Religious belief deserves protection
The school sticks to the orthodox biblical belief that sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is not acceptable conduct for a Christian teacher. Steph changed his mind about it and couldn’t agree with this belief anymore. This difference of opinion turned out to be irreconcilable, so Steph and the school went their separate ways.
She now teaches at another school where her doctrines and beliefs align with those of the schools.
His experience was not easy, but it was honorable, and exactly what you would expect when there is such an adversarial position between an employer and an employee.
The school did not try to force Steph to change his beliefs or live with the tension of teaching and acting in ways incompatible with his beliefs. They took great care to act with kindness and integrity. As Steph herself said, the result of this difference in belief was no surprise.
Sadly, this is not an outcome that activists like Equality Australia, who backed Steph’s story, can accept. Neither is attention paid to the deeper issues of how to deal with fundamentally different views and beliefs between people, when they cannot be reconciled.
They want beliefs they find acceptable imposed on Christian schools; they want our schools to change to conform to those of the staff they support – no matter what other staff members or the parents who have founded and supported the school for many years may hold to be true. Or the avowed and historical doctrinal basis of the institution.
Education is more than the mere transmission of curriculum content. Research has shown that community and relationships built around shared beliefs are a vital part of the educational process.
It really takes “a village to raise a child” and all Christian school staff have a vital role to play in this process – and must share a common set of beliefs.
The Australian Association of Christian Schools and Christian Schools of Australia, the supreme body for Christian schools, is anxiously awaiting the Morrison government to follow through on its electoral pledge to introduce a religious discrimination bill that will affirm that It is legal for Christian schools to continue to provide denominational education by employing staff who support and model the beliefs of the school.
We also look forward to opposition support for such a bill, reflecting its national platform which recognizes the need to protect religious freedom.
Vanessa Cheng is Executive Director of the Australian Association of Christian Schools and Mark Spencer is Director of Public Policy, Christian Schools Australia.