Dear Charlie Pickering, RE: Your Safe Schools Segment.

An Open Letter to TV Host Charlie Pickering About Safe Schools

Hi Charlie,

I love your show, and I appreciate the way you make news and current affairs interesting, not to mention funny.

Having worked with Gen Y for the last 6 years, sometimes it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall trying to get them take an interest in things other than the latest Adele album (not that there’s anything wrong with Adele…).

And so shows like yours can reach a generation that’s normally disengaged when it comes to news and current affairs.

Having said that, I’d like to raise an issue with you.

Charlie Pickering Canva small

 

It’s about a recent segment you did on Safe Schools.

In it you mentioned that responses opposed to the Safe Schools programme ranged from ‘angry, inflammatory, to just weird’.

Would I be right in saying you don’t think there’s any good reason to oppose Safe Schools?

Make no mistake: I strongly agree with campaigns to end bullying of our young people, whoever they identify as.

But to be honest with you, when it comes to Safe Schools,  I’m one of those with concerns (and I promise not to be angry/inflammatory/weird).  I’m with transgender advocate Cate McGregor, who admitted recently:

‘[T]here’s legitimate controversy [over Safe Schools]’.

And so your segment left me with a few questions…

1) Isn’t Safe Schools more than just an anti-bullying program?

It seems to be promoting a particular view of sexuality/gender

In reading the Safe Schools material, and looking at the online videos , one of the main aims of Safe Schools, as stated clearly on page 18 of the ‘All of us’ Unit Guide, is as follows:

Provide practical strategies and skills to enable students to create a school environment that recognises and celebrates the diversity of each person’s unique sexuality, gender identity or intersex status.” [emphasis added].

I’m sure that for you and many of your viewers, this outcome is a worthy goal.

And as a Christian, I certainly want to celebrate people (regardless of who they are) as made in the image of God, of infinite worth, and deeply loved by Him (whatever their identity).

But if you look closely, you’ll notice something: this statement is asking for something beyond tolerance or love of LGBTIQ students (as important as that is): it aims to get schools celebrating a particular view of sexuality and gender identity.

In other words, isn’t this more than a mere anti-bullying campaign,  with the explicit aim of schools affirming a particular worldview? 

An analogy to clarify the issue.

If all that’s all too abstract, let me illustrate.

Imagine Muslim students in a South-Western Sydney high school were being bullied for being Muslim.

And in response, the school decided that it would end Islamophobia by getting the whole school community to celebrate Islam:

  • Public talks from visiting Imams on why Islam is so good;
  • Changing the food and clothing rules for all students to combat a ‘secular-normative’ environment that might make the Muslim students feel uncomfortable or offended (short skirts, anyone?);
  • Flying the Shahada Islamic flag on the school flagpole;
  • And of course, compulsory Islamic classes.

Would the Muslim kids feel supported and affirmed? Of course they would.  

But how might the Atheist (and other non-Muslim) kids feel?

Could there be a better way to combat bullying, whilst safeguarding students’ freedom of conscience on matters of worldview?

2) The urgent questions raised by Safe Schools

Four questions that need answering

And so the Safe Schools movement, with its aim for schools to celebrate/affirm it’s view of sexuality/gender, raises some urgent questions:

1) Is it the place of public schools to promote a particular (and contested) view of sexuality/gender? Shouldn’t this be left up to the parents to teach their kids about (just like religion)?

2) Do you think it’s possible to genuinely love and care for LGBTIQ people, whilst holding to a different view of human sexuality?

3) Can a school become ‘Safe’ for LGBTIQ students, without subscribing to the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender?

4) In a ‘Safe School’, what happens to those students who are fully against bullying of any kind, but in good conscience can’t celebrate the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender? 

The more the controversy drags on, the more these questions need answering. But finally:

LGBTI flag

 

3) How do we make Schools Safe for All Students?

Living with our deepest differences

As you know we live in a multi-everything society, where people have very different views on religion, morality, life, and yes, sexuality.

And I certainly understand that there are some things we must all agree on if we’re to be a cohesive and civil society: ‘no bullying of others’ is near the top of that list.

But must we expect others to affirm and celebrate our worldview, as the Safe Schools programme seems to require?

Or can we politely – and without name calling – agree to disagree over things as deeply-held and important as religion, and yes, sexuality?

I think Philosopher John Haldane sums it up nicely when he writes in The Guardian :

Anglophone societies are increasingly diverse, multi-cultural, multi-moral and multi- much else besides. They can only hold together if they recover and renew the principles of tolerance – not endorsing but putting up with that with which one profoundly disagrees, and accepting that one’s own convictions may be countered in good faith.’ [emphasis added]

Charlie, the controversy over Safe Schools isn’t going away anytime soon. But I wonder if some of the questions raised in this post might be a decent place to start a civil conversation about how to make our Schools safe, for #allofus.

 

Sincerely,

Akos Balogh

 

 

 

Photo Source: ‘Charlie Pickering’ – commons.wikimedia.org Photo by Eva Renaldi; Rainbow Wall – Dollarphotoclub.com

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73 thoughts on “Dear Charlie Pickering, RE: Your Safe Schools Segment.

