SBS and the not so inclusive “exclusive”

On the weekend it snowed on the outskirts of Melbourne, and it appears as though some of that snow fell on the Central Coast of NSW and clouded the vision of one SBS reporter.

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An article was published on the SBS website late this afternoon, aiming to discredit a group of FIEC churches on the Central Coast. These Churches use facilities in local schools after school hours, especially for Sunday services

Journalist, Robert Burton-Bradley, has accused the Churches of promoting a ‘homophobic’ message, and he then proceeds to prove his case by providing a list of quotes from various sermons. Unfortunately, his evidence looks more like a JFK conspiracy theory than material fit for publication on a respected Australian media website.

To begin with, the headline states, “Claims evangelical Christian churches preach gay hate in public schools” and has the accompanying tag line, “Exclusive: Serious allegations have emerged that gay hate messages are being preached inside public schools by evangelical groups.” It sounds truly outrageous and, these headings are sufficiently vague to lead readers to believe that the following ideas are being taught in these schools, which is not the case. The content of these sermons is for a church, not for children in the classroom.

Secondly, in light of the evil mass murder in Orlando, the media have reported various Muslim leaders who believe homosexuals should be executed. In the midst of these  stories, it appears as though Burton-Bradley is portraying these Christian Churches  as if they are preaching a similar hate message. He writes,

“One recording of a sermon on homosexuality and the Bible’s book of Leviticus from the Lakes Christian Church, based inside the Berkeley Vale Public school on the NSW Central Coast, includes references to the “death penalty” as a punishment for the “sin” of homosexuality.”

Taking words from their intended setting could potentially be seen as slanderous, which leads to a third point,

The article quotes statements from various sermons with no regard for the context in which they were spoken.

Anyone can cut and past a few words from a sermon, and give readers all manner of impressions. I once said in a sermon, ‘sex is good’; I guess one can only assume I’m a member of the sex party. I’ve also declared my dislike of cats, perhaps someone ought to report me to the RSPCA for possible future animal cruelty!

Not only does the article ignore context in which words were spoken, there is no understanding here of biblical theology, by which I mean, how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, of how God’s holiness and love relate, and of the way the cross of Jesus Christ is the key to understanding Christianity and Christian thought and attitudes toward other people. Nowhere does Robert Burton-Bradley bring his readers to the conclusions that are offered in the sermons.

Christians do not hate homosexuals, and from what I know of the Churches in question, neither do they.  If I may repeat words that I wrote last week in a piece relating to Jason Ball,

“A Christian cannot hate because we have been on the other side, we have belonged to the crowd who have hurt others and thrown stones of hate, pride, and greed. Christians, if they are Christian, confess their spiritual and moral destitution, and yet we have come to experience the undeserving and loving grace of God who forgives our trespasses through Jesus. Once the human heart has experienced Divine forgiveness, we can not walk back into old attitudes of disdain for other people, nor hold onto some cold and languid acquiescence toward popular moral thought. When God replaces hate with love, it is a commitment to affirm what is good as defined by God. Can not love lead us to disagree with fellow human beings? Can a desire to see people flourish not include aspects of nonconcurrence, as we find in the life of Jesus Christ?”

What lessons should Churches be learning from such reporting?

First of all, be mindful that our sermons and websites are available to whoever is interested, including whacky atheists, angry secularists, and agenda driven journalists. In fact, this example is a helpful reminder for preachers and pastors. How do our sermons  come across to unbelieving Australia? Indeed, how is skeptical Australia reading our blogs!?

Secondly, be mindful of the fact that uncritical and biased reporting is a reality, not always, but it is common place. Such impropriety ought to disappoint us but not surprise us.

I’m not a fan of media bashing, and so I’m pleased to be able to say that on most occasions when I have dealt with the media, the experience has been positive. One time, a major newspaper even revised a headline to more accurately reflect my argument, and I remember the time when  Derryn Hinch stepped off his bandwagon to publicly acknowledge he had misunderstood something I’d said. Sadly though,  I think we can expect more fractious reporting in future days, as our society closes the door on fair and civil public discourse.

