Banning Books in Hong Kong and more

“As a young person, to already have the courage to face the pitiless glare, to overcome the fear of death, and to regain respect for death – this is the task of this young generation. And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed – a deed which should document the following for the world to know”.

The above words formed part of a speech which was aimed at calling people to a return to morality and social decency. This address given to university students was of course delivered by Joseph Goebbels directly before one of the most infamous book burning scenes in history.

During the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, purging the population of dissenting ideas was seen as an essential step. The Säuberung or cleansing included destroying religious and political texts that didn’t conform to the new normal. 

The destruction of books is as old as literature. Hate is a strong motivator, as is fear. To be honest, there are plenty of books that I believe are dangerous, and I’m happy to warn people about their messages. There is a vast difference though between informing people about a book’s content and removing those same volume’s from libraries and blowing their ashes into the wind. 

The Age is tonight reporting, 

“Books by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy figures have become unavailable in the Chinese-ruled city’s public libraries, days after Beijing introduced sweeping national security legislation, according to online records and one activist.”

A search for books by young activist Joshua Wong or pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan on the public libraries website showed the books, including Unfree Speech, co-authored by Wong, either unavailable or under review.

“The national security law … imposes a mainland-style censorship regime upon this international financial city,” Wong tweeted on Saturday, adding his titles “are now prone to book censorship.”

…It is unclear how many books are under review. Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo were still available, according to the online”

This isn’t the first attempt by the Chinese Government to eradicate writings that don’t support the State’s unbending ideologies.

In 2018, the Government began work on a new version of the Bible, to ensure that the Bible affirms ‘socialism’ and doesn’t contain ideas that might subvert the Government. One can imagine how distorted the Holy Scriptures will become once this atheistic, militant, and totalitarian, regime has finished their rewriting project. In many regions of China it is already difficult to own and read a Bible, let alone teach this book in a semi-public setting. Preaching ‘Jesus is Lord’ is likely to end in arrest and possible imprisonment.  

without the permission of the authorities, you can’t organize a Bible study. And if you do get permission, you’d better hold it in a Party-approved religious venue, at a Party-approved time, with a Party-approved leader and using the new Party-approved Bible, which contains quotations from Confucius and, of course, Xi Jinping.”

Not even Christians are permitted to change the words of Scripture, let alone a Government who wishes to change and control its message.

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  (1 Peter 1:24-25)

Let’s shine the camera on ourselves. 2020 is the year of cancelling. We might look at China with disgust and growing wariness of their geo-political agenda, but our own background is a growing mound of buried careers, reputations, and lives. We have long lost the will to disagree with other, even with passion. The mob demands destruction of any idea that is not representative of new morality and decency.

Let’s not forget, even the beautiful State of Victoria has faced the Government’s axe. In 2016, Christian programs were removed from State schools in light of many Christian ideas being deemed inappropriate. The same Government has recently reaffirmed its commitment to ban conversion practices (which under their current definition will probably include Christian teachings on sexuality. This includes normal Christian teaching and prayer that takes place in Churches). It would be silly to equate this situation with China, for the two are not the same. The point is simply, our own societies are not entirely blameless.

The Chinese Government is afraid of the Bible, and so are we. Perhaps we ought, for it is no small thing to contest the Sovereign God who made the universe and whose word says he will judge all the living and the dead.

Hong Kong libraries are beginning to experience what is commonplace in China and what religious groups have been forced to do for generations, hide their precious books under the bed because the bookshelf isn’t safe.

No society should take their literature for granted, especially the words that give eternal life.

Put away the matches, because as cancel culture is demonstrating, once it starts, it very easily burns out of control. Perhaps we, who want to preserve the freedom to read and teach our texts, ought to show a little humility toward those who prefer and magnify a different set of books. Let’s argue with words not by deleting them. 


Correction: I originally said ABC when it should have read The Age

Proposed Victorian Bill is likely to harm not help women

The State of Victoria wishes to be at the vanguard of the sexual devolution. Sadly, Victoria is already becoming an unsafe place for vulnerable children who struggle with gender dysphoria. Just as with the recent passing of euthanasia laws, concerns expressed by the medical fraternity were overlooked in favour of radical political and gender theorists from institutions such as Latrobe University.