    • Thanks John!

      I’m convinced that we Christians need to model respectful and loving dialogue, especially over controversial issues…and I’m trying to do that in my own small way…

  1. Thanks for writing this. I wrote directly to Charlie after that same segment expressing my concerns. For a second I thought they’d published my letter! To be honest, I’m not game enough to speak out like this, so thanks for doing so!

  2. Thanks Akos.
    As usual you have an incisive mind with a good choice of words and argument.
    Tell the truth, I don’t even know who Charlie Pickering is. I’m sure he’s someone significant.
    My consuming interest at the moment is how do we dialogue with journalists who hold dismissive opinions of safe-school opponents? I’ve tried taking on Michelle Gratten in ‘The Conversation’. But, you know, she never responds, and just moves on to the next topic, utterly oblivious to other views in society.
    I hope Pickering takes up your challenge and let’s have a one-to-one biffo in print (not in radio or TV because they are masters of rhetoric).
    Let us know if he responds…
    Malcolm

  3. Hi Akos. I am confused by something you’ve written here in point 1. You say that Safe Schools “it aims to get schools celebrating a particular view of sexuality and gender identity” whereas the quote you have from their material says it aims to “create a school environment that recognises and celebrates the diversity of each person’s unique sexuality, gender identity or intersex status.” To me, celebrating diversity of sexuality seems quite different to celebrating a particular view of sexuality.
    I have not researched the Safe Schools program or read their material, I am just going off what I’ve read in your article, so maybe the way safe schools is practised is different to the way the program sounds from their material. But just on face value, celebrating the diversity of different people’s sexualities sounds like a good idea to me.

    • Hi Tim!

      Thank-you for that question – and I hear where you’re coming from.

      Two quick answers:

      1) If you have a look at the rest of their material, especially the videos, it becomes obvious very quickly that they are about celebrating all the diverse sexuality’s themselves.

      2) As to the wording of the unit guide, let me put it this way.

      From a Christian perspective, the diversity of different types of sexualities is a fact, i.e. people have all sorts of sexual desires, apart from what God designed for us to have.

      However, would Christians *celebrate* the fact that there are many sexual desires, apart from God’s design for us?

      I don’t think anyone who takes biblical sexuality seriously could *celebrate* that fact, even though we show love and kindness to *everyone* including those with sexual desires for people other than their spouse.

      But Safe Schools aims for students to *celebrate* the fact that people have sexual desire for someone other than their spouse…does that make sense?

      Feel free to come back to me on that!

  4. Akos, you have articulated clearly one of the views of the so called Safe Schools programme. I am concerned today to read that this is to go into day care and kindy with the little ones to be introduced to cross dressing and checking out the boys and girls toilets. Children do cross dress as part of their learning game playing and it need not be emphasised or made an issue of.
    I have written to my local member about the school programme but not this aspect of which I have just become aware.
    Tried to do an online submission to the Denate inquiry re children and pornography – tech hiccups so it didn’t happen.
    Thank you for being a public voice.
    Blessings
    Margaret

    • Hi Margaret,

      Thanks for your encouragement!

      As to the kindy/childcare claims: a friend in the childcare industry received an email from a key childcare body, soon after that Herald Sun story about kindy cross-dressing went to print, claiming the story is false. So I’d wait for more info on that one (not that it’s beyond the realm of possibility, to be sure!).

      God bless,

      Akos

  5. Interesting article, but your criticism of the program seems to hang of the wording ‘to celebrate’. Celebrating something does not mean you have to adopt it yourself, your Moslem analogy is trite and does not hold up. the program seeks nothing more than understanding. Celebrating people’s differences is just a way of showing love. When I was a Christian I had the understanding that Gods diversity was his way of testing the depth of our love. Given the record of Christian intolerance toward gays, maybe it’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way a bit. I think the problem lies in the fundamental Christian belief that being gay is a choice and an evil one.

    • I disagree, Robert. ‘Understanding’ and ‘celebrating’ are not synonyms. The later implies affirmation whereas the former is more impartial.

      • Yes I would agree with that Tom, my wording was clumsy, my view on the program is that it seeks empathy and understanding. Akos was suggesting that it ‘celebrates’. If it achieved both of those goals I would still be happy for my kids to take it on. Whether my children are hetro or homo sexual was determined a long time ago, and not by an educational program at school.

  6. I think this is an articulate and respectful article, Akos! Unfortunately, the example you have given about the Islamic student falls down in a fairly significant area – religion/faith is ultimately a choice (at least, if you’re not a Calvinist *LOL*). Sexuality is argued to not be a choice, but simply the way people are. I am a Christian, and while I could prattle on here about how as Christians we often seem to be stuck in a rut of defining sin merely as the conscious choices we make (and I believe it is much more than that), the real issue is that your response to Charlie’s report on the Safe Schools Program is flawed (and I sincerely mean that without any harshness whatsoever). This doesn’t mean that I support the safe schools program 100% in its current form, but arguing it on the grounds you have is kind of like bringing a knife to a gun fight. That being said, I really appreciate your boldness and bravery to express your opinions on a topic that is highly controversial in so many arenas. Thank-you!

