March 23, 2022

Sorry folks: It’s Not About Tone

While we’re all still patting ourselves on the back, raising our eyebrows with a shocked “Sheesh! that at least our tone is not like that” craaazy Citipointe Christian College in Queensland, it’s worth pointing out that the issue is not about tone. Not in the long run at least.

Sure, we were all shocked or expressed faux outrage at how Citipointe handled its sexuality clauses in its statement of faith, and how it seemed to lever them into an already defined statement. However, gentle reader, the real root of the problem is not about the tone of the school in its rejection of sexual mores outside the biblical ethic, but the present of those mores in the first place.

In other words, if you think that in your faith-based school system that you will get away by being really nice, or even by burying your theological convictions deep down in the documents, then think again. The issue is what you will do if a staff member crosses the line either heterosexually or homosexually when it comes to lifestyle. And by lifestyle I mean what they do, not necessarily. what they think.

Because, surprise, surprise, that’s where Citipointe is now finding itself: at the very pointy end of the pineapple. This latest article in The Guardian newspaper about a teacher who refused to sign the employment contract at Citipointe, subsequently stepping away from the school, is a case in point.

The Guardian reports that it:

has now obtained a copy of the school’s conditions of employment, which are part of each new teacher’s workplace contract.

Scoop of the century. In other words, this is not going to be about tone. And sure enough, it ain’t. The Guardian breathlessly quotes the offending words:

“It is a genuine occupational requirement of the college that the employee not act in a way he knows, or ought reasonably to know, is contrary to the religious beliefs of the college,” the document says.

“Nothing in his/her deliberate conduct should be incompatible with the intrinsic character of their position, especially, but not only, in relation to the expression of human sexuality through heterosexual, monogamous relationships, expressed intimately through marriage.

“Your failure to abide by such requirements expressed in the above clauses could constitute a breach of your employment contract and subsequent dismissal.”

Which seems fair enough. Fair enough if you’re familiar, and indeed approving of, the stance of alternate ethical communities such as faith-based schools, to set their moral framework. Except it’s not going to cut the mustard in the Sexular Age. Because, as I keep saying, it’s not about tone. It’s not about how nice you are. It’s not about how much you smile. All that does is make you the equivalent of a smiling racist. And who wants to be seen as that?

So what’s it about? Here’s what it’s about: Are you ally of the Sexular Age? Will you not only permit, but will you celebrate the sexuality decisions by all and sundry, regardless of what your outmoded, jaded, and possibly dangerous, belief system holds?

And if you’re not an ally, then you’re an enemy. And the language around this matter draws the lines of combat very clearly indeed. A conglomerate of legal, cultural and legislative guns are all pointing in the same direction. So as one legal expert put it:

“It seeks to prohibit conduct that is not in connection with the workplace by stopping an employee acting in a way that is contrary to the religious beliefs of the college, whether or not this is done openly.

“It changes the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mantra to ‘don’t do it’.

“This is far beyond the power of any employer in Queensland. We all have the right to attend work and pursue our own personal lives outside of work, even if working for a religious school.”

So there you have it. Now I’m almost loathe to mention his name, but Izzy found out to his detriment that he DIDN’T have the right to pursue his own personal life outside work. And I dare say many an organisation doesn’t think that way either. I wonder if that lawyer will take Izzy on as a client. Argue his case.

One former teacher who stepped away from Citipointe, had this to say:

“Excluding LGBTQIA+ people from the school community perpetuates these archaic values, and doesn’t prepare students for the real world. In the real world if you don’t share values with a colleague or friend you can’t contract them out of your life.

“I’m disgusted by this kind of intolerance and discrimination hiding behind the name of God, especially when formalised in a contract. This is not Christianity.”

The independent teacher’s union in Queensland has weighed in also with these words:

The union has called for section 25 of the act to be repealed “consistent with changing societal norms and expectations”.

But let’s leave the final, rather worrying, word to the Queensland Attorney General, Shannon Fentiman who seethed:

“It is absolutely appalling to see these awful and damaging clauses in the employment contracts for Citipointe College teachers – especially after the recent outrage and controversy around their student enrolment forms.”

So there you have it. We have the full weight of culture, law and government staring down alternate ethical communities who hold to a sexual ethic that differs to the secular context in which they live, and the words being used to describe them are not about tone. Not about tone at all. Just to reiterate: “Awful and damaging clauses” in a document are not about tone. They are about the right of a school to maintain its ethical framework according to its religious convictions which, in case secularists reading this might wish to know, are not confined to what we think in our heads, but have actual consequences and outputs in our lives. They can be stated as coolly as any legalese can muster and they will be rejected with fury.

Look at that list of words again: “awful”, “damaging”, “societal norms and expectations”, “archaic”, “intolerance”, “discrimination”. Those are not words describing the tone in which you disapprove of, or refuse to affirm and celebrate, they are words describing the belief system itself.

Well may many people call out Citipointe, and tut-tut them for being “unwise”, especially in light of the awful timing around the Religious Discrimination Act. But soon, and very soon, you’ll find yourself standing at that line in the sand yourself, and this article makes clear, no amount of tone is going to get you off the hook. You will have to jump one way or the other. And If all you’ve trained for on the practice courts is “tone, tone, tone” then don’t be surprised where you end up landing when you take that jump.

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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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