Guest Column

Endangered Christian Schools

The wave of woke has been looming over Christian schools for decades. In a culture that has been regressively secularising, it is hardly surprising that the new woke religion, centred on the worship of diversity, sexual liberty and equality, has trained its sights on conservative religious educational institutions. They are one of the last places of resistance.

The recent Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report and the federal Labor government’s draft religious discrimination bill constitute the latest attempt to bring the woke wave crashing down on religious education in Australia. The 2017 same-sex-marriage “referendum” was a key step, but so was the development of the now decades-old anti-discrimination legislation. There have been rumblings about section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act for years, as the active promotion of sexual libertinism has replaced cultural Christian mores.

In response to the ALRC’s report, the Albanese government drafted a bill, which includes provisions to remove exceptions for religious schools. This comes after years of to-and-fro between the ideology of equality and the integrity of Christian education, with consecutive Coalition governments posturing about religious freedom, but never delivering. Now that the ALP is back on the treasury benches, the conservative Right might come to regret their dithering on the issue.

The proposed law would, in essence, remove the right for Christian institutions to hire and fire, and to shape enrolment policies, around core tenets of their faith. This would be nothing short of an attack on Christian believers’ right to freedom of association. Christian parents, churches and their fellow travellers exercise their freedom to choose how their children are educated. Many choose Christian schools, be they Roman Catholic, independent or denominational. They pay fees, some of them tens of thousands of dollars a year. They do this because they value what faith-based schools give their children.

With the proposed alteration to federal anti-discrimination legislation, Christian schools and the communities of faith that undergird their existence are being asked to sacrifice the religious identity of their educational institutions on the altar of equality. Activists and politicians on the side of the proposed laws argue that Christian institutions no longer have the right to exclude people on the basis of Christian ethics. Certain people, especially those in the LGBT+ camp, should no longer be discriminated against on religious grounds, no matter the cost to the identity of the school. So the argument goes.

Removing section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act would achieve this end. Echoing the rhetoric of Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, advocates of the proposal argue that this could provide an enduring solution to the quandary that has arisen in the conflict between traditional religious faith and the new religion of equality. The tension has been high for over a decade, and the Labor government is looking to break the impasse.

But why has the LGBT+ lobby been pressing for the removal of the section 38 exceptions for so long? What is preventing parents and students who don’t want a conservative Christian education from going to another school? The magnifying of parental choice in education undergirds the strength of the religious schooling sector in Australia, which has seen rapid growth since the Howard government opened up government funding for independent private schools.

The LGBT+ lobby want to reduce parental choice. They want to flatten the differences between schools. The result of the proposed legislation would be the abolition of genuine Christian schools in this country. When a school loses control over its people, whether students or staff, it loses its culture and ethos. A Christian school that must include people who live or teach contrary to the tenets of the faith will become no different from any other school.

The Albanese government proposal also signals the decline of public Christianity. Archbishop Anthony Fisher rightly linked this latest move to the forced acquisition of Calvary Hospital in the ACT, and the persecution of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous. Recall, too, the Essendon Football Club debacle with Andrew Thorburn in 2022. In that sordid case, for which the Bombers eventually issued an apology long after the damage was done, a man whose only sin was attending and serving in a conservative-leaning church was denied the possibility of leading an elite football club.

These examples are linked by one thread: the silencing and suppression of Christian people, Christian institutions and Christian opinions. In the case of Christian schools, what the ALRC and the Albanese government want is to prevent these schools from operating according to their deeply held convictions. But what is a Christian school that must hire an openly gay man or a trans-woman? How can that school uphold the basic beliefs of the Christian faith?

Some will argue that matters of sexuality and gender don’t count as core Christian beliefs—the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t mention marriage between a man and a woman, for example. That claim is misguided at best, and insidious at worst. Christians do not only profess doctrinal truths about Jesus Christ’s divinity and his life, death and resurrection. These are, indeed, central to the faith. But they are not the only things that matter. Ask any Christian and they will tell you that the frontline issues in Australian culture for the church are sexuality and gender. The attacks on the faith today are not about the divinity of Christ, as they were in the early twentieth century, or the origins of the universe, as they were a few decades ago.

That is precisely why more progressive churches will proudly display LGBT+ flags and foreground their equality and diversity credentials. More conservative churches, who hold to traditional beliefs on sexuality and the roles of men and women in the home and church, often shield these views to avoid scrutiny. Others foreground them, hoping to attract those who reject the madness that our society has descended into.