    • Hi Hannah,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I’ll be posting on this topic again, to clarify further some of the issues raised (including by yourself).

      Stay tuned!

      Akos

  7. I only discovered your blog tonight. This is my first comment. Keep up the good work. I don’t have any children, but even so, I’m very concerned about this program. If I was a husband and father, I’d prefer my wife and I to take the responsibility of teaching our children about these issues in our own way.

  8. Well said brother Akos!, theres’ nothing more to add to that, you have a gift of communicating clearly, truthfully and concisely without comming across as prejudice!. I am disgusted with this so called “safe schools program’, which has a same sex agenda, and have to say that Mathew 24:37,38,39 comes to mind every time I think about this and how Jesus warned us that as in the days of Noah so it would be before His return, also how Paul warned us of the condition that the generation of the last days would be, and this has got to be calling “Evil Good and Good Evil!!’.
    It’s so encouraging to hear of Christians like yourself making a stand and not compromising Gods word in this hour of time. His word does say that ‘ when the enemy comes in like a flood, God will raise up a standard against it!”. His word remains true and in the end will be the only thing that does remain for eternity.

  9. As a parent of 3 children I have a lot of concerns over the ‘Safe School Program.’ I liked your example and argument. I believe that money could be invested into anti bullying in schools. I’m amazed at how much money our government is spending on this campaign to prevent bullying for one small part of society. Yet there are larger portions of our society which suffer from bullying due to, for example, autism, dyslexia,speech impairments, hearing impairments, disabilities, learning delayed, coming from a split home etc. One of my children was bullied at school because the bully thought he was getting too much attention as a cancer patient. There are a lot more children living with cancer, MS, heart conditions etc than what there are living as a transgender. I believe schools should be safe for all people of all sexualities, religions, disabilities, conditions and so forth. I also strongly believe that the strongest learning environment is in the home. As a parent I feel I have a right to teach my children about these issues when I believe they are old enough to understand them.

  10. Some people need to realise this is a secular society. If you want don’t want your kids to accept gay children and know that bullying them is wrong then you can always enrol them in a Christian school. The hysteria about this program and the so-called crossdressing of toddlers just shows what you people are like.

    • No one is saying that they do not want their children to accept other children as they are or that bullying isn’t a serious issue to be addressed. We just do not believe this program is designed to do what it is being promoted as. Rather than an anti bullying program it seems that it is a program designed to have children start role playing and questioning their own sexuality which can be very confusing to children and adolescents. I completely support a program designed to help all children be free from bullying and accepting each other’s different world view. I just think this is not quite the way to achieve this.
      My children will be taught to accept and love all their peers no matter their sexuality/gender/religion etc but will also be taught to hold strong to their own beliefs. I would prefer to do his at a secular school where they are surrounded by the children I am expecting them to accept and love. However, if secular schools are moving towards forcing their world view on the children and it becomes an environment where they themselves cannot be accepted for having their own beliefs then I have to reconsider this.
      Christian schools by the way are financially out of many people’s reach and there are not all that many around.

      • I’m assuming based on these comments that you are also deeply concerned with the amount of taxpayer money being spent on pushing a certain agenda on children called the School Chaplaincy Program?

        • The school chaplaincy program does nothing even close to what you’re describing. Chaplains may only speak to students on matters on faith if the child raises it with them. Most of the time, they’re just very inexpensive, trained school counsellors who are there because their faith inspires them to help kids.

        • Actually – I am.
          As a committed Christian I have long held reservations about the School Chaplaincy programme.
          It is easy to say that chaplains offer non-denominational general guidance, but that guidance is coloured by the chaplain’s background and sponsoring organisation.
          State schooling should be free, open to all, and secular. School Chaplaincies undermine this fundamental principle and I would feel just the same if the chaplain was Protestant, Jewish, or Hindu.

    • This is not just about bullying and acceptance though, Bones. As Akos said, what is being pushed, is ‘celebration’.

      One of the problems with the approach of Christians separating into our own schools etc, is that others still interfere. EG in the US, christian institutions are increasingly pressured or simply forced by government and other bodies, to adopt secular values on LGBT issues etc.

  11. “But if you look closely, you’ll notice something: this statement is asking for something beyond tolerance or love of LGBTIQ students (as important as that is): it aims to get schools celebrating a particular view of sexuality and gender identity.

    In other words, isn’t this more than a mere anti-bullying campaign, with the explicit aim of schools affirming a particular worldview?”

    This is the point where you allowed your personal prejudice and ideology to get in the way. Sadly you ignored the essence of the original statement referring to all and instead reduced it to your opinion of what you think you want it to be saying.

    As a result the rest of your argument falls flat, as any strawman would, because you then impose your assumptions on the program and make it read according to the view you wish to portray.

    Others would use a vulgar, but accurate word to describe this, which would then shut down any possible dialogue.

