The Australian Christian Lobby urges Victorian members of parliament to resist any push to penalise mums, dads or others' faith-based discussion with their children, family or congregational members about issues of sexuality or gender.Read more
8 March 2016
Victorian school communities should be free to say no to the so-called Safe Schools Coalition, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
ACL Victorian Director Dan Flynn said the Andrews Government was wrong to force the age-inappropriate sexualised program on school communities and parents when opposition against it was growing.
“It is of deep concern to the Australian Christian Lobby and many Victorian parents that the Government is behaving like big brother and enforcing contested rainbow ideology onto our children,” Mr Flynn said.
Mr Flynn made the comments in response to a media report yesterday in which the Andrews Government first appeared to back away from making the program compulsory before back-peddling and reaffirming its stance to make Safe Schools mandatory in every Victorian high school by 2018.
“School communities that have decided not to align themselves with the program, such as Kyabram P-12 College, should not be forced to do so," Mr Flynn said.
He said bullying children for any reason was unacceptable but the Safe Schools program went way beyond the purview of an anti-bullying program.
“As parents and teachers become better informed they are questioning why their school should have the program, particularly when other anti-bullying programs are already available which already address minority issues,” Mr Flynn said.
“The Victorian Government should immediately withdraw the program from schools, pending its review by the Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham.
“As a significant funder of the program, the Victorian Government has a duty to Victorian taxpayers to hold its own review into Safe Schools.
"Parents expect their children to be safe at school but encouraging boys who identify as girls to use the girls’ bathrooms and share school camp accommodation is not the way to do this," Mr Flynn said.
"Safe Schools tells children they must have access to the Minus 18 website which instructs girls in chest binding so their breasts are flattened and penis tucking for boys.
“We are opposed to making the program mandatory and forcing parents and children to take on this rainbow ideologically driven program.”
Media: 02 6259 0431
In fact the organisers had earlier had to cancel a talk by a Sydney-based Muslim speaker titled Honour Killings Are Morally Justified.
So as I walked into the Sydney Opera House on Saturday I decided to approach the festival with an open yet skeptical mind.
What I was really interested in was a talk by Kajsa Ekman on the topic of surrogacy. Ekman is a Swedish journalist and activist. She’s the author of the book Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, surrogacy and the split self.
Given the recent controversy surrounding surrogacy, including the heart-wrenching story of baby Gammy, I wanted to hear what Ekman had to say.
Here are three things I learned about surrogacy from Ekman’s talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
Surrogacy is baby trading
This position is difficult to refute. The surrogate mother doesn’t get paid for being pregnant. Rather, she is paid for handing over a baby. Money changes hands and the item being purchased is a new born baby. This is the ultimate in the commodification of humanity and is blatant buying and selling of children—a modern form of human trafficking.
Surrogacy exploits women in poverty
Supporters of surrogacy argue that women who are trapped in poverty can change their circumstance through selling the rights to their womb. Singles or couples are prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a child.
In defending the right to commercial surrogacy we are defending the interests of the world’s richest people to purchase a family.
Some people argue that because some women are poor, they should sell their womb in order to survive. Poverty becomes an excuse for exploitation. Is that the kind of world we want? This is commercialising life itself – everything is for sale, while those facilitating the transaction get rich. Surrogacy demeans the unique mother-child bond as women can now solely be used as breeding machines.
Surrogacy violates the rights of children
Surrogacy is too often a bad bargain for both the women and children involved in the process.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child affirms that a child must not, "save in the most exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother", and yet surrogacy does exactly that. It is deliberate and premeditated.
Australian ethicist Professor Margaret Somerville condemns any deliberate destruction of the child's biological identity. She says:
"It is one matter for children not to know their genetic identity as a result of unintended circumstances. It is quite another matter to deliberately destroy children's links to their biological parents, and especially for society to be complicit in this destruction."
Helping an infertile couple to have a baby of their own is seen by many as a generous and compassionate gesture from a woman who can help. In this way, everyone can have their own children without having to be pregnant, and poor women can earn some extra money. It looks like a win-win situation. But at a closer look, the surrogacy industry is an exploitation of women's bodies and a sophisticated form of baby trade.
Last Thursday I was giving evidence at a Senate committee examining a Greens Bill to recognise overseas same-sex marriages.
I was presenting with a group of representatives of the Roman Catholic, Baptist and Presbyterian churches.
We explained why changing the definition of marriage was a bad idea for the rights of children to know and be loved by their biological parents and why it was a threat to free speech and religion.
The bill’s author, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young chose not to engage us on the substance of our arguments.
However, in a welcome gesture, she struck a conciliatory note with us at the public hearings.