Christians traditionally have a distinct sexual ethic, one that undergirds their view of marriage, family, community and wider society. For a long time, that ethic mapped onto the sexual ethic of Western society. The Sexual Revolution, which, according to some, originated in the 1960s, but can probably be traced to the Industrial Revolution, began to unravel this. No-fault divorce, sexual libertinism and an increasingly combative feminism all challenged the Christian status quo.

Many in Australian society, including some Christian believers, passively conceded this ground to the revolutionaries. But not everyone bowed to the pressure. Some people, and some institutions, held out. Many of those institutions were socially and theologically conservative churches, and some of these churches started schools in reaction to the cultural revolutions of the 1970s and 1980s. These same schools are holding out against the woke revolution today.

However, these schools may not be able to keep their fingers in the dyke much longer. If the current proposals succeed, it will be near impossible for these institutions to maintain their identity in the face of the pagan sexual culture that is dominating the West. If the biblical sexual ethic cannot be taught in the classroom and reflected in who works at and enrols in Christian schools, then these institutions can no longer be fully and faithfully Christian.

Many will argue that these schools can continue to offer a Christian education, even if they must eliminate any distinctiveness in their sexual ethic. They would be correct, but only in the narrowest possible sense. Education is the formation of whole people, not merely the imparting of information. The people who teach have a huge impact on the kind of formation that the student receives. For a Christian school, they are not just delivering content—they are advocates for a way of life and faith.

This neutering of Christian sexual ethics will make these institutions functionally secular. Schools that can no longer hire those whose lives and loves reflect the distinct ethos of the institution must change their ethos. That is precisely what the priests of equality want. Just like Christian educators, these woke activists want to form students’ lives and loves. They want to ensure their people get in front of every classroom they can, to normalise and promote the woke religion.

A Christian education insider once said to me that governments “won’t make Christian schools illegal—they will regulate Christianity out of our schools”. He was right. Whether or not that is the design, the Albanese government’s proposed bill will do just that. The wave of woke has almost hit. When it does, we can say goodbye to distinctively Christian schooling in Australia.

Simon Kennedy is the Associate Editor of Quadrant. He is also a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Danube Institute in Budapest

6 thoughts on “Endangered Christian Schools

  • GG says:

    The same sex couples optional postal survey 2017 – no, it was not a referendum in any respect – attracted only 79% of eligible voters, contrasted to an election which attracts 96%+ of electors. Buoyed by multimillion dollar funding from the usual suspects, the “yes” vote won 61% nationally from this reduced pool of voters. That means it attracted only 48% of what would have been a full national vote. The PR spin machines whirred into motion, misrepresenting it as a majority endorsement. It was nothing of the kind, and the numbers proved it.

  • DougD says:

    Surely the Albanese government will not ban all religious schools. It won’t touch the Muslim schools.

    • padraic says:

      That’s probably why the LGBT+ lobby is in favour of Hamas and hoping that such support will win over the Muslim endorsement of the proposed deletion of section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act. I think they have Buckley’s chance with that and indeed with the other religions. I would hope that the Opposition will oppose such a step and promise to overturn it if they get back into government.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON says:

    The Far-Left Socialist Albanese Government won’t ban Muslim schools in largely Muslim electorates. They are afraid of a voter backlash which may be violent. Protestant Christian schools on the other hand will have to mind their P’s and Q’s and be masters of political chess to try and stay afloat. Catholic schools may have a bit more clout and immunity because of their voting skin in the game. Protestant and Catholic schools will no doubt be relying on a bit of flow on immunity provided by the Muslim school beachhead.

  • padmmdpat says:

    Think about it. For some time now we’ve been told that the LGBT+ (so called) community have been weeping and wailing outside church doors pleading to be accepted and invited in. Yet at the same time they want to silence Chistianity in the public square. What’s going on here? I have a hunch it has little if anything to do with rights and quite a lot to do with hatred.

  • David Isaac says:

    This is just part of the anti-White agenda. Solid, traditional Christian schooling with normal undebased Western morality represents the best hope of transmitting Western culture and life expectations to young people. For boys to grow up to be unabashedly masculine but compassionate men and for girls to grow up to be feminine women with a bias towatds becoming mothers is not oart of the plan for the destruction of the White race.

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