning against preempting treatments,

“the World Professional Association for Transgender Health…states that while some teenagers should go on hormones, that decision should be made with deliberation: “Before any physical interventions are considered for adolescents, extensive exploration of psychological, family, and social issues should be undertaken.” The American Psychological Association’s guidelines sound a similar note, explaining the benefits of hormones but also noting that “adolescents can become intensely focused on their immediate desires.” It goes on: “This intense focus on immediate needs may create challenges in assuring that adolescents are cognitively and emotionally able to make life-altering decisions…But some clinicians are moving toward a faster process. And other resources, including those produced by major LGBTQ organizations, place the emphasis on acceptance rather than inquiry. The Human Rights Campaign’s “Transgender Children & Youth: Understanding the Basics” web page, for example, encourages parents to seek the guidance of a gender specialist. It also asserts that “being transgender is not a phase, and trying to dismiss it as such can be harmful during a time when your child most needs support and validation.”

“Ignoring the diversity of these experiences and focusing only on those who were effectively “born in the wrong body” could cause harm. That is the argument of a small but vocal group of men and women who have transitioned, only to return to their assigned sex.”

Prof Patrick Parkinson makes the important point,

“One reason for great caution about what we teach children is that gender dysphoria may be transitory.”

There is a growing volume of research that is exploring the relationship between age and gender dysphoria. Depending on the study, evidence shows that somewhere between 80-98% of children will no longer experience gender dysphoria after puberty. That is a staggering indictment on the claims being made by the ALP. Even if we ignore the data from the highest end of the spectrum and only accept the most conservative percentile (80%), this still indicates that the overwhelming majority of children will return to identifying with their biological sex by the time they reach adulthood. For argument sake, let’s manipulate the data even further and assume that the conservative 80% is an exaggeration and that the real number of children recovering from gender dysphoria is half that number; that is still 4 out of every 10 children who have gender dysphoria. But according to the ALP, producing such evidence is simply to “prey upon those vulnerable to the anti-LGBTI prejudices of the circles in which they or their families move.”

While the ALP’s National Platform refers to “accepting the scientific evidence”, they cite zero studies, and they fail to account for many academic articles that have been published in recent years which either contradict or at the very least, nuance the position which the ALP is claiming as Gospel fact.

Some LGBTIQ Australians will experience a change of orientation and of gender identity, especially in the case of children with gender dysphoria who later come to affirm their biological sex. This is a simple statement of fact, not an affirmation for certain gay conversion therapies that have been reported in the media in recent months. Because I am a Christian, I do not support gay conversion therapy, as defined in terms of using pseudo-scientific and unbiblical methods to change a person’s sexuality. There is, however, a massive difference between offering shock therapy or performing a supposed exorcism, and reading the Bible with someone and them concluding that they no longer wish to identify as same-sex attracted or transgender. It is disturbing to see the ALP platform insist upon a zero-sum game, whereby everyone who doesn’t fully subscribe to the new gender agenda, is called names and will be accused of abuse.

What of the child or adult who no longer wishes to identify as LGBTIQ? What if an individual, while having LGBTIQ affections, does not wish to be identified as such? What of men and women who have undergone sex change surgery and have since detransitioned? The point is obvious and yet the ALP policy has no room to accept the reality that there are LGBTIQ people who do change and cease to identify as transgender, gay or lesbian.

The ALP platform is more troubling, for they are moving to criminalise therapies/ministries that fail to affirm people in their self-assigned gender and sexuality, and they are moving to accuse parents of domestic violence for not supporting children into transition.

How dare an Australian political party throw around the language of abuse and threaten to taken children from their parents; it is immoral and unspeakable, and it insults victims of real child abuse.

It is a sad irony, that on the one hand, voices calling for a ban on LGBTIQ conversion therapies, are at the same time, promoting sex changes for children. So, children are free to change one way, but not another?