 

img_9452

It is not only children who will suffer from these radical and non-scientific agendas but also women. I know of one situation where a young woman was forced to play football (AFL) against a male who identified as a female. She feared for her safety which is understandable given the physical difference between the average male and female. As a growing number of women are now indicating if the transgender agenda continues it is likely that women’s sport may cease to exist in a few years time. 

A story emerged from the United Kingdom this week concerning a group of less than impressed boys. In an age when we are recognising how big the issue of pornography is among boys, a not so smart teacher decided to take a group of school boys on an art exhibition to see ‘feminist art’. The boys weren’t so much exposed to art as they were to bare-breasted middle-aged women! In normal circumstances, authorities would be called and the adults charged with sex offences, but apparently, this is ok.

We live in astonishing times.

In their latest effort, the Victorian Government has decided that transgender women are being discriminated against under current laws. At the moment if anyone wishes to change the gender on their birth certificate, sex reassignment surgery is required. According to the Attorney General, Jill Hennessy,

“Everyone deserves to live their life as they choose, and that includes having a birth certificate that reflects their true identity.”

 The proposed legislation will eliminate the need for women to have vaginas and so forth, and men (sorry, women) with penises can be legally recognised as women. You can imagine the social problems that will arise from such a decision.

In a piece in the Weekend Australian, Ms Rayner, a former state and federal human rights commissioner and University of Melbourne philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith, express grave concerns over the Bill and are asking for it to be rejected.

“Sex should not be a matter of belief…If progressives want to disincentivise sex-reassignment surgery, they should protect gender expression, or gender identity, or trans status, separately — rather than trying to shoehorn it into sex.” Dr Lawford-Smith said.

They have likened the Bill to last week’s story coming out of Canada where a transgender woman is taking a woman to court for refusing to wax his testicles.  That’s right. Once again, in a normal world when a man demands a woman to touch his privates she is entitled to say no and to be protected by law, but in today’s Canada, he is the victim and she the perpetrator. Indeed, should the Victorian Bill be adopted, we can expect to see all manner of confusion and also litigation against religious groups who insist upon recognising biological gender rather than one’s self-assuming gender. Indeed, it is not only religious organisations that may find themselves in trouble with the law but also sporting clubs and schools and secular organsations. It is telling that Dr. Lawford-Smith, a self-identifying lesbian, is calling for the Bill to be rejected.

This isn’t about justice, this is about redefining the fundamental nature of women and men. It is the insane devolution of humanity at its most basic form. Biology no longer determines what is a man and what is a woman. Chromosomes, hormones, reproductive parts and sexual appendages now have no bearing on what constitutes male and female. The only factor that matters is how the self defines themselves. As Ben Shapiro astutely remarked last week, is female a set of stereotypes or is it biological? We are being told that it cannot be biological because a woman can have a penis just as men can give birth to children. Therefore,  femaleness must be definable by social stereotypes, a criteria of observable non-physical differences from males. But of course, the dilemma is that we are not permitted to suggest that men and women have any differences beyond the biological. So which is it, is a woman defined by biology or by stereotypes?

I write this as a leader in the Victorian community. I also understand that because I’m a Christian, my concerns will be automatically binned by some; I appreciate why.  Churches have lost almost all their moral impetus after facing scandal after scandal. The sexual sins uncovered inside some churches and religious organisations is beyond evil, if that is at all possible. And yet, how can one stand by and be silent in the face of such unhealthy legislation.

This is profoundly sad and harmful, both for Victorians wanting to change their gender and for people around them. I have had the opportunity to speak to the issue of gender dysphoria before, not as a medical expert, but as a community leader who values all people and who is deeply concerned about the radical and unscientific approach being adopted by our political leaders. Victorians struggling with gender dysphoria deserve our care and loving support, but as most clinical psychologists will explain, the majority of people wrestling with dysphoria will return to and be content with their biological sex. Those who continue to identify with the opposite gender need our affirmation of their dignity, but not a confirmation of their self-misconceptions. We don’t tell people with other disorders that their feelings are right and true. Do we agree with teenage girls suffering from eating disorders that they are overweight? It would be cruel to do so.