    But, not unlike “white privilege” attempting to make sense of black struggle, not for simple ‘tolerance’ (a uniquely offensive word in any discussion about human rights) but instead for unconditional respect; simply on the basis of our shared humanity.

    In the matter at hand it is a similar kind of privilege, that of “heteronormative privilege” that is the filter through which a misleading and sadly biased conclusion is reached.

    Add to that the equally skewed prism of either naive, or ill-informed, evangelicalism. Or sadly, as has been the case in this current debate (beyond the realm of your blog alone), the wilful and deliberate mis-quoting of either outdated; unethical; questionable and in some cases outright misrepresentation of studies to suit a particularly revisionist religious agenda that adds further bias to the conclusions.

    If you are serious about a desire for dialogue, I would be more than happy to engage.

    However, if it is a matter of wanting to engage in political point scoring I am not interested. Nor am I interested in childish flame wars.

    • Once again Graham, you have beaten me to the punch.
      This whole article reflects the approach to this issue that those of us on the ‘other’ side find problematic.
      The author quotes a part of the program and then blithely (as you say) takes the ‘all’ to mean only selective segments of sexuality – namely the ‘GLBTQI’ sides. This is an assumption that often occurs.
      The quote itself clearly states that the intention is to celebrate ALL sides and aspects of sexuality, but for some reason, this has got narrowed here to only the GLBTQI side of the equation.
      Is the author saying that a heterosexual inclination is not an aspect of sexuality? Or – as I feel it has been unintentionally framed here – as heterosexuality is the most prominent expression of sexuality, it is not an ‘aspect’ of it, but rather the whole and any deviation from that is therefore ‘abnormal’.
      This often happens in the various discussions that I have seen on the subject. and it has always puzzled me as to why this is.
      The aim of the program is not to promote or celebrate (a word that this author seems to have a problem with) just one aspect of sexuality, but rather the whole range that exists in our society.
      Of course, it follows on from that that his example of the Muslim issue is again misguided, because the proper comparison would be a course that aims to show ALL the religions within society (i.e not just one) – with their various versions of the ‘one true faith’ that exist.
      Bit of a difference, isn’t it?

  12. Charlie has completely got it wrong here. The Safe Schools program is just another sneaky way to push homosexuality as a “Norm” but it is anything but. One has to be awake to the insidious propaganda being shoved down our kids throats by lefties and poofs.

    • And there you have it Tony, the program is there to protect vulnerable young people from people filled with hate like you. Homosexuality is ‘normal’, just not your normal. What right wing and left wing have got to do with it, I’m not sure. If I wanted to be equally hysterical about this, I would be demanding that all priests, ministers etc be removed from schools. They don’t have the most shiny record do they? But the vast majority of them are also there to protect our kids.

  13. I simply don’t have a problem celebrating diversity in the context that seems to alarm you, as long as fair representation across the board is allowed. If it becomes a time of celebration then no one should be left out. A bit like having a birthday party where only the ‘popular’ kids who belong or conform to an image we admire are the only ones invited.. For example we no longer have a White Australia policy because Australia has NEVER been just ‘white’. That surprises some to this day. It’s still hard work convincing them otherwise. They figured the space was reserved for them. The same for gender diversity and equality. Diversity has always existed.

    As for the Islam analogy, it just doesn’t cut it. I would be happy to have a day where cultural and religious diversity is acknowledged fairly. What this does is teach kids that everyone should be invited to the ‘party’ and they don’t even have to dress up and be like the popular kid. They can come as they are.
    As for a society where gender binaries are ‘the norm’ I think that is a construct rather than a fact. These kids you seem afraid to acknowledge have been around for centuries. They have just learned to hide for their own survival. They no longer need to be afraid and they are welcome to celebrate with me in whatever ‘garb’ they feel most comfortable.
    For me I don’t even see gender at all. It is a non issue because I’m in Christ. I tend to treat people as such no matter what they identify as. What hurts them most is leaving them out. That’s actually bullying. I would rather be seen as an usher not a bodyguard.

    • Lovely words, Bron!
      It is hard for Christians, like us, to stand against bullying from our own kind. It brings me to a level of shame where I will outwardly I’m religious just to avoid being seen as an intolerant bigot. ‘Usher not bodyguard’ is my new favourite phrase!

  14. I was interested to read this to hear some more ideas and views, but, I’m sorry to say I feel you have let yourself down in this piece as it comes across as rather bias in that it focuses to much on the interests of one religious group. This seems pointless as it also appears that at the same tome you are trying to make a point of need for schools to keep ALL students views and identities a priority.
    I’ll add that I am disappointed that you have used the idea that if schools were to implement Islamic teachings as a comparison or example.
    In it you stated how it would be unfair if students were made to conform to classes or even dress codes so as not to offend Muslims. You are right it would be, in fact it would be much like when I whent through public school and it was part of the curriculum to do easter and christmas activities, and at the end of the year a nativity play. This was never an issue for myself as I was raised Catholic, but there were others who were never considered.
    My point is, you are right in saying that ideas and beliefs should not be forced onto student and perhaps it is a step too far, wich may infact anger students who do not share these beliefs, but, I feel you yourself may also need to reconsider the way you place your argument so as to not sound bias.
    After all it is equality that is the matter.
    With respect, Bri.