At best, the ALP’s position on LBGTIQ issues is an attempt to show compassion toward vulnerable children, but it is a platform built on unstable and dangerous ideology.

As a parent, I know that not everything a child feels and wants is in their best interest, and chances are, they will change their mind by next week. Parents can discern the difference between a child’s fad and a deeper issue and. Parents love their children and want to see them safe and healthy and flourishing in life. This is not about bullying people into gender stereotypes or funneling children into strange and potentially harmful practices. This isn’t about parents patiently and lovingly caring for children who are struggling with their sexual identity; the ALP platform is about conformity to a new pattern for sexuality, and about using the weight of the law to force religious groups and parents to sign up to the sexual revolution.

I understand that some people may read this as an anti-ALP and perhaps pro-conservative article; that is not my agenda. As a Christian minister, I am not defined by such socio-political parameters. My concern is for children and for parents, who will face the onslaught of this irrational and dangerous ideologue, should the ALP platform gain traction. I am also concerned by these political attempts to place traditional Christian teaching on the wrong side of the law.

Churches need to appreciate that without due consideration and careful definition, the ALP’s platform can be used to constrain Christian teaching on sexuality, from the pulpit through to pastoral counselling.

Parents need to appreciate the gravity of the situation being outlined. For example, say a son comes home from school and announces that he feels like his true identity is as a girl. If the child returns to school and mentions to his teacher that mum and dad are not convinced and are reluctant to buy him dresses, the school may be obliged to report a case of child abuse.

I urge members of the Australian Labor Party to speak up and to vote against these dangerous and unnecessary measures. I also encourage members of the public to contact their local State and Federal Labor members and to share your concerns with them.

Changes to Victorian Donor Laws: some notable & unexpected corollaries

Changes to donor laws that were adopted by the Victorian Legislative Council in 2015 have today been enacted, and if the news is anything to go by, I can express initial support.*

As of today (March 1), Victorians can access information regarding their donors and heritage.

The Age has published the story of Katherine Vowles, a 26 year old Melbourne musician. At the age of 11 her mother told Katherine that she had been conceived with a sperm donor.

“As a young girl, the possibility of half siblings, especially sisters, was tantalising.”I imagined all these different versions of myself,” she said.   “When you’re a little kid you want to find all these brothers and sisters because you want to hang out with them.”

Curiosity grew into a personal mission about a decade later, in 2012, when Katherine moved from her hometown in regional South Australia to Melbourne, where she was conceived.

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve had more questions because of things like medical history, heritage, life interests and life goals, the who am I stuff.”

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve had more questions because of things like medical history, heritage, life interests and life goals, the who am I stuff,” she said. “I wondered if he was into music, if he was any kind of creative.”

The only new information she could get was how many other babies had been conceived with the same donor’s sperm. “I had a lady on the phone … she had the file with his name on it but she’s just not allowed to tell me anything,” Katherine said.”


One of the many commonalities every human being shares is the existence of a mother and father. We all have a mother and father; life would be impossible otherwise. For most of us, we know and love our mum and dad. For some, one or both parents have caused us great harm and pain, and this knowledge continues tear at us and to bring tears. Others, such as Katherine Vowles, have not know one of their biological parents, whose identity until today remained a secret.

I am grateful for the fact that I do know and was raised by my biological parents, and so because of my own experience it would be presumptuous to assume what is likely to be multifarious thoughts and desires among those who have not known their biological parent(s).

As the story in The Age expresses, it is understandable and even natural for children wanting to know their biological parents, and for the Governmental to remove obstacles is positive, although understandably not all children will take up the opportunity, and no doubt some parents will be apprehensive at the prospect.

I want to focus my comments on 2 unexpected but important corollaries from this change in law:

Firstly, when it comes to children and parents, we cannot escape biology. There may be good reasons why such a separation occurs, and there also be unethical reasons, but we know that time and space and anonymity are not sufficiently strong to break that bond between parent and child.