The sexual revolution knows no boundaries. It is one steep descent with nothing but jagged rocks at the bottom. From time to time, the next redefinition and social regression slows down because of hairpin corners (i.e. commonsense, scientific fact, or moral integrity), and then it’s off at speed again until the next hairpin. But what is left? There are few turns left on this destructive road. 

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

I trust that common sense will prevail, but in Victoria, we have little hope of that. In the midst of growing mistakes, the good news of God offers hurting and confused Victorians are better hope than the misleading efforts of our moral deconstructionists. The years ahead are going to create such confusion about what it means to be human. We need an example to show people, we need a Saviour who is good enough and loves us enough to redeem and restore. Thank God there is one better than ourselves to whom we can point our fellow Victorians: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)

 

(I made a small edit on July 29th)


New Victorian sex law a gender headache

by Bernad Lane

A law put up by Victoria’s Andrews government could expose women offering intimate services such as pubic waxing or underwear fitting to discrimination complaints if they reject trans women customers who still have penises, veteran human rights lawyer Moira Rayner has warned.

 

The new law would allow self-declared trans women, who possess a penis and have not undergone any sex-reassignment treatment, to change the sex that appears on their birth certificate, giving them access as women to equal opportunity protection.

Ms Rayner, a former state and federal human rights commissioner, said that, if enacted, the legislation could allow a Down Under version of Canada’s Jessica Yaniv case, in which a trans woman has lodged anti-discrimination complaints against 16 beauticians who did not want to handle her penis and testicles in order to grant her wish for a brazilian wax…

What is happening to my beloved State of Victoria?

What is happening to my beloved State of Victoria?

In so many ways she is the envy of the world, with our tremendous prosperity, sport, food, and lifestyle. And yet an out of control ideology is driving Victoria to a place that we ought not visit. Vehicle number plates are soon to be changed from, “stay alive” and “the place to be”, to “the place to die”.

The centrepiece of the economy is a casino.

Our favourite public holiday is all about gambling and drinking.

Best education practice has been overturned by one of the most dangerous social engineering projects we’ve ever seen in this country.

Opt-in Religious Instruction classes are almost impossible to hold, while parents are refused permission to opt-out their children from non-scientific and ideologically heavy sex programs.

No, I’m not entering the nutty world of wowserism, but I’m searching for reasonableness and compassion where both are fast exiting north along the Hume Highway.

vicV65108.jpg

The Victorian Parliament is about to decide whether to legalise euthanasia. The Bill is being debated this week, and it will almost certainly pass in both houses.

Daniel Andrews has called this legislation, “conservative assisted dying”, as though adding an obtuse adjective makes killing people somehow ok. Let us be clear, there is nothing conservative about handing out poison to human beings so that they can commit suicide. The fact that this is even being considered, demonstrates how warped we’ve become in our rationalisation. Despite some of the dishonest rhetoric accompanying  arguments for euthanasia, I have been informed by sources inside Spring Street that the intention is to soften and broaden the parameters for euthanasia down the track.

Medical experts have called for the Parliament to reject this legislation.

Over 100 palliative care specialists have pleaded that Victorians Parliamentary members stop this legislation from becoming law.

Over 100 oncologists informed the Government that assisted suicide is dangerous and should not be permitted.

“Physician assisted death is not, by definition, medical treatment. It is not palliative care.  We as doctors and medical specialists do not want   to intentionally end the lives of our patients, or provide them with the direct means to do so. Assisted suicide is in conflict with the basic ethical principles and integrity of medical practice and undermines trust in the medical profession. We strive to eliminate suffering but not the sufferers themselves.

Where cure of cancer is not possible, we seek optimal palliative care services to support and care for patients and their families at the end of life. Without easy access to quality palliative care, some may request physician assisted dying as they feel they have no other choice. This is especially so for people who live in rural, regional and remote areas and for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who have less access to palliative care services.

