An Australian Christian school has withdrawn its contract containing a declaration of faith on gender and sexuality amid two government probes and fierce criticism from the community and politicians, including the prime minister.
Citipointe Christian College, in Brisbane, had sent a contract to parents last Friday which stated “the college will only enrol the student on the basis of the gender that corresponds to their biological sex” and that sexual immorality, such as homosexuality, bestiality, incest and paedophilia, was “sinful.”
In a video message to parents on Tuesday, Principal Brian Mulherin argued “a legitimate exercise of religious freedom is not discrimination” but “a feature of an open society.” He said since the College was established for religious purposes, it has “the freedom to maintain our Christian ethos and provide families with an education based on our shared beliefs.”
However, following combined pressure from the Human Rights Commission, the government’s non-state accreditation board, the Education Minister and the Prime Minister, Mulherin said families will no longer be asked to sign the contract for their children to be enrolled.
“We deeply regret that some students feel that they would be discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity, and I apologise to them and their families on behalf of the College,” Mulherin announced in a statement on Thursday morning.
“As stated previously, the College does not and will not discriminate against any student because of their sexuality or gender identity.
“It is central to our faith that being gay or transgender in no way diminishes a person’s humanity or dignity in God’s eyes.”
But the Principal also noted it is “deeply distressing” that some of the students at the College have been “vilified” in the community “simply for their religious beliefs or because they attend the College.”
Mulherin added that by withdrawing the contract, he hoped people could return their focus to the school’s Christian education.
“Every individual is created equal in the image of God and should be treated with compassion, love, kindness, respect and dignity,” he said.
“Our society gives freedom to people to be a part of groups with shared beliefs… As a College established for religious purposes, we will continue to provide an education based on our shared beliefs.”
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told B105 Radio that he did not support the contract but that the school was not in breach of the current federal law.
“My kids go to a Christian school here in Sydney, and I wouldn’t want my school doing that either,” he said.
Under the current religious discrimination bill, which is debated in Parliament this week, religious people are allowed to make statements of belief while faith-based schools can hire teachers and select students based on the schools’ religious beliefs.
Education Minister Grace Grace, who has a non-binary child, told The Epoch Times on Wednesday that the school “should do the Christian thing and withdraw this hurtful enrolment contract immediately.”
“We have freedom of religion in this country, but as the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner has said, schools cannot contract out of their duties under discrimination laws by asking parents or students to agree to discriminatory terms,” Grace said.
Meanwhile, a petition by the Australian Christian Lobby calling for support for the College has gathered over 27,000 signatures by Feb. 3, with the organiser saying, “Christian schools must be able to maintain their biblical values and hire staff who affirm and model those values.”
Lyle Shelton, director of the Christian Democratic Party, said although Christianity holds that its adherents “should turn the other cheek,” “being gracious does not mean abandoning the speaking of truth in the public square.”
“We must also defend children against the harmful gender fluid and sexual expressionist ideology that is now being forced upon even Christian schools,” he wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.
“The attack by a small group of LGBTIQ+ activists and the mainstream media on Citipointe Christian College is an attack on every faithful Christian in Australia.”