We should therefore resist establishing societal structures that build family units which depend on removing this link between a child and their biologic parents. This is very different from the example of adoption or foster care, whereby society is practicing a retrieval ethic, that is, making the best out of a bad situation. It is important for Australians to realise that as we tinker with definitions of marriage, for example, we are creating social units that cannot naturally create human life, and therefore necessitate removing a child from one biological parent.

Secondly, the Government, on this occasion at least, makes it clear that the rights of children outweigh those of a parent, albeit a donor parent. Health Minister Jill Hennessy says the Government recognises the issues pertaining to peoples anonymity, but have decided that children learning their parents names is more important than the rights of a donor.

What this shows us is that no matter how hard society tries to fashion relationships and marriages in whatever form we want, we keep finding ourselves going back to that which we should never have left. If the design is good, we should not play with it.

But there is one more thing that needs saying, and in some ways it is more important than these first two points:

The story of the Bible does not end with the ‘normal’, as though affirming and experiencing the normal pattern of family is the prerequisite for knowing God, and you’re damned to hell if it is otherwise.

While the Bible presents a consistent view of marriage and of the family unit, and notably it is this understanding that remains paradigmatic today, it also describes many other families. Some of these families speak of unenviable and difficult circumstances, and yet from them we read beautiful stories of grace: Abraham and Hagar, Jacob and Rachel, Judah and Tamar. These stories are not normative and neither are they suggesting to us alternate ways to create family, but rather they teach us that such scenarios are not the end of the line. Those family relations were not ideal and some clearly immoral, but God was not stumped by them, and through human error (and sin) he showed grace and love.

Society functions best when we encourage family structures that enable children to be raised by their biological parents. As far as I understand the changes to the law, the Government has made a good decision, although I appreciate the difficulties attached for both children and donors. As good as all these things may be, there is something even better, and it is not dependent upon biology or family, and neither is it an alternative to these relationships. In a world where familial identity and relationship may elude us, there is possibility of relationship that surpasses even the most loving and secure family:

“For he [God the Father] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4-5)

It is seriously worth pondering these words for a moment. We may search for lost parents, lost siblings, and children, and we long for these holes to be filled and questions answered. There also exists a need and desire to be reunited with God, and this awareness is as basic and innate to human beings as is our need for familial love and relationship. Consider those words from Ephesians in the Bible: to be known and welcomed and loved by God is the greatest joy and satisfaction anyone can experience.  It is beyond the scope and power of any Government to achieve this, but it is not beyond God who has come down to us in Jesus Christ and calls us to come back to him.


*I should preface my comments by acknowledging that the field of sperm, egg, and embryo donation is thwart with ethical concerns, but most are beyond the scope of this post.

Let’s speak about, not shout about abortion

“Heaven is filled with boys and girls, who though unwanted by their earthly parents, have been welcomed by a Father who is committed to their eternal good and joy.”

Every year in Australia 10,000s of children are aborted, a practice that is not only supported by the law in some states, but it is something celebrated by many Australians.

Over the weekend Jane Caro has come out to defend and publicise abortion. Caro begins by sharing her own story of having an abortion, and then calls on other women to shun the guilt associated with abortion.

She writes,

“Abortion and the fear of unwanted pregnancy, frankly, is a normal — if not very pleasant — part of many women’s lives.”

“Shout out about your abortion any way you see fit — if the subject comes up in conversation, perhaps, or there is a story about it in the news.”

“If you have had an abortion, do not be ashamed of it. You are in good company. Shout it out and help lift the shame for all the other women who have also decided that every child should be a wanted child.”

I may need to clear the air in relation to one obvious point, which in the eyes of some readers will automatically preclude me from having anything to say on the issue. Yes, I am a male, and because of this anatomical and psychological fact, I understand some women will straightaway invalidate any comment I wish to make. We are all familiar with the mantras, ‘it’s the woman’s right to choose’, and, ‘women have the right to control their body’.

