Parents from a Sydney Catholic school that backed down over its ban on students taking same sex partners to the school formal are shocked by that decision. They say they were kept in the dark over the change in policy after urging St Ursula’s College, Kingsgrove to stick to its Biblical beliefs.
A Year 12 student launched a change.org petition after being informed by the school she wouldn’t be able to attend the formal with her girlfriend. After it received 5,000 signatures supporting her claim that the school policy was ‘discriminatory,’ the school allowed the couple to attend the formal last month.
A spokesman for the school families opposed to the move who only wants to be known as ‘Danny’ told Vision Radio the parents suspect the New South Wales government intervened to get the school to lift its ban.
“The most that we parents are going off is through media reports because the school hasn’t very directly addressed the issue with us parents. So the whole notion that there was a policy in the first place barring same sex relationships at the formal was news to many of us. But it didn’t surprise us if there was such a policy given that it is a Catholic school.”
”Then it was reported that the school had backflipped on its initial decision. Again, we only got that through the media and we can only take things at face value from the media reports that we all read. That certainly did surprise parents. Given that many parents had written to the school asking them to stand strong and perhaps encouraging them to stay on track, upholding what are well-known Catholic sexual ethics. So it did come as a surprise when it was reported that the school had backflipped,” Danny explained.
“We immediately wrote to the Premier [Labor’s Chris Minns, a practicing Catholic] because we were concerned that he also happens to be our local member. We were very concerned that it wasn’t only his voice. There was also the Federal Education Minister [Jason Clare] together with the New South Wales Education Minister [and Deputy Premier] Prue Car. It seemed like quite a pile-on from the political class that was trying to dictate to our school how it should conduct its events.”
“We are very, very disturbed by that, given that we do have this notion of a separation between religion and state. Well, we thought we did. And just as Christians can’t impose their sexual ethic upon others, we thought that religious communities also could be free to live out their faith without interference from government. Now this wasn’t through any legislation, but it certainly gave us a taste of what things might look like down the track when moves to legislate governmental oversight over religious institutions, schools, churches, things like that, could take place.”
“It didn’t taste very good from our perspective because last time we checked, we are still allowed to teach our children that the proper place for sexual activity is within marriage. And in a roundabout way, we were being told, actually, not even within your churches or within your religious institutions, may you teach that sort of thing,” Danny told Vision Radio.
“This isn’t just one or two families speaking out. We suspect that if we reach out more openly to the school community, we’d have a lot more than 30 families behind this push. We send our kids to Christian schools or Catholic schools or for that matter, any other religious schools for particular reasons, expecting fully that we can practice and transmit our faith and our moral teachings to our children within those institutions. And having politicians pile on and keep a whole lot of pressure on our school to go a certain way and to transgress what parents are expecting from that school, we thought was an unacceptable intrusion.”
”We did want to sit down with [Premier] Chris Minns. We know he is probably very well motivated for the well-being of those students in our school. Having said that, we do think it did overstep a line and we are concerned about what this means for Catholic or Christian schools in the years ahead.”
“As parents who send children to a Catholic school or any faith-based school generally, we’re entitled to expect that the school, irrespective of the views of certain other parents or certain other people in the community, politicians or the media, we’re still entitled to expect the freedom to practice our faith and to expect that the school will adhere to the social ethics of that faith. It’s not too much to ask, I don’t think.”
“We’re not asking for an imposition upon others. We’re simply asking to be free to think, believe and transmit the things that have been handed to us for millennia. And it seems that we’re at a crossroads here, particularly in Australia or in New South Wales, where if we’re not very careful, that government seems to be more and more emboldened to slowly be taking away our rights and we’re going to be left perhaps in a situation where it becomes illegal to practice your faith within your own schools. If we’re going to go down the Victorian model, perhaps even within your own home.”
“We think that the government needs to be reminded that this battle has been fought and won many centuries ago. That battle is that people have the right to practice their faith freely. And it seems that not enough of us are awake to that,” Danny concluded.
The concerned school families have reached out to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) for support. Its NSW Director Joshua Rowe told Vision Radio that governments are exerting immense pressure on Christian schools: “Often the capitulation is just under that weight of media and governmental pressure. You had the example of Citipointe Christian College [in Brisbane] last year and just that weight of both the media and the government and parents really pushing down on the school.”
“You can often see Christian schools going back on what they believe and just succumbing to that pressure. And that’s really sad. We want, as the Australian Christian Lobby, to lobby the federal government to protect religious freedom. I mean, these are fundamental rights. Australia is a signatory of the the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which sets out very explicitly that in Australia, religious freedom and a parent’s right to bring up their child in accordance with their religious values is protected. And we continue to see the government impinge on this and put pressure on our Christian schools. And it means that they can’t maintain a space where it’s safe and okay to be able to teach a sexual ethic on marriage.”
“Danny said it very well that Christians living in a pluralistic and democratic society don’t go ahead and impinge their views on other people and force them to believe them. And likewise, the government have a responsibility to not impinge a secular or a non-Christian worldview onto a Christian institution as well. That must be protected and that’s what the ACL seeks to do.
To listen to the full interview with ‘Danny’ and Joshua Rowe, click on the link below:
Photo: Facebook – St. Ursula’s College, Kingsgrove