This is extremely poor journalism; no wonder the schools and churches didn’t feel obliged to speak to SBS. I hope SBS’s editorial team will have the common sense and decency to remove the piece and apologise to the parties involved.


UPDATE: I believe SBS have taken down the article from their website. Thank you to SBS for their wise deliberation and response. (June 30)

An Open Letter for Daniel Andrews and James Merlino

I have a question that I would like to ask of Daniel Andrews and James Merlino.

Any Government will introduce policies with a mixture of success, and with varying responses from the community. On occasions I have affirmed changes implemented by this Government, as well as  highlighting concerns.

The reason for making this letter public is because the question is pertinent to many thousands of Victorian families. Indeed, it is a question many people have raised with me this year.

I appreciate that our members of Government have very busy schedules, with many demands on them, and so it perhaps unlikely Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino will read this letter for themselves, although an acknowledgement would be welcomed and seen by many Victorians as a positive sign from an inclusive Government.

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Before asking my question it is important to provide some context.

SRI (Special Religious Instruction) was a ½hr/week  opt-in program in schools. A variety of religions were offered, depending on parental interest. In August 2015, the Government announced that the program would be removed from class time, and only made available under very strict guidelines (such that very few schools now have the resources to run the program). In the place of SRI, a new program was introduced, Building Healthy Relationships. This curriculum is to be compulsory in all primary and secondary Schools. It is presented as an anti-domestic violence program, an issue which Mr Andrews’ has rightly identified as a major community concern.

There is a lot of useful material in this program, but unfortunately it is aggressively and unnecessarily promotes gender theory. It teaches children to explore alternative sexualities, provides information for children as young as 12 for having sex, and speaks of heterosexual marriage almost exclusively as a ‘power structure behind which domestic violence occurs.’

In the mean time, a separate curriculum, Safe Schools, has been investigated by the Federal Government and much of the material deemed inappropriate for school children. This Federally funded but optional program has been taken up by the Victorian Government. They have rejected the decisions made by Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, they have promised to fund the program if needed, and they have announced that Safe Schools will be compulsory in every Victorian Government School.

The main architect of Safe Schools, Roz Ward (from La Trobe University), has made it clear that the program less about anti-bullying and is primarily designed to introduce Marxist ideology into schools, in order to change children’s beliefs:

“Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’re still a long way from liberation… Marxism offers the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordin­arily new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.”

Safe Schools not only describes heteronormality as wrong, it labels children who believe in heterosexual normality as “sexist”. It is somewhat ironic that an anti-bullying program specifically gives derogatory names to children who do not support its contentious ideas.

On top of these programs and other initiatives, The Age announced yesterday (May 8) that the Government is also considering introducing into Victorian schools another program about LGBTIQ ideology, the Gayby Baby education toolkit, which is being released this week.

The Director of Gayby Baby, Maya Newel, believes the program is a “no brainer”, saying, “It’s 2016 and something like 30 per cent of children are not raised by biological heterosexual parents, so we’re not just talking about children in same-sex families, but also divorced families and kinship families and so on. Not only will this be the first resource to represent same-sex families, it will also be something that can really dive deep into family diversity as a topic.”

While Newel concedes that the 30% is not all made up with same-sex families, she does misleadingly say, “30 per cent of children are not raised by biological heterosexual parents”. She thus gives the impression that same-sex families are indeed common place. However, according to the 2011 Census, 0.1% of all Australian children live in a home with a couple of the same gender. Not only are the majority of children raised in homes with a mum and dad, most of the other 30% lives in homes where the intent was for children to have a mum and dad, but due to divorce, death, and other circumstances the children are unable to live with both parents.

If we are going to use statistics as argument for changing school curriculum, surely we ought to present the numbers accurately. And also, if 0.1% of the population warrants another sexuality program in schools, then surely the 60% who have at least a nominal Christian affiliation, warrants introducing a Christian view of marriage and family into schools! Don’t worry, I am not actually arguing for that, but simply pointing out the irony in Newel’s argument.

