If anyone was under any illusions that there would be a “live and let live” attitude from the purveyors of the Sexular Age, then the recommendations of The Australian Law Reform Commission, in terms of how Christian schools should be able to staff themselves, will dispel such illusions. It’s quite a depressing first-up read.
It’s only a matter of time before schools have to decide whether they will simply allow their identity to die …
Make no mistake, the ALRC has faith-based schools in its sights. And it’s only a matter of time before schools have to decide whether they will simply allow their identity to die the death of a thousand cuts.
A Rival Gospel
And I’m not sure most staff in Christian schools get it. The ALRC, and state governments around this country are implacably determined to push the gospel of sexual diversity not only as something that schools must teach, but that must supplant the biblical framework. And not just in what they teach, but in who they employ to teach it.
This is a gospel issue. A rival gospel issue. There is a good news story wrapped up in sexual identity that the secular evangelists are promoting. And they have the time, resources, evangelists, and, currently the power, to ensure their gospel rings out across the land.
This is a gospel issue. A rival gospel issue.
There is no live-and-let-live here. Christian educators who imagine that their different opinion might be tolerated—or even celebrated, funded and accredited—need to wake up.
Christian students need their school leaders to show clarity and bravery. They need schools to model the difference Jesus makes in our lives; to give them clarity about what it means to truly flourish as a human. They need their school to model a better story to their peers—so that, even if their friends do not end up believing it, they can see that it is something to be envious of.
The Government’s Roadmap
Meanwhile, the commission has ostensibly been asking for submissions responding to its consultation paper so that it can determine a way forward. But when you read the paper, the direction is foregone: Christian schools must not be allowed to reject staff (or potential staff) who side with Sexular values.
Those in the know have told me that the ALRC’s recommendations are almost certain to be adopted by the Federal Government, overriding all state legislations or protections. I was also told that it won’t really matter if you get to speak to a submission before the legislators; they’re not interested in what we have to say.
Neil Foster, who’s a bit of an expert in the legal side of things, has written an excellent blog post on this here. Neil is much more circumspect emotionally than I am (I am Northern Irish, after all), but he’s under no illusions about the implications of the ALRC’s agenda:
It effectively recommends the removal of protections enjoyed by religious educational institutions which have been designed to safeguard the ability of these organisations to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs. The “fences” protecting these bodies from being forced to conform to majority views on sexual behaviour and identity (and hence losing their distinctiveness as religious bodies) are to be knocked down, the ALRC says. But the paper offers no convincing reasons for this wholesale demolition of a structure which has served the diversity and plurality of the Australian community for many years. Rather than supporting “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”, the paper’s recommendations would require a compulsory uniformity which would undermine the reasons for the existence of faith-based educational institutions…And when we come to the substantive recommendations, what we find is that at almost every point, balancing clauses currently in force to allow religious schools and colleges to operate in accordance with their faith, are to be abolished.
So what are the recommendations? Here are the four points summed up by Neil:
Proposition A : Religious schools and colleges can no longer apply conduct rules relating to student behaviour in the area of sexual activity or gender identity, except for theological colleges training clergy for formal ordination. Schools and colleges can, however (very carefully) still teach their religiously based views on appropriate sexual behaviour.
Proposition B: Religious schools and colleges can no longer apply conduct or speech rules to their staff in the areas of sexual activity or gender identity, except for theological colleges training clergy for formal ordination. But staff can be asked nicely to teach the doctrines of the religion on these issues.
Proposition C: Religious schools and colleges can require staff to share the religious outlook of the body, or preference such staff in appointments, but only where participation in teaching religion is a “genuine requirement” of the position and the differential treatment is “proportionate”. In making these decisions, however, no consideration may be given to staff behaviour, views or identity relating to sexual activity, or orientation, or gender identity.
Proposition D: Staff at a religious school or college can be required not to “actively undermine” the ethos of their employer, but no criteria relating to sexual activity or orientation or gender identity can be imposed.
Now it’s worth reading Neil’s article in full. He’s a great legal exegete and I am not. Yet it shows how little secularists actually understand religion. They think you can live a compartmentalised life —“not actively undermining” the religion in your teaching, your way of engaging with students, your life in the staffroom or the department building, while living completely opposite of what the school teaches. It’s as if the ALRC thinks religious life is a set of abstract ideas that you can verbally assent to and that’s it.
It shows how little secularists actually understand religion.
What’s also alarming is that the commission—while allowing schools the right to teach what they foundationally believe about matters such as sexuality, marriage, gender etc.— is going to require those schools to teach alternate viewpoints. This is interference at the curriculum level that secularists would chafe at if the other way around.
Make or Break
Folks, this is the make-or-break time for Christian schooling. I don’t mean whether those schools whose shingle out the front claims allegiance to a denomination or has the word “Christian” in it. I mean those schools that seek to offer an alternative vision to the Sexular Age’s vision of what life is about. If Christian schools don’t take a stand on what is the single-most hostile assault on biblical distinctives, then why bother?
The ALRC and its cultural cronies know that the biblical vision is at odds with the progressive, secular vision they wish to promulgate. And if they can’t legally shut down those educational institutions that make it harder for them to get the message out, then they’re going to disempower and domesticate them.
Of course, none of this removes the need for Christian schools to show love when they are dealing with the coalface of the sexual revolution. When self-identifying trans students and those who say they are gay or non-binary are in your classrooms everyday they must navigate that space carefully and pastorally.
Yet most schools do. The stories that make the news are few and far between. However, the ALRC is not interested in the idea of schools pastorally caring for, or walking alongside, students while disagreeing with their lifestyle choices. They are interested only in suppressing the message that there is a better, more holistic, and more satisfying identity available in Christ. For Sexularists, Jesus can stay, but only if he doesn’t interfere with the true salvation that is self-expression.
So watch this space. Pooh-pooh my concerns, if you like. But that’s the direction this thing is going, and unless there is a concerted effort to stand our ground, that’s the place we’re going to land. Disagree with me if you will, but you’re going to have to give me another likelier outcome if you do so.
First published at stephenmcalpine.com