We are very disappointed that discussion of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has dominated the agenda to improve end of life care in Victoria. We are dismayed that the multiple recommendations made by the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into End of Life Choices (June 2016) to strengthen palliative care have not been actioned. Until this is addressed, discussing physician assisted dying is premature.”

Pharmacists have warned that they will be placed in an intolerable position, whereby they will be forced to subscribe poison to Victorians, with the aim of killing them.

Palliative care experts have called on the Government to provide a more compassionate and human alternative to euthanasia, namely, providing proper funding for palliative care.

Victoria isn’t losing its soul, we are actively killing the soul in order to win the prize of becoming the most socially progressive society in the nation. Sure, we’re winning the praise of many inner-surbanites, favourable editorials in The Age, and the adulations of those who want to be like Peter Singer, but is sacrificing our humanity worth it? When the warnings of hundreds of medical professionals are ignored, and when common sense becomes a liability in framing law, we know that we’ve jumped into the murky depths of the Yarra river.

Do Victorians truly want the State to justify killing its own citizens? What is more human, to kill the sick or to ensure they receive proper palliative care?

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)

Our Rubicon River

Should a cricket club have freedom to appoint persons who share the values of their club?

Should a political party have liberty to pre-select individuals who support and will promote their policies?

Should not a corporation employ professionals who will abide by the values and vision of that institution?

For most of our nation’s history Churches and Governments have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship; understanding their distinct roles while together serving for the good of society. Both have had their failings as well as making enormous contributions to building our society, but Australians have always been careful not to confuse the two.  Tomorrow (Tuesday 8th November) this judicious relationship may come to an end as the Victorian Government proposes a hostile takeover of all religious organisations.

The Victorian Legislative Council will tomorrow debate and vote on the proposed Inherent Requirements test. The purpose of this amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act is to require religious organisations to demonstrate that their employees must necessarily subscribe to the beliefs and values of that church, school, or charity. 

Religious organisations currently have freedom to employ persons who affirm the beliefs and practices shared by that organisation; this is only sensible. Should this legislation pass, a tribunal will be appointed by the Government who will determine what constitutes inherent requirements for all religions across the State. In other words, the Government is posturing itself as a teacher and arbiter of theology, with power to inform Churches, Synagogues, and religious schools whom they are to employ.

The Government has presented the amendment as a natural extension in the fight for equality, but the reality is quite different. Labor wants sameness not equality. This Bill will inevitably work against a pluralist and diverse society, and instead demand that Victorians fall into line with a rigid and historically dubious view of secularism.

Dr Michael Bird was right when he called out the inherent requirement test as an example of Secularized Erastianism, a philosophy which asserts that the State shapes and controls religious belief and practice.

I can imagine some secularists will be ecstatic at hearing the Government’s plan to further diminish religious freedom in Victoria, but is there not an air of hypocrisy in all this? Do atheistic humanists really want the Government functioning as bishops over churches, religious schools, and charities? Do nonbelievers genuinely think they have the academic credentials, expertise, and the right to define the theological parameters for synagogues and churches, explicating what is inherently required of that religion or not?

As Dr Bird notes, the problem is that “demonstrate a necessary connection” between beliefs and roles is notoriously subjective. There are no objective criteria here since beliefs and roles will vary from religion to religion and from organization to organization. So who is going to decide when a “necessary connection” exists between beliefs and roles and exactly how they will decide?’

The ‘inherent requirement’ test is all the more ironic, given how the Andrews’ Government has spent the last two years introducing several policies designed to push out Christian involvement from the public square, and now they are intent on invading religious spaces.

I cannot speak for all religious organisations, but when it comes to Christian Churches they are, for the most part, welcoming of anyone from any cultural, religious, sexual orientation background. I am not denying that there are appropriate rules and requirements for those who would serve in a formal capacity, and neither am I ignoring that associations can sometimes get it wrong. But the Christian Gospel is all about welcoming men and women who have no rights on God, no inherent claims on him, and yet in Jesus Christ we are lovingly forgiven and welcomed. This conviction has forged a tradition throughout the world of Christians starting not only churches, but also schools and hospitals and aged-care facilities, without which both our Government and society would collapse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Former Victorian Crown Counsel, Mark Sneddon, recently offered this caution against the Bill,

“The proposed bill amending the Equal Opportunity Act will not encourage Victorians to get along with each other. It won’t enable Victorians to live and let live. In fact, it is more likely to exacerbate division by creating legal weapons for forcing some voluntary associations to host or endorse views with which they deeply disagree.