  15. Thanks Akos, your questions and concerns are the same concerns of many parents that don’t have the courage to speak up and for the children that being bullied by the system. God Bless you and your ministry. Thanks!!!!!

  16. A well balanced response about safe schools. One of the best I have seen. Keep up the great gospel throught Akos.

  17. 1) Is it the place of public schools to promote a particular (and contested) view of sexuality/gender? Shouldn’t this be left up to the parents to teach their kids about (just like religion)?

    Yes, that’s literally the point of public schools – to follow the democratically elected government’s curriculum. There are private and home-schooling options for those that want to avoid this.

    2) Do you think it’s possible to genuinely love and care for LGBTIQ people, whilst holding to a different view of human sexuality?
    3) Can a school become ‘Safe’ for LGBTIQ students, without subscribing to the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender?
    4) In a ‘Safe School’, what happens to those students who are fully against bullying of any kind, but in good conscience can’t celebrate the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender?

    These three questions all stem from the same idea that one’s sexuality has nothing to do with their biology but is a choice entirely within their control. So I have a question for you – can you eat Indian food, indulge in some Bollywood and attend your nearest Color Run http://thecolorrun.com.au/ (with ideas borrowed from the the Indian Holi Festival http://www.holifestival.org/)? I’m going to assume you said yes to at least one of those things because they’re all pretty fun and I’m optimistically hoping you’re not a homophobe and a racist.

    So while I believe your premise is misinformed and flawed – yes, to all three questions. I believe that while not subscribing to the point of view put forth in the Safe Schools program, one can still co-exist quite pleasantly in a society where our schools are a little less kinder to people from all walks of life and speaking out against it only promotes the one thing you claim to be against.

  18. Thank you Akos. I find it very hard coming from a Biblical worldview to accept the Safe Schools platform. I have stated in another blog that they should send this material home to the parents and let us decide when, how and if we tutor our children in the area of diverse sexuality. It is not a strangers job to teach this highly personal and controversial issue to our children.

  19. Akos – thank you for representing the voice of millions around the world – “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” – God bless Brother:)

  20. Akos – thank you for representing the voice of millions around the world – “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” – God bless Brother:)

  21. you know almost exactly the same program as this has been applied in England and Wales uncontroversially for over a decade. in fact the programme is enthusiastically backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic Primate of England all the principle protestant denominations.

    So why is it that in Australia, christians seem unable to grasp what this programme is about and consistently misrepresent it? Could it be that they have little appreciation for truth and integrity and use their religion as a figleaf for their bigotry?

  22. Akos,

    A well written article, notably more articulate than many of the other articles I’ve seen on this topic. My view was similar when I was a believer. I wasn’t a homophobe then, so I won’t call you one now even though I’m on the other side of the fence in terms of both faith and this issue.

    I see the dilemma in the church, trying to remain true with your theology in a world that demands that you be tolerant and agree. The church is taking a beating. I think what people see is a certain duplicity in what is presented. The issue is not necessarily what is being said, but in fact the real agenda. The church is fighting for its freedom, against future lawsuits for not baking cakes for a gay wedding, against having your children taught “it’s ok to be gay, to have gay sex and to marry your gay partner.” It’s a cultural war. The church has become a lot smarter in its message – it isn’t talking about homosexual acts as sin even though this idea is at the heart of the Christian objection. To make that argument is to give up any chance to influence culture.

    I think at this point, the church needs to do some serious thinking about its theology. It has been argued that every instance of homosexuality being discussed in the Bible has a very different context to the modern situation. I think a lot of Christians could actually go back to their Bibles and study a little more deeply. The outcome might be at least admitting the possibility that a plain reading of scripture could skew ones philosophy in a negative way. It could in fact be true that the Bible says nothing about the contemporary issue of gay people seeking to get married.

    Regarding your questions …

    “1) Isn’t Safe Schools more than just an anti-bullying program?”

    Since you are making the claim, it’s really up to you to back it up with evidence. In following this issue, I’m yet to see any real evidence that it goes beyond an anti-bullying program.

    The best way to prevent bullying is to take a proactive approach. That means dealing with the ideas that tend to lurk in the dark and go unchallenged. Education is part of promoting acceptance and understanding.

    I’ve seen many arguments that attempt to establish that this program is “indoctrination, grooming and propaganda.” Arguments are not evidence.

    If you have a real argument based on actual evidence, you should use that rather than merely articulate suspicion. You did it artfully but you didn’t actually bring anything new to the debate, you just said it better than others.

    “2)
    1) Is it the place of public schools to promote a particular (and contested) view of sexuality/gender? Shouldn’t this be left up to the parents to teach their kids about (just like religion)?”

    The program was created in response to requests by teachers who said they were not equipped to deal with the problem. These kids are committing suicide, they have a serious problem. This problem is real. It does not go away when you leave it to the parents.

