September 15, 2021

The Sexular Age has finally caught up with Australian Christian Schools

It was always a matter of time. Only ever a matter of time.

No amount of smiles and public speeches by Australian politicians coming up to elections, or giving the end of year graduation address affirming the right of faith based education systems to insist on their staff holding to sexual standards that their faith espoused, has mattered in the end.

The Sexular Age being promulgated by the culture has arrived on the doorsteps of Victorian faith-based schools with the announcement that legislation is to be introduced to prohibit schools sacking – or refusing to employ – teaching staff based on sexual practise, identity, or marital status.

For a while there it looked like Aussie Christian schooling could dance around the matter and hope that as few as possible staff came out or declared they were transitioning. But the refusal to employ clause here simply means that any aggrieved unsuccessful candidate can push hard into why they were not employed. If there’s even a sniff of it being around the issue of sexual ethics, then the school is in for a long, hard fight, with plenty of government, legal and cultural guns pointed against them.

As quoted in The Age newspaper, Victorian Attorney General, Jaclyn Symes, said that legislation would be introduced:

to close an “unfair, hurtful” gap in anti-discrimination laws that allow faith-based organisations to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender and marital status.

“People shouldn’t have to hide who they are to keep their job,” Ms Symes said.

Well we’ll see how that works out for evangelical Christians in the woke marketplace of the big firms in the city who are pushing an ever increasingly hard line on dissent around Wear it Purple Day, but in the meantime Christian schools around the country should start preparing for what is going to be a long – and I have to say it – “losing” battle.

The Age goes on to helpfully point out just where the problem lies:

The issue was particularly prevalent in evangelical schools, many of which are in outer suburban and regional areas, employing tens of thousands of people and educating hundreds of thousands of children in Australia. They are often majority publicly funded.

Victoria’s legislation, given the strong progressive stance of the Andrews government, will set the tone for the other states, including my home state of Western Australia. Christian schools are naive if they think that this is not set to be the major threat to their existence as alternate ethical communities in the coming years. The Sexular Age will brook no rivals.

It’s interesting how clearly the issue is being addressed. It’s simply that faith based schools are not allowing people to be true to who they are and to what they love. Within limits of course. I presume that any would be teacher with a predilection towards young teens will not pass the sniff test. But hey, the doors open, let’s see who gets to go through.

The Age did give a voice in the argument to Christian Schools themselves:

Lobby group Christian Schools Australia said it would oppose the legislation, with public policy director Mark Spencer saying it was “alarming”.

“Once again it seems that people of faith in Victoria are being told what they can and can’t believe, that religious schools can only hold and act on beliefs that the government determines are acceptable,” he said.

The Age goes on to report what has become the standard line among progressive politicians in this matter, namely there’s no such thing as “gay maths”

Ms Symes said the reforms would “narrow” the exceptions to anti-discrimination legislation so that any discrimination would need to be “reasonable” and an inherent requirement of the job. For example, a school might be permitted to prevent a gay or transgender person being a religious studies teacher but could not stop them being a maths teacher.

In other words the governments of our land no longer recognise the right for alternate ethical communities to exist. The ethics around sex have been decided by the government and have been universalised.

I think there will be a long battle over this one, but in the end, as with all aspects of the Sexular Age, it will be a losing battle for orthodox Christians in the public square. I said at the start of the year at a Christian education policy forum that the clock is ticking for faith-based schools when it comes to public funding in Australia.

And even if such schools look to alternate funding, I am fairly sure governments are on to that as well, and will withhold accreditation from those schools that refuse to sign up. There’s more than one way to skin this cat.

The problem of course is that there is not a uniform position among faith-based schools on sexual ethics and employment. Down the more liberal “church school” end of the spectrum, there is even strong affirmation of the Sexular Age’s agenda, with unbiblical sexual practice being celebrated. And indeed such schools will likely celebrate this legislation being introduced.

But for covenant schools, or evangelical missional schools, there are going to have to be some long hard conversations. Such schools have their heads in the sand if they think that this is going to pass them by and that they will emerge unscathed. They won’t. It’s going to be a deal breaker for many, which is going to cause a lot of financial, social and cultural heartache. And divisions among staff on this matter will only make it worse.

My two cents? Australian Christian schools have had a dream run from the government and they provide an amazing alternative to the state-run system. But the government and the Sexular Age has caught up with them, and in a pincer move, they will end up suffocating the life out of them.

It’s time for Christians who value a truly Christian framework in their children’s education to start building towards a future in which government funding will be explicitly tied to schools accepting what are essentially practises hostile to their ethic – or to put it another way – sinful behaviours that run contrary to Scripture.

We’ve had a good run, but it’s time to start re-imagining Christian education.

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