According to The Age,

“As part of its lesson plans, students will be encouraged to deconstruct the stories of the four main children featured in the documentary (whose parents are gay); reflect on families that fall outside the “traditional” family unit; and challenge gender stereotypes.”

“Victorian Equality Minister Martin Foley said the state government would be “only too happy” to lend its support to the resource, “because it fits with our notion that to be a successful and equal society then there has to be a place for everyone”

Given this context of our State Government introducing multiple new curriculums on the same topic of sexuality, my question is this, are families who do not subscribe to views on sexuality as prescribed by the current Government, still welcome in Victorian State Schools? If the answer is yes, are these families permitted to express their views? Will children who articulate a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim view of sexuality be protected in our schools from bullying? Will they be encouraged to share their opinions without students and teachers belittling them?

Last Wednesday, The Australian reported a story of a Frankston family who have been forced to leave their local school because their daughter was subject to bullying for holding Christian beliefs. Perhaps this is an isolated incident or should Victorians anticipate this to be common practice? After all, if gender theory is taught as fact, should we not expect alternative views to be rejected and spoken against in our schools?

Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino, we understand the direction you are taking children’s education in Victoria, but what remains unclear is whether Victorian families remain free in our schools to engage in, to question, and to offer alternative ideas to the ones now promoted. 

I appreciate your time in reading and considering these questions.

Kind Regards,

Murray Campbell

Respectful Relationships?

I agree with Daniel Andrews’ recent comments about the evils of domestic violence in our society, and I laud the Victorian Government for adopting strong measures to support victims and convict perpetrators. Domestic violence is a dreadful, dreadful thing: Sexual, physical, emotional, and material abuse is never justified.

In August 2015, Daniel Andrews announced that the program replacing SRI in schools would be Respectful Relationships, which has been introduced into secondary schools, and will be compulsory from kindergarten to year 10 in 2017.

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There are many things to like in the curriculum, but oddly, a significant portion of the material has little to do with domestic violence, but is teaching children how to find partners and have sex.

For example, year 8 students are asked to write an ad, describing what qualities they would like to find in a partner. Is it appropriate to ask 12 and 13 year old children what kind of sexual relationship that would like to have?  Is it healthy for children to be directed to online dating sites, and given examples, such as these found in the curriculum?:

‘hot gay gal 19 yo seeks outgoing fem 18-25 into nature, sport and nightlife for friendship and relationship’

‘lustful, sexually generous funny and (sometimes shy) Tiger1962 seeking sexy freak out with similar intentioned woman.’

Not only are young teenagers taught about what to look for in a partner, they are taught what to seek in sex, and they are taught what to believe about sexuality, even to explore and affirm alternative sexual orientations.

As one of the year 8 sessions explains, it is 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.”

Much of the ensuing material explores broadening the horizons of sexual relationships, with the determination of deconstructing the “narrow” view of gender.

It may surprise some people to learn that children can legally have sex in Victoria from the age of 12 (younger in some States), so long as it is consensual and the other person(s) is within the legal age bracket. This may be lawful, but I suspect many parents would be shocked to learn that schools teach our children it is okay for them to engage in sexual intercourse at such a young age.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that exposing children to these ideas will not result in influencing sexual and social behaviour. The fact that Respectful Relationships makes consent unequivocal (a vital point) does not mean the activity is therefore good and okay for the child.

Also astonishing is what is missing. In a curriculum teaching relationships and sex, marriage receives almost no mention. Why is that? Marriage is mentioned on a ‘character card’ where Stephen, a 16 year old Christian attending a Christian college, believes sex should only take place within marriage between a man and woman (got to love the pastiche Christian example!). And there is Maria, a 15 year old girl who doesn’t want to wait for marriage before experiencing sex. Otherwise, marriage is only mentioned as a power structure behind which domestic violence occurs. What a sad and miserable view of marriage. I understand there are marriages where appalling abuse happens, and in my work I have ministered to victims from such circumstances. But marriage is designed to be, and often is, a beautiful thing, and it remains the best model for loving and caring intimate relationships in society.

Is it not a wonderful thing when a couple covenant together for life, ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish’?