“The most important thing in this debate, and I have seen many of you across this table on various occasions, is I think the level of debate is becoming more respectful. That is what I wanted to raise with you because I have been doing this for a long time and I think we are becoming more concise on both sides about what it is that we care about and what it is that the law should and should not cover. I wanted to thank you for participating in a good-natured way.”
We were glad to hear this because those of us campaigning to retain the definition of marriage have often been called bigots and homophobes and even told there is no place in Australia for people who hold our views.
I thought that perhaps we were entering a new phase where we could be free to speak without these pejorative slurs being levelled at us.
My hope was short-lived.
Less than a week later, Ms Hanson-Young gave an interview to The Guardian regarding yesterday’s National Marriage day at Parliament House, organised by the Australian Family Association.
“[it was] disappointing that government members are bringing these extreme views to parliament. …. The passage of time will not be kind to these homophobic and outdated views. If Abbott government ministers are comfortable associating themselves with these views, they’ll have to explain that to the public.”
I was disappointed to see these comments, following her words and soft tone at the Senate hearings last week.
I’m tired of being called “extreme” and “homophobic” for arguing that a child has the right to her mother and father, something that would be abolished in culture and law if same-sex marriage was legislated.
By all means, engage our arguments. But please don’t try and bludgeon us into silence.
As Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews told the National Marriage Day dinner at the National Press Club last night, the same-sex marriage debate is quickly morphing into a debate about what can and cannot be said about marriage.
The Greens sure are committed.
Last week in the Senate they tried and failed to remove the Lord’s Prayer from parliament.
Since 1901, the prayer has been recited at the start of each sitting day in the senate and house of representatives by the president and speaker respectively.
A group of committed pray-ers is always present in each chamber. No one is forced.
Australia did not become what it is in a vacuum. Christianity had a profound impact on the development of western institutions, including parliament.
While not everyone in Australia is Christian (although more than 60 per cent tell the census they are), nothing changes the fact that Christianity made a significant contribution to making Australia what it is today.
It is a simple fact that Christianity is part of our cultural heritage in a way that other religions are not. That is no disrespect to them. The ethics and ideas of other religions simply did not have the same impact on the formation of western values and the Australian nation.
As the pre-European peoples of this land, indigenous people, are of course a huge part of our cultural heritage. Recognition of their cultural heritage is also acknowledged in parliament each day and that is fair enough. The Greens have not sought to remove this.
Most of us would condemn the cutting down of a 113 year old tree, but when it comes to our cultural heritage the Greens are happy to fell any vestiges of the values of our past.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale cites the separation of church and state for wanting to remove the prayer.
This misunderstanding of the concept is becoming wearisome. The Greens and others who abuse this concept are attempting to cloak their secularism in neutrality and objectivity, but in reality seem to be excluding Christianity in order to substitute their own secular irreligion.
Australia was founded with the principle of separation of church and state but it was never meant to keep religious ideas, people or even prayers out of public life.
It was simply to ensure that Australia, unlike Britain, did not have an established church constitutionally entwined with the state.
The idea was for all religions to be allowed to flourish without any being favoured by the state.
This in no way precludes the Lord’s Prayer being recited or the Muslim MP Ed Husic swearing an oath on the Koran, as he did when he was appointed to the front bench during the previous government.
There is a clash of ideas and values occurring in our political discourse. That’s fine, that’s healthy, that’s democracy.
Suggesting that someone’s faith has no place in the workplace, as Senator Di Natale did, is anti-democratic. Why are Di Natale’s views superior?
Australia would not be the nation it is today if ethical ideas informed by faith were disbarred from the public discourse.
Whether people believe in God or not, the ideas of the teacher Jesus embodied in the Lord’s Prayer are worth reflecting on.
The idea that humans are not the font of all power is especially worth meditating on. Especially in parliament.
Meanwhile, the Greens have vowed to keep fighting to remove the prayer in the same way they are relentlessly campaigning to redefine marriage.
It is time to push back on their vision to deconstruct our civic and family life.
They are a small political party but they have a big voice. Seasoned with grace, we should start to use our voice. Silence is no longer an option.
Premier Denis Napthine has said the government would act quickly to draft legislation in response to the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee Betrayal of Trust report.
The report’s recommendations cover five important areas: changes to the criminal law; easier access to the civil justice system; an independent, alternative avenue for justice; greater independent monitoring and scrutiny of organisations; and further improvements to
prevention systems and processes.
The Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart released a statement shortly after the report stating the Catholic Church in Victoria welcomed the findings.
The committee, which consisted of 6 members of parliament, received 486 submissions and held 33 public hearings between October 2012 and June 2013.