Deep differences of moral vision will not be resolved by trying to legislate one view to supremacy and squashing others. Rather, we should accept that there are different views, and defend each other’s rights to hold and live out different views. Importantly, we should also commit to respectful communication so we can understand each other and agree how to live together peacefully with our differences.”

All the good that this Government may achieve is being swallowed up by their rigid and aggressive social agenda. This legislation is not only nonsensical, it is dangerous; they have reached the Rubicon and are intent on crossing it, and Victorians have no assurances that the Government will stop there.

As our representatives vote, I trust common sense will prevail and that freedom of association and religion will remain after November 8.

Petition to Uphold Freedom of Association and Freedom of Belief in Victoria

I’m not usually one for signing petitions, but if you are concerned for religious freedoms in Victoria, please consider signing this petition

 

“The petition of citizens of the State of Victoria and Australia draws to the attention of the Victorian Parliament our objection to the moves by the Victorian Government under the Equal Opportunity Amendment (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 to remove or restrict the freedom of faith-based schools and other organisations to employ staff who uphold the values of the organisation and to force faith-based organisations to hire staff who are fundamentally opposed to what the organisation stands for, thereby:-

(i) denying those organisations the freedom to operate in accordance with their beliefs and principles;

(ii) denying parents the ability to choose to send their children to schools that are able to give them the values based education their parents are looking for; and

(iii) undermining Victoria’s diverse, pluralist, multicultural society, which supports the right of people of many different faiths to establish institutions in accordance with their faith.”

Click on the link to sign the petition:

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petition-to-uphold-freedom-of-association-and-freedom-of-belief-in-victoria.html

Incoherent ‘inherent requirement’ test

Two months ago I sat in a packed room where Mr Tim Wilson MP and Rev Dr Michael Bird addressed the topic, ‘Freedom of Speech in Australia today’. During the conversation Mike Bird said that the next issue facing Victorians will be in relation to religious schools and discrimination policies. This week my non-prophetic friend was proven to be right: the Victorian Government announced that it will reintroduce the ‘inherent requirement’ test, impacting whom religious organisations may and may not employ.

The test was originally introduced by the previous Labor Government in 2010, but was removed in 2011 by the Coalition Government.

IMG_9102

This explanation is offered on the Premier’s website:

“The test was scrapped by the former Coalition Government in 2011, which left many Victorians vulnerable to discrimination when seeking employment with religious bodies or schools, particularly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inherent requirements test will limit the ability of a religious body or school to rely on a religious defence to discriminate in the area of employment because of a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or differing religious beliefs.

The defence will be limited to circumstances where religious beliefs are an inherent requirement of a job, and an employee or job applicant does not meet the requirement because of a specific personal attribute.

The test will not force religious bodies or schools to employ people with attributes that conflict with its religious beliefs and principles. However, it will require them to demonstrate a necessary connection between their religious beliefs and the requirements of a specific role.”

This latest move from the Victorian Government is disturbing, although not surprising. I appreciate and at times laud the Government’s move to ensure particular social minority groups are protected, including LGBTI people. But one may be forgiven for concluding that some of the extreme measures have less to do with the principle of inclusion, and more about exclusion.

For example, removing SRI from schools had nothing to do with advocating sexual equality. Indeed, the list of anti-religious of measures is growing, and one can only wonder where and if Mr Andrews’ will draw the line. Over the last two years many Victorian families have come to feel as though they are being pushed away from public schools, and now it appears as though the same Government is set on invading the religious school space also, and that of any religious organisation. It is yet unclear whether Churches will be protected from this test or not.

The inherent requirement test is a deeply flawed concept:

First, the notion of ‘inherent requirement’ depends upon imposing a secularist view of religion. The test presumes a separation between what is considered spiritual work and what is not. It is surmising, for example, that a gardener or an office administrator is not doing specifically Christian work because they are not teaching the Bible, etc. This is a false dichotomy that does not exist in Christian faith, nor in many other religions. Every role is an expression of commitment to God and is a valuable part of the whole which serves a common purpose.

