May 8, 2019

Faith-Based Schools To Fall Off the Precipice

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I made a comment to a non-Christian friend who sends their child to a faith-based school that employs practicing Christian teachers, that their decision to vote YES in the same sex plebiscite might mean they would soon be looking somewhere else to school their child.

They seemed surprised. I didn’t say it with any particular emotion.  I just made the point that, as I said at the time of the SSM legislation, the decision was not a slippery slope, but a precipice point.

It will change a lot more than marriage, and it will do so quickly.  The YES vote would prove to be an anchor with a whole raft of other issues tied to it that will get pulled over the edge with the weight it carries.  That was not how it was presented of course.  It was presented as a discrete issue that was all about how we live our private lives.

But here’s the fact: Many a parent voted YES for same sex marriage, never realising they were voting NO for the education model they so value for their children.

Same sex marriage in Australia, despite all the assurances from many of  those advocating it, was always going to be a tipping point moment for a whole bunch of other stuff, including the move to force faith-based schools to sign up to anti-discrimination legislation on the pain of funding losses.

And, more pointedly, a precipitous issue for those many non-Christian parents who have scraped together the money to send their children to a faith-based school in suburbs that are a wasteland of decent high schools.  In other words be careful what you vote for.  Or at least know what it will lead to.

My friend’s surprise dissipated and we didn’t talk of it again.  Life, as it does, took over.  The vote happened.  Love won.  What’s not to like?

Meanwhile school board members such as me, and executive teams of schools and lobby groups for faith-based organisations began paddling like mad, working overtime in Canberra and beyond, to try and plug the sinking boat of viable alternate ethical communities such as schools.

And, as was reported back to me, the hostility from many a parliamentarian towards faith-based education was palpable.  Eye-rolls, snorts, and watching iPhones during the hearings whenever a Christian schools representative got up to speak.  And these people are the leaders of our nation?

I’m not expecting a Thank You card from all the school parents who voted Yes in the plebiscite if we manage to keep this thing afloat.  But then again, I’m not expecting us to keep it afloat.  This thing is for sinking.

And now we see the precipice for what is is.  Today, our Shadow Attorney General, and soon to be actual Attorney General if the polls are true, Mark Dreyfus, has simply stated what we have been saying all along.

In a letter to faith-based schools Dreyfus has simply indicated that religious exemptions will be swept away.  Here’s The Australian reporting it:

Labor legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus has told faith-based educators a Shorten government would remove key legal protections for religious freedoms, fuelling concerns schools will find it more difficult to insist teachers agree to uphold their core values. Mr Dreyfus yesterday told Christian schools a Shorten government would remove key legislative protections for religious freedoms — enshrined by way of exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act — around the employment of teachers.

All rather ho-hum, that’s what’s going to happen, and get on with it.  And it’s in a letter, it’s not as if he stumbled over his words on a door stop interview.

Precipice or slippery slope? You decide.   But here’s the fact:  Some schools won’t shut their doors. Many others will.

I also made the point at the time that Christians who were keen for SSM to get up, should at least come out in support of fellow Christians who disagree with them, especially as these precipice moments arrive.  After all, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, are we not?  Our unity and identity with each is a crucial component of our witness to the watching world, right?

But, hey they never write, they never call!

One such social media friend said just prior to the plebiscite: “There’ll be time for that conversation after we get the vote through.”  Well here we are.  Here’s the time. The vote is through, thanks to their constant activist urging and their vote. Yet the chirping of crickets from that particular cohort is quite loud.

And it’s not even as if Dreyfus says that it’s legislation that they’ll get to eventually, when the important stuff is sorted.  Here’s The Australian again:

In his letter, Mr Dreyfus said Labor would ask the “ALRC (Australian Law Reform Commission) to provide recommendations on how best to remove the exemptions from discrimination against LGBTQI students and teachers contained in commonwealth legislation as a priority”.

A priority.

We know where this is headed. Those with half a head for these things knew where it was headed long before the vote.  Meanwhile parents for whom Christianity is just a bunch of stuff, but whose children enjoy the fruit of the gospel in the form of caring pastoral communities and schools in which gospel-motivated vocation is paramount, are set to experience the full flowering of their vote.

The future of Christians educating the children can no longer be bricks and mortar.  That much is sure.  Not Christian education that is truly Christian in its ethic and refuses to sign over its soul to the Sexular culture anyway.

Christian parents will regroup; form home school associations with smaller associations that offer the more specialised material.  They’ll get on with doing what churches have been doing in hostile countries; deleting all that is not necessary.

And they’ll do it joyfully, and thankfully, and their kids will get good educations (unless the government refused to tolerate home schooling in the future which is a distinct possibility).

But here are two things they won’t do.  They won’t grow so big to require government money again.  That door is shutting, and fast. They’ll do education leaner and meaner.

And they probably won’t offer this new form of schooling to those outside the Christian faith.   They’ll do smarter.  Not out of desire, but out of necessity.

Wrongly or rightly they’ll look at the defunct, diluted model that grew out of the push to increase enrolments and garner funding, and ask themselves why the very people they invited into their schools were blithely unaware that their YES vote for SSM would mean a NO vote for their preferred form of education.  Yet here we are, and how quickly.



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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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