In the opening remarks of the report, Chairwoman, Ms Georgie Crozier MP said:
“The criminal abuse of children is unacceptable in any form. It symbolises a departure from morals that are the touchstone of our humanity and our society”
The report found the overwhelming majority of children participating in activities in religious and other non-governmental organisations or who are cared for by staff in those organisations are safe and derive great benefit from their involvement.
However, the report details the incidence of criminal child abuse “in some of society’s most trusted and respected institutions and organisations”
The report acknowledged that criminal child abuse has profound and lifelong consequences for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of victims and their parents.
During hearings (many conducted in camera) victims detailed horrendous and traumatic experiences while in the care of non-government organisations.
The committee heard many victims were not given the basic level of respect they expected and deserved. The Committee found that organisations often did not assume responsibility for the harm victims had suffered and sometimes even concealed the truth.
The Committee reported that the majority of evidence from victims indicated that between the 1950s and 1980s the response of specific organisations to criminal child abuse was seriously inadequate and sometimes non-existent, particularly in religious organisations.
The Committee made the following reform recommendations to the sector and to the Victorian Parliament.
The Committee emphasised the importance of organisational leaders developing cultures that protect children from criminal abuse. Requirements for organisations to manage “situational risks”, developing child safe policies with zero tolerance for child abuse and clear processes for reporting breaches were proposed by the Committee.
Reforms to the criminal law have been recommended, including creating an offence of:
- “grooming” of a child or the child’s family,
- “child endangerment”-imposing criminal responsibility where a person in authority, intentionally or recklessly fails to protect a child from harm or abuse, and
- “failing to report a serious indictable offence against a child”.
It has been recommended that limitations on time frames for victims to commence civil proceedings be abolished.
The Committee found that the current internal processes used by organisations to resolve complaints of sexual abuse does not meet the needs of victims in achieving justice and has recommended the creation of an independent, alternative tribunal to be funded by the catholic churches and non-government organisations.
The report represents extremely important work by the Victorian Parliament. The Committee’s recommendations should ensure that the scourge of institutional criminal child abuse is not repeated in Victoria.
You may read Executive Summary here.
Through Change.org, Jessica Barlow began a petition asking CLEO magazine to stop photoshopping images of girls. More than 20,000 people signed the petition, which impacted the magazine and produced outstanding results. After making the editor aware of all the thousands of girls whose self-esteem had been affected by photoshopping policies, Jessica came out winning. The magazine agreed to:
- Print their photoshopping policy in the front pages of every issue
- "Never slim down or alter girls' physical appearance in the photos they personally shoot for the mag"
- Consider "a disclaimer on externally sourced altered cover images"
- Include "a six-page spread on the issues of digitally altering images, magazine and body image."
This is a great example of someone speaking out and seeing results!
To find out more, visit Jessica's petition page.
June 18, 2010
Paid parental leave scheme falls short of providing equity for all mums
The paid parental leave scheme which passed through Federal Parliament last night provides greater support for working mothers wanting to bond with new-born children but falls a long way short in terms of providing equity for all new mums, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said it is wrong for women who stay home to care for their children to be financially penalised by inequitable government payments to the tune of thousands of dollars.
“The Government shouldn’t be disadvantaging one group of mothers as a consequence of helping another group of mothers,” Mr Wallace said.
“Much of the debate about the paid parental scheme to date seems to have focused primarily on economic considerations, but it is important that we also consider the social impacts of the legislation.
“A non-discriminatory payment to all new mothers would value all women equally and provide important assistance to both working mothers and those working in the home.”
For release: May 13, 2010
The Federal Government has misplaced priorities in planning to cut funding for Family Relationship Services by more than $40 million in coming years at a time when marriage and the family is under increasing pressure in Australian society, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that the nation’s 65 Family Relationships Centres have experienced strong demand and play an important role in developing a culture of support for marriage and the family, as well as dealing more effectively with the trauma of family breakdown.
“In the past the Australian Christian Lobby has called on the Government to increase the support available through these centres and it is very disappointing to see them taking the opposite approach,” Mr Wallace said.
“As a nation we need to be developing concerted policy initiatives to strengthen and support marriages and families, with very little having been achieved in this area to date despite the severe costs of family breakdown.
“Family Relationship Centres – with their early intervention and mediation services – have been at least one step forward along this path and their funding should be extended, not cut. We call on the Government to review its plans.”
Mr Wallace said that Western countries are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of policies to support marriage and the family in facilitating a healthy society.
“One of the first things the incoming British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of when coming to office was the need to rebuild families. This need is just as strong in Australia and we also have a long way to go.”
Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979.