I suspect though, many on the pro-abortion side would be quite happy to have men speaking in support of abortion. Indeed, only a few short months ago Queensland MP, Rob Pyne, introduced legislation to relax abortion laws in that State; we didn’t hear many women protesting his public voice.

Not only that, it is a simple point of biology that men are involved in the process of women becoming pregnant. Should a father be involved only in the act of procreation, and be excluded from happens next? This is not about being controlling or patriarchal, it is about being a responsible parent and participating in an relationship. Sadly though, many men are irresponsible and uncaring, a problem which continues to cause frightful harm in so many of our homes.


Morten Liebach, Steenaire (inset); flickr

While abortion has remained a hot political issue in the United States, in Australia it had largely shifted out of public discourse, becoming a forgotten shadow twisting through our cities, towns, and homes. But now, all of a sudden, partly due to the recent American Presidential election and also because of a Queensland Parliamentary vote, abortion is being talked about once more.

Jane Caro is writing though in response to last week’s announcement by Pope Francis, who has given priests ‘permission’ to forgive Roman Catholic women for having an abortion,

“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”

Caro responds,

“Given the Catholic Church’s attitude to contraception and its behaviour towards vulnerable children the world over, I simply cannot take anything this institution has to say about sex and reproduction seriously.”

Her criticism has some warrant, and I certainly understand her blanket mistrust of Roman Catholicism in light of its dreadful  history of sexual abuse. I am also critical of the Pope, for it is not the Pope’s place, nor the role of any priest to forgive anyone their sins. Priests may find permission in a papal edict and in their Church dogmatics, but such authority is not found in the the Bible, and as Christians that’s what counts. Priests are imperfect men who need their own sins forgiven by God, and as the Bible affirms, 

“there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim 2:5)

One of the reasons for writing today is because of a sadness that overcame me when I read Caro’s call to view abortion as ‘normal’. It is not normal. Abortion is never something to be celebrated or normalised. On rare occasions, when a mother’s life is genuinely at risk, I understand it is permissible, but to consider killing unborn children as okay is not okay.

A society that sanctions, and even celebrates the killing of unborn children is one denying its own humanity.

If one surveys global societies that have embraced a culture of abortion, one notes China with its population suppression policy. There are also numerous religious cultures who denigrate women and frequently force abortions when the baby is female.  And there is our western secularism with its excessive commitment to individualism. When we value the self above the good of others, we create an atmosphere of self-indulgence and not sacrifice, of self-worship rather than selflessness.

The very nature of loving community is that it requires the unexpected and difficult, and rather than eliminating those surprises, we alter our life expectations in order to to see their lives flourish.

Jesus once said, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. Indeed, how great a love it is to sacrifice our hopes and plans for children who enter our lives unplanned.

In my role as a Christian Minister, over the years women have shared with me their stories of having an abortion, and without exception there is a shame attached. Reasons are multifarious: when a woman is raped,the fear of giving birth to children with a disability, when the mother’s life is at risk, and when the child is unwanted due to the mum not feeling ready or not wanting the responsibility or wanting children to impact their lifestyle or career. The reality is, only a tiny portion of abortions occur on medical grounds that the mother’s life is in danger. Many more abortions occur because of the child’s gender, or because the child may carry a disability, and many other children are killed because of lifestyle choices. For many many women this decision has left a wound that has not healed.

As much as Jane Caro wishes women to wash away their shame for having abortions, many women cannot, and no Pope or priest can achieve that either. But in the person of Jesus Christ we find a God who is willing and able, and who is more merciful and wonderful than any of us can ever imagine.

As distressing a topic as abortion is, it is good to hear people talking once again. I don’t want to silence women who have had an abortion. Claire Smith has last week written an article encouraging people to speak more about abortion, and I wish to echo her words. And to a certain extent I also repeat Jane Caro’s words, that of urging women not to keep silent. But the speech we need is different, words that don’t speak affirming  destroying young life, but words that enable conversation, and ears that will listen to these stories.

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.