There is much sensible and good advice offered in Respectful Relationships, which could be easily taught without the intrusion of particular views on sexuality and without exposing young children to ideas that blemish their innocence. It is a travesty that the issue of domestic violence has been taken captive by sexual libertarian ideology.

Is it the role of Government to absolutise onto children a theory about gender that is disputable and widely contentious? James Merlino has made it clear that this curriculum is to be compulsory in Victorian schools; I wonder, is forcing explicit sexual language and ideas onto children, moral or even legal?

Far from solving the unspeakable horrors of domestic violence, it is ultimately presenting a different version of the me-centric vision of the world. Author, Tim Keller writes, ‘It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give.’ 

Instead of leaning on a failed sexual revolution in order to find a way forward on domestic violence, would we not serve our children better  if we considered a paradigm of sacrifice and service, and where living for the good of others is esteemed more highly than our own gratification?

Topsy Turvy Sexuality?

Australians are now part of the world of topsy-turvy sexuality; gender is fluid and yet the alphabet of carefully defined sexual orientations grows longer. Our children are now taught in school that gender is not bound by biology and yet the same programs encourage boys and girls to be separated for classes dealing with sex.

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Rabbit or Duck Sculpture

The clarion call of 2016 is that there is no normal when it comes to gender and sexuality, indeed believing so is heresy, and yet when it comes to the teacher’s manual for Respectful Relationships, the Education Department of Victoria strongly suggest ‘single-sex groups’, and ‘male educators’.

Why? According to the Department there are inherent differences between males and females, not only biological and physical differences, but emotional and social differences, such that it ought to influence the way we talk about domestic violence in the classroom.

For example, while mixed gender groups are not dismissed,  multiple reasons are offered as to why single-sex groups may be preferred:

“Both males and females may be more comfortable and expressive in single-sex groups. In sexuality education, for example, there is evidence that young people can be uncomfortable when asked to discuss sexual matters in front of members of the other sex and reluctant to fully participate in sessions held in a mixed-sex environment.

– Mixed-sex discussions can become polarised.

– Working in single-sex groups can minimise the harmful, gendered forms of interaction that are common in mixed-sex groups.

• Girls and women with prior histories of sexual assault may experience mixed-gender workshops as revictimisation, while potential male perpetrators may misuse information on how girls and women can reduce their risk of assault.

• There is some evidence that female and male participants prefer single-sex workshops. Research on violence prevention education among men in particular tends to emphasise the need for male-only groups, for example because:

• men are more comfortable, less defensive and more honest in all male groups

• men are less likely to talk openly in the presence of women

– single-sex groups reveal a diversity of opinions among men that may not be expressed when women are present

• men may be more prepared to reveal, and thus reflect critically, on sexist and abusive histories in all-male settings

• men’s attitudes and behaviour are shaped in powerful ways by their male peers, and male–male influence can be harnessed for positive ends in all-male groups

• there may be greater opportunity to discuss and craft roles for males in ending sexism and violence.

At the same time, there are clear benefits for mixed-sex groups. In particular, they:

• create opportunities for dialogue between females and males regarding gender, sexuality, violence and relationships, fostering cross-gender understanding and alliance

• create opportunities for males to listen to females regarding these issues”

This recognition of male and female differences also affects the question of who should facilitate these Respectful Relationships classes:

“Gender of teaching staff?

Most violence prevention educators in Australia are female, reflecting women’s much higher levels of participation and employment in services, agencies and community efforts addressing men’s violence against women. However, as engaging boys in violence prevention has become more prominent and as men’s roles have received increasing emphasis, there has also been some emphasis on the need for work with boys and young men to be conducted by male facilitators in particular. Arguments for using male facilitators and peer educators when working with all-male audiences include the following:

• Given the benefits of all-male groups or classes (see the discussion under ‘Curriculum structure’ above); male educators or facilitators are a necessary complement to this.

• Male educators and participants can act as role-models for other men.

• Male educators possess an insider’s knowledge of the workings of masculinity and can use this to critical advantage with male audiences.

• Male educators tend to be perceived as more credible and more persuasive by male participants.