Second, this test wrongly assumes that because a particular role does not have a direct theological or spiritual teaching component, it therefore does not matter whether the employee agrees with the organisation’s ethos, beliefs, and vision. This is purely illogical. Why would any organisation or company employ a person who does not support the basic values and vision of that association?

Equal Opportunity doesn’t mean sameness. I’m not doubting the Victorian Government’s commitment to ‘equal opportunity’, but their paradigm of equal opportunity is flawed, and represents an ethic that is not ultimately about diversity, but about conformity.

During that cold July night when Michael Bird pre-empted Mr Andrews’ announcement this week, Tim Wilson offered an idea which deserves consideration as the Victorian Parliament wrestles with this legislation. Mr Wilson believes that the question of whom religious organisations employ is better dealt with through contracts rather than through law. He said,

“In terms of hiring and firing people, I don’t think it’s best dealt with through law. I fully accept that religious institutions have a right to preserve the environment and the value systems of people who embody those value systems.”

“It is the right of children and parents, to raise their children in the culture, traditions and customs to which they hold dear.”

Finally, the question needs to be asked, is it reasonable for a Government to determine what constitutes required religious adherence or not? Is it the Government’s role to dictate theology and ministry practice? Does the Government have the necessary skills and knowledge required to adequately understand theology and therefore make the right judgement regarding the question of what is inherent?

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.

IMG_0214

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?

The good & not so good from the Safe Schools Review

First of all, I want to thank Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for calling the review of Safe Schools, and Education Minister, Simon Birmingham for his role in overseeing the process.

I know many people are grateful to these and other members of Parliament who have listened to the concerns expressed by the public.

The proposed changes are indeed positive and welcomed, however there remain a number of serious concerns, especially for Victorians.

The positives:

I have copied the Minister’s report below, but to summarise the more significant amendments.

  1. Parents will now have more access to the program, be included in the process if and when a school considers using Safe Schools, and be given the right to have their children opt-out of the program.
  2. Third-party websites will removed except for “organisations funded by state, territory or Commonwealth governments for the provision of mental health or counselling services.”
  3. The content from some lessons will be either removed or reconfigured to be less affronting and to be more age appropriate.
  4. There will be tighter controls on what materials can be used and distributed in classes and in schools.

The negatives:

1. The Network Provider in Victoria is La Trobe University, the very group who authored the program. According to the findings of the review, the La Trobe university team have been found to have written material unsuitable for young teens, and using the program to promote political ideologies.

It is therefore surely untenable to have La Trobe university acting as Network Provider for the State of Victoria. Their reputation has been diminished, and trust significantly eroded, if not altogether.

What guarantees do we have that Roz Ward and her colleagues will desist from using school children as a means to further their ideological agenda? If this were any other education program, they would surely be removed from such an influential position of power over schools and children.

2. What guarantee is there for Victorian families that children will be given permission to opt-out of the program?

While the Federal Government are making this guarantee, the Victorian Government have repeated their policy that the program will be mandatory.

What are Victorian families to expect when our Education Minister, James Merlino, refers to the Federal Government as “caving into bigots”?  Where does that leave 100,000s of Victorians who are against bullying but do not support Safe Schools? The possibility of any genuine dialogue with the Andrews’ Government is doubtful, and no wonder there are people using social media to lash out at concerned persons, when we are hearing Government ministers resorting to such malicious rhetoric.

3. The fact remains that Safe Schools teaches gender fluidity (as though it is the new norm), and it encourages children to question their own sexual orientation and practices. It is ironic that this imbedded doctrine of gender fluidity remains so  intolerant towards anyone who doesn’t fit within its parameters. Teaching children to doubt or ignore biology, and to create their sense of sexuality will inevitably lead to confusion, experimentation and harm.

At this stage, children who believe in heteronormacy will still be labelled as ‘sexists’, and children with unwanted same-sex attraction are given little choice other than to believe that it is inevitable, permanent, and to be embraced.