    In fact, the kids who are doing the bullying are most likely those who don’t have a good relationship with their parents. You are not thinking about the transgender child who doesn’t come from a stable 2 parent middle class Christian family.

    You see, the problem WAS left up to the parents. The program was created in response to a real need.

    Your question is loaded. A couple of points:

    * It’s not a “particular” view of sexuality that is one of many alternatives. It is simply a reasonable and secular view of sexual diversity that accepts people are different. It is the only view you can expect to be promoted in a secular public school system.

    * This is not a “contested” view. You can always find a maverick researcher but the program is in line with the mainstream view.

    This issue is very much like the concept of “herd immunity” with vaccination. When some parents exercise their right not to have their child vaccinated, it is the most vulnerable of children that suffer. If you want to use an analogy, that is a much more appropriate one.

    “2) Do you think it’s possible to genuinely love and care for LGBTIQ people, whilst holding to a different view of human sexuality?”

    Absolutely. You can believe that you are hating the sin but loving the sinner. But if you hold to a Biblical standard when it comes to love, the command to love implies also a command to take action. You can’t just say “I’m not a homophobe” if you take seriously the command of Jesus to both love God and your fellow man. You have to actually do something.

    So the real urgent question to you as a believe is not really what do you oppose but what are you going to do? Because if you win this fight and get the program shut down, these kids will keep committing suicide. Your religious freedom will come at the cost of their lives. That is not to argue it’s your fault – it’s just the real consequence.

    Love mandates action.

    Jesus was criticised for the company he kept and he spent time with lepers. You have to ask the question if you are more like the Pharisees who cared about the finer points of their religion or Jesus who cared about people.

    “3) Can a school become ‘Safe’ for LGBTIQ students, without subscribing to the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender?”

    I would say probably yes – I’m sure there is another way. But this is not a real argument. You’ve not yet established any real evidence of a problem with the current program. Based on what I understand about the program, I think they are on the right track.

    When it came to abolishing the slave trade, Christians were leading the charge. I believe this issue is a similar opportunity but the church is divided on the issue.

    “4) In a ‘Safe School’, what happens to those students who are fully against bullying of any kind, but in good conscience can’t celebrate the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender? ”

    It sounds reasonable when you word it that way, but what are you actually objecting to? Rhetorical question, I think I know pretty well. Perhaps you believe people choose to be gay. Or perhaps you believe it is part of living in a fallen post Eden world. Either way, you believe that gay people are required by God to live a celibate lifestyle, never to actually have sex or have a romantic partner, unless through counseling and prayer they are “healed enough” to have a straight relationship. So you can accept that gay people exist but they can’t participate in gay sex or marriage and their relationships should not be accepted as normal.

    For the child that believes the above, obviously, it’s going to be awkward. Obviously they are going to feel peer pressure. No question, it will be tough for that child to stand up in class and express their view.

    I don’t want to see the program single out such a child and make it awkward and confrontational for them. However, bear in mind that this program is run by TEACHERS – not gay activists. Teachers run the class. So there is room for discretion on the part of the teachers with how this is handled. It could be a problem, but it’s something that can be managed.

    • Could it be because there is a same-sex marriage plebiscite coming up next year and conservatives are looking to get a few early shots on the gays?

    • Hi Paul

      As I’ve written in a comment below I’m a Christian, one who still believes that not only sexual activity but also sexual thoughts and desires outside the bond and bounds of a heterosexual marriage are sin. I gather you may have also held this belief at one time, based on a plain reading of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28 and also on the nature of marriage as elsewhere defined and promoted in the Bible.

      Of course, one of the implications of what Jesus says is that, like you, I too am a sexual sinner. Aware of this, it’s essential, lest I fall into hypocrisy, that I don’t judge you as worse than me. I confess that’s a hard thing for me to do. I fear that I’m prone to hypocrisy because I’m prone to forgetting that I’m a sinner saved by grace – it’s an elusive doctrine to hold onto!

      It seems to me that a failure of those “on both sides of the debate” to understand the nature of grace is one of the chief reasons that we end up speaking to and about each other in such unloving ways.

      Can I ask you, as someone “on the other side of the fence in terms of both faith and this issue”, have you encountered much grace from Christians?

  23. “Provide practical strategies and skills to enable students to create a school environment that recognises and celebrates the diversity of each person’s unique sexuality, gender identity or intersex status.”

    This includes the straights and cisgender people too. It’s about celebrating diversity, inclusive of both the majority and minorities. Your ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality is showing.

    You’ve really honed in on one word of a 58 page document and twisted the meaning. I’m sure ‘celebrate’ can be interpreted in many ways but I really think you have taken it way out of context in an effort to find fault with the Safe Schools program. Celebrate in this sense means to think, speak and act positively about diversity and encourage people to be true to themselves, without fear of prejudice. It doesn’t mean there will be rainbow flags raised at schools, or prominent gays sent to recruit children to the gay side. The Muslim example is extremist, purposely inflammatory, out of place and misguided. Perhaps the Safe Schools program is not 100% perfect – but it has been proven to save lives and increase tolerance. I think it’s a such a positive thing for schools to have, preaching acceptance and tolerance.