• The use of male educators embodies the recognition that men must take responsibility for helping to end men’s violence against women. However, female facilitators can work very effectively with boys and men, and there are benefits to women and men working together.

Such partnerships demonstrate to participants a model of egalitarian working relationships across gender; they model women’s and men’s shared interest in non-violence and gender justice; they give men opportunities to hear of women’s experiences and concerns and to further mobilise their care for the women and girls in their own lives; and they enhance accountability to women and women’s services.

The argument that work with girls and young women should be conducted by female facilitators in particular has been made less often, perhaps as this is the norm anyway, given women’s overrepresentation in the violence prevention field. Nevertheless, it is supported by similar arguments to those above and by earlier arguments for single-sex groups per se.

Simplistic assumptions about ‘matching’ educators and participants, for example by sex, may not address the complex interactions and negotiations that take place regarding a range of forms of social difference, from age and ethnicity to class and sexuality. Indeed, sharing a biological sex is no guarantee of individuals’ compatibility, given males’ and females’ diverse gender identities and relations. In any case, there may be practical constraints on ‘matching’ educators, particularly when it comes to working with boys and young men.

Therefore, while there are valuable arguments for matching the sex of the educator(s) and their students in violence prevention and respectful relationships classes, this report suggests that programs have clear rationales for, or at least a critical understanding of, their use of female or male staff.”

The document is revealing because it presents a teaching methodology that contradicts the teaching material. The authors acknowledge there are real differences between males and females which extend beyond biology and which are not necessarily social constructs.  Indeed, one could say, it is normal. In fact, the authors are left, almost having to justify exceptions to this pattern, saying, ‘here’s what works, but we understand you may want to try things differently’.

No matter how hard sexual deconstructionists try to bend or even remove the parameters of the two genders, we inevitably return to them like fish to water.  I am not saying that there aren’t people who have genuine struggles and even dysphoria, but if gender is as fluid as some are arguing, why did these education experts think it pertinent to provide such specific guidelines, taking into account marked differences between boys and girls? Are they simply reinforcing archaic stereotypes? Or is it the case, that despite pressures to conform to the current mood on sexual thinking, it is impossible to altogether abandon what we know to be true, that boys are boys, and girls are girls:  both are equal and yet different.

A Letter to Education Minister, Simon Birmingham

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Dear Minister,

I am foremost writing to you as a father of 3 children who all attend school, and only secondarily as a local community leader.

I am supportive of schools educating children about bullying and making a stand against all manner of bullying, including because of sexuality, but I am convinced that the Safe Schools program is not the answer.

Roz Ward, one of the chief authors and overseers of the program has herself explained that Safe Schools is designed not merely to be an anti-bullying program but it is a tool to promote same-sex marriage and to work against heterosexuality. This reasoning ought to be given due consideration by the Government as they review the material.

I have published many of my questions and concerns on a blog and in The Age, but to summarise some of the more pertinent points for you:

  • 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.
  • For a course designed to remove ‘stereotypes’, Safe Schools successfully stereotypes many people including some LBGTI people, by not giving legitimacy to individuals who for personal and sometimes religious reasons, do not believe in living out same-sex thoughts and feelings.
  • 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.
  • The teaching material expressively dismisses heteronormativity and alternative sexual expressions are encouraged. A child who believes  heterosexuality is normal or desirable is given label ‘heterosexism.’ Far from educating against bullying, this is bringing bullying into the classroom and giving it legitimacy.
  • As a parent I am all to aware how my children are influenced by what they read and watch, and are taught in the classroom. It is simply  naive to pretend that Safe Schools will not impact the behaviour and thinking of children in regard to sexual thinking and behaviour. After all, Roz Ward has indicated that this is one of her goals in writing the curriculum.
  • As other people have rightly asked, 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.
  • Finally, the Victorian Government are making Safe Schools compulsory by the end of 2018.  What steps will the Federal Government be taking to ensure students will have freedom to opt-out of these classes, should parents believe the program unsafe and unsuitable?

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.

I am happy to speak further with you should you wish.