P1013305.JPG

Like with Autumn the leaves fall from their branches so Safe Schools has been pruned, but its roots remain unchanged. The revisions are a good start, but they do not go far enough. Safe Schools remains a social engineering program that is wired to change the way children view themselves and each other. With the revisions announced today it is certainly a more sensible program, but the wisest course would have been to put Safe Schools to rest and introduce a new and better program which teaches respect, kindness and resilience.

Guercino_-_Jesus_and_the_Samaritan_Woman_at_the_Well_-_WGA10946

There is a story in John’s Gospel where Jesus broke the cultural expectations of his day by speaking to a Samaritan woman. At that time Samaritans were considered social outcasts, and often discriminated against. Jesus’ conversation is all the more outrageous because the person before him was a woman and she was then living with a man to whom she was not married.  To our culture of anything goes this may not sound particularly shocking, but at that time this woman was guilty of  triple-headed social evil. However, it didn’t stop Jesus.

The text tells us how Jesus understood her heart and her past, and yet he struck up a conversation with her, showed her kindness, and even offered this astonishing word, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In other words, Jesus did not agree with her lifestyle and yet he loved her and broke down cultural barriers to express kindness to her.

In contrast, many advocates for Safe Schools are repeatedly slandering, and throwing around derogatory names toward anyone getting in the way of this program.

Which of the two examples demonstrates greater tolerance? Which of these two illustrations is more attractive?

Augustine once wrote,

“I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Safe Schools may get a few things rights, but its blind commitment to a particular gender theory is setting the stage for a generation of confused children and a society that will grow less tolerant by the day. We need better. We must do better. We can do better.

——————————————————————

Here are the stated changed announced by Simon Birmingham:

1. Fix the content of the programme resources by:

a. Having the lesson plans for Lessons 2, 6 and 7 of the All of Us resource amended to remove those activities identified by the review as potentially unsuitable for some students.

b. Having the content of Lesson 5 of the All of Us resource redesigned to ensure that the content aligns with the curriculum content for biology appropriate for the target age group.

c. Requiring that the amended resources and any further resources be peer reviewed and approved by a panel of qualified educators appointed by the Department of Education and Training.

2. Address concerns about third party links, advocacy and materials in resources by:

a. Having all third party organisation branding removed from all official resources.

b. Having reference to any third parties limited to organisations funded by state, territory or Commonwealth governments for the provision of mental health or counselling services.

c. Requiring that national and local programme managers not bring the programme into disrepute, or engage in political advocacy in a way that represents their views as being endorsed by the programme.

d. Requiring that the resources for the programme not be used for political advocacy.

3. Limit the distribution of certain materials by:

a. Requiring local programme managers to ensure the distribution and promotion of Safe Schools Coalition Australia programme materials is restricted to secondary school settings only.

b. Restricting the use and distribution of the OMG I’m Queer, OMG My Friend’s Queer and Stand Out resources, which were not developed as classroom resources, to one-on-one discussions between students and key qualified staff.

4. Align the location of resources with other inclusion, support, tolerance and anti-bullying measures by housing official resources only on the official Australian Government Safe Schools Hub website, which contains other inclusion and anti-bullying resources for schools, teachers, parents and students in areas such as racism, domestic violence and disabilities. The Safe Schools Coalition Australia website will not have any resources, advice or links and will limit operations to programme coordination and direct users to the Safe Schools Hub for access to official programme resources only.

5. Ensure parents are appropriately empowered and engaged by:

a. Requiring agreement of relevant parent bodies for schools to participate in the Safe Schools Coalition Australia programme, including the extent of participation and any associated changes to school policies.

b. Requiring parental consent for student participation in programme lessons or activities, while maintaining the rights of all students to seek counselling services.

c. Having an official fact sheet for the Safe Schools Coalition Australia programme for parents about the programme developed so they have access to full and consistent information of its content and the resources that may be used in schools.

d. Having an official resource for parents of students dealing with questions of sexual identity developed, and distributed only by key qualified staff.

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.

12715405_1117430541613973_7239837344654408155_n

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

‘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?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

sample activity.png

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.