    You know, Christianity isn’t 100% perfect either, but plenty of schools think it is ‘good enough’ to include.

  24. Hi Akos

    After reading both your article and the comments (yes, all of them!) it seems that the main source of contention is over the idea that there is any such thing as norms in relation to gender and sexual identity.

    As Christians, you and I believe that there is. We believe that God made men and women in his image, equal but different, binary and complementary. We believe that our gender and the heterosexuality that arises from it is a wonderful gift from God, to be expressed and enjoyed in the ways that he says are right and good.

    But those who don’t believe what we believe – especially those who believe in no God at all, no Creator, no design, no inbuilt intention or purpose to how or why we’ve been made – will always reject or be unable to fathom where we’re coming from. In their view the individual human is a sovereign entity, free to self-determine and self-identify virtually EVERYTHING in relation to themselves. This belief is now being expressed in its most extreme form – that even the very bodies we are born with bear little relevance on how we view ourselves. We are free to choose, they say. The WILL has become everything.

    My point is that we are all building our views on a very fundamental foundation. How we begin determines where we end. We all need to recognise this if there’s to be any hope of constructive and respectful dialogue or any hope of being good neighbours.

    So it makes me wonder, is it helpful to debate downstream issues – issues that are the consequence of our views on more fundamental matters? Or should we rather be trying to trace our way back to the point of departure and resolve our issues there?

    • Wow, I’ve yet to read all these comments!

      Yes, I agree that the ideal is to resolve our issues ‘upstream’.

      And so you’ve given me ideas for future blogposts!

      However, I think we also need to recognise that we won’t always be able to resolve our differences ‘upstream’, due to the spiritual nature of our differences (i.e. Rom 1:18ff).

      This means Christians will always inhabit societies as aliens and strangers, with a worldview very different to our non-Christian neighbours’ (unless God pours His Spirit out on the vast majority of them).

      Should we then promote a view of society where different worldviews can live together in (relative) harmony? I think the answer to that question is ‘yes’: for the good of Christians, yes, but also for the good of our non-Christian neighbours (e.g. the Muslim student who is likewise uncomfortable with the illiberal push of Safe Schools).

      But thanks for your comment: it’s a good reminder that freedom of conscience is not an ‘ultimate’ issue, but affects ‘ultimate’ issues (e.g. freedom to preach and believe the gospel without persecution etc…).

      • Hi Again Akos

        Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

        I wasn’t suggesting that we have to resolve our differences upstream (although I’d love for that to happen – yes I’m one of those terrible “Christian fundamentalists”!) but rather that unless we ALL understand our point of departure, the conversation is unlikely to go anywehere. So much of the “conversation” is really an intractable debate because of failures “on both sides” to discover, respect and keep these fundamental spiritual/philosophical/ideological differences in mind.

        In Christ

        Pete

        • Excellent – yes!

          That makes sense: at the very least both sides need to understand where the other is coming from (even if there remains disagreement).

          Thanks brother!

  25. I don’t share your view on this. Where to being? Ok, I t states, ‘celebrating the diversity’, not celebrating only queer people, which is what you’ve implied. What they mean is; everyone is different and that should be embraced by teenagers, who tend to single out differences in their peers for their own bullying pleasure.

    Also, your analogy is not very strong or applicable. Firstly, it is deliberately inflammatory and serves only to bring up negative feelings. Secondly, that isn’t how Islam is be ‘celebrated’ anyway. We have a wonderful multicultural ceremony where the diversity of cultures is celebrated – celebration isn’t about conversion. Celebrating sexual relationships isn’t equal to celebrating a religion because every singly being has a sexual relationship, but they don’t all prescribe to a religion.

    Thankfully, not many Christians share your view of this. In fact, not even the majority of Christians share your view of it. It seems you have deliberately mis-interpreted the text in the Safe Schools Program to suit your own position. For that reason, your article doesn’t sound very moral or respectful to me.

    I doubt very much whether you will get a reply from Mr Pickering, which I’m sure you don’t expect. Even so, your questions are illogical. Here is mine:
    1. Nobody is ‘promoting’ non-heterosexual relationships. No, it is nothing to do with religion. All animals engage is sexual activity without a religion and no intervention. The church has always interfered in regards to sexual education (this program is merely another form of that) but that doesn’t mean it should.
    2. No. You are not God, you don’t have His ability to separate sin from sinner. Many Christians who say they do this are merely being two faced, which is decidedly unchristian. Even so, we were not given the right by God to judge whether sin occurred.
    3. Possibly… That’s a bit of a chicken and the egg question. So far other bullying campaigns haven’t been successful.
    4. I don’t think they have a good conscience then. Being against non-heterosexual relationships has nothing to do with their religion. Otherwise ALL Christians/Muslims/Jewish people etc would be against it. I’m Christian and I’m not at all against other sexualities, religions I am pro-gay marriage and gay adoption. Therefore, you’re not arguing from a religious standpoint, but merely using religion to push a prejudice.
    5. I’m sure that schools will examine that carefully during the program, but the short answer is those issues are currently covered in other concurrent and on-going bullying campaigns. There is still a diffence between being challenged on a view point and being bullied. View points can change, whereas sexuality cannot. Being homophobic is a viewpoint. Being LGBTI is not a viewpoint and cannot change.