Yours Sincerely

Murray Campbell

This is not education

In explaining the Victorian Education Department’s own position on secular education, they state,

“The legislation clearly states that the government school system is secular, and open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion, or faith.”

This is clearly no longer the case. As a supporter of secular education I am concerned to see these principles eroded by programs designed to reconfigure how children think and behave; Safe Schools is one such program.

When Corey Bernadi first suggested a connection between Safe Schools and Marxism, I laughed and thought his comment unhelpful. However, he appears closer to the mark than many first believed.

The Australian newspaper today published a piece where Roz Ward  links Safe Schools with a political and social agenda, namely that of Marxism and same-sex marriage  (Roz Ward oversees the Safe Schools program in Victoria, and she co-authored its content).

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courtesy of The Australian

In two speeches (one in May 2013 and another in 2015), Roz Ward has explained (quoting from The Australian),

“It is a total contradiction to say we want (the) Safe Schools ­Coalition but you can’t get married to the person that you love,” Ms Ward told a rally in Melbourne. “(Teachers) have to work in this context where we have this state-sponsored homophobia in this discriminatory law and still fight against homophobia.

“The question of equal marriage is important in every single school that I go to, because I talk to teachers and they say to me: ‘How can we continue to fight against homophobia when the students will say to us that same-sex couples or transgender people cannot get married to the people they love? The law says it’s not equal and then we need to turn around as teachers and say: well it should be but it’s not’.”

Railing against a “push to fit people into gender constructs that promote heterosexuality’’ at a Marxist conference in Melbourne last year, she alluded that Safe Schools was part of a broader strategy to change society.

“Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’re still a long way from liberation,’’ she said. “Marxism offers the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordin­arily new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.”

According to the chief author and organiser of Safe Schools in Victoria, this program has a political and social agenda. It does not exist simply to combat bullying in schools, but is designed to instruct and influence children according to a socialist ideology, which includes strengthening the case for same-sex marriage.

In his time, Karl Marx identified a societal problem with capitalism, but his solution was flawed, and those who have followed in his footsteps have too often faulted. Marxism may advertise equality, but achieving it requires others to be silenced and marginalised. Indeed, history reveals how open-minded and constructive Marxist led societies have been: amidst all the gulags, red-book education, blood-shed and oppression, all the love and acceptance simply radiates from Karl Marx’s legacy.

In the case of Safe Schools, singling out children who may not affirm the new ‘normal’ is not only a sure path to discrimination, but the material itself expressively calls these children by derogatory terms, including ‘sexist’. Labelling children who don’t subscribe to all the values of Safe Schools is somewhat ironic and hypocritical given how the course instructs children to avoid tags; even the use of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ is discouraged.

In contrast to this latest epiphany of Uncle Karl, Michael Jensen this week suggested a view to humanity that is far deeper and attractive. He writes,

“The Christian faith has bequeathed to our culture a great gift: the teaching that we are all made in the image of God. That concept permeates even apparently secular documents like the US Declaration of Independence. It coaches us to see humanity in the face of the other. It was this conviction that held good against the social Darwinians of the late nineteenth century, who would rather have placed people of different races on the lesser rungs of the human ladder.

Add to that the experience of Jesus Christ: rejected by his own, abandoned by his friends, convicted by a corrupt and lazy government, tortured, tormented, and killed. At the heart of the Christian faith is the sign of the cross, which calls us to remember what we human beings are capable of as well as to recall what God offers us.”

In other words, as Christians we are troubled by the fact children are bullied, including homophobic behaviour in schools. All parents drop their children at school each day hoping and expecting they won’t be mistreated. We want our schools to be safe for all children.

Can we not have in our schools a program that encourages respect and kindness, without all the add-ons that are so controversial and unnecessary?

The Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, has this week confirmed that the program will be compulsory in all Victorian Schools by the end of 2018. But why? This is not education. This is not anti-bullying. By her own admission, Roz Ward has explained how Safe Schools is part of a broader strategy to rail against heteronormacy and to slam-dunk same-sex marriage. Again, I understand that some people will have no issue with this, but many others are concerned and are asking for a more reasonable and less politically motivated alternative.

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?

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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.