    • Don’t tell me what my view is. I am one of the many Christians you say don’t agree with Akos. Well I’m sorry to tell you that I do agree with Akos. So do 90% of the Christian I have talked with and know. I know a big majority of Christians where I live, being involved with the Christian School there for over 30 years and involved with many of the Christian churches in my area. Unless you take a very careful vote you cannot say how many agree with you and who do not.

      • I didn’t tell you what your view is. Though to be honest it doesn’t affect what I’ve written. So, you know a few Christians who agree with you? I know a few who agree with me? Are you going to claim that we’re not Christian enough? Just DON’T do that.

        Also, you state that in your Christian community it is common to agree with Akos’s view. In my community I know many, many Christians, including myself, who don’t agree with Akos’s view. Therefore the view ISN’T to do with religion, but only to do with the society that you are in.

        If it is Christian religion that made people intolerant of LGBTI people, then I would also be intolerant and I’m not. It is using what I love to push a view point that isn’t Christian. Your kind of viewpoint makes me ashamed to even admit to being Christian in this world!

  26. So well written! We are facing similar issues in Alberta Canada where the government has decided that all schools (public, private, religious, charter) must adapt “Guidelines For Best Practice”. Ours goes even further to state that children are able change their identified gender, the pronouns used for them to be referred to, the washrooms , change rooms and sports teams which they use all without parental awareness. In fact, it specifically says that the school must have the childs permission to discuss any of the matters above with parents.

    Our government gave a deadline of March 31st of this year to incorporate the guidelines into their policies. So far only 20 of the 61 school boards have agreed. Many parents are fighting hard to have the guidelines removed but it’s an uphill battle.

    • Thanks Christina!

      What you say is very daunting.

      Do you mind linking me to any official documents that say this? I’d be very interested…

      Sincerely,

      Akos

  27. For me, one of the sad things is that the people who host the tv shows can get their opinions out to the country and are admired so people listen to them. There is no voice for the opposing views. No one asks the opposition, except on political matters which only stir up trouble and where the bias is shown by who gets to have the last say. There are no Christian programs, and no outlet for Christians to be heard by the majority of people. We are not asked. We are speaking to the converted only. No one asks people like you for your opinion. How can we get our message out there?Not by staying in our safe little churches. I feel the world is being destroyed by minority groups and I can do nothing to stop it. My grandchildren are so precious but I cannot protect them.

  28. Hmmm…I see what you’re saying here and I’m not sure I agree with you, but that aside I think there’s a fault in your argument that you might tweak to make it more compelling. Comparing a religious “choice” to sexuality isn’t going to be taken as a good basis for an argument and I think it might get in the way of what you are trying to get across. I understand that some people believe that sexuality is a choice, but a huge portion of society don’t, and so the comparative use of Islam to clarify an argument won’t be taken seriously, because it won’t be seen as the same. People are much more ready to throw religion under a bus because it’s seen as a choice (I’m not saying it is or it isn’t, I’m just saying what I think most people think). Sexuality however has become more accepted as being part of a person’s physical make-up and something they haven’t had a choice in. The wording of the report seems pretty vague and I don’t think abusing people for their opinions is very good journalism, but I’m wondering whether real journalism exists anymore. Anyway, those were my initial thoughts and if your writing is only aimed at a religious audience then it might not matter. As an argument/debate though, it does. Cheers and good luck.

  29. At the risk of seeming like I want to incite a flame war, I have to say this is a really stupid argument. A totally disproportionate number of suicides and incidents of self harm occurs in young people who are gay. That is a fact, and you have completely ignored this fact in this article. Why? Is it because acknowledging this fact would only serve to undermine the point you wish to make, or is it simply because you don’t care/don’t think it’s worth mentioning? Personally I find it absolutely despicable that you would make such an omission given that young people are killing themselves over this issue, but I guess that’s just me.

    You say that your issue with Safe Schools is that is contradicts your Christian beliefs, that it is forcing you to “celebrate” sexual diversity. Now I’m not even necessarily defending Safe Schools, but there’s just one massive problem with your logic here, and it’s this; you’re interpretation of the wording and the use of the world “celebrate” is being influenced by your Christian beliefs. And that’s a problem, because the bottom line is that you don’t know if God is even real. That is a fact; you don’t know, I don’t know, No one knows. And you are making the decision to behave this way based on faith. That’s good enough. It’s especially not good enough when young people are killing themselves. People are dying, and you’re ignoring facts and interpreting things based on personal beliefs that are already biased against homosexuality, and that is the problem.

    I feel like I’m repeating myself a lot, but I really you hope you understand where I’m coming from. I’m sure your response, if you feel like giving me one and not just deleting this comment, will be very interesting. I sincerely hope, for the sake of approximately %10 of all people, and you and others who share your opinions change your minds.