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Huge protest against plans to stop Christian schools from choosing staff who share their values: ‘Attack on faith and freedom’

A huge rally has been held in Adelaide to protest proposed changes to discrimination laws that will stop Christian schools from rejecting applicants who don’t share their values.

The Faith in Our Future event at the Tyndale Christian School in Salisbury East on Wednesday night involved teachers, parents, students and their supporters who are concerned with recommendations from an Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report described as “an appalling attack on faith and freedom of belief in Australia”.

Footage of the event shows the school hall packed with opponents of the recommendations, which Associated Christian Schools executive director for public policy and advocacy Alistair Macpherson said would stop parents from being able to choose a school that accords with their beliefs and ethics.

A mother with a son at the school who attended the rally told The Advertiser: “I don’t necessarily agree with the kinds of things that go on in public schools and I’d like to let him grow up in our own faith”.

Another mum, whose two daughters attend Tyndale, said: “There are children of other faiths (at Tyndale) and we find that it’s a way of being able to give our children some world experience, but with the safety net of knowing that all of the staff here at Tyndale share the same faith as we do.

“And that’s what we think is important because in other sectors, there are differences in what’s taught.”

The rally comes after a Melbourne public school was exposed for running a “queer club”, facilitated by a far-left LGBT activist teacher.

A video by Celine Baumgarten on the club at Montmorency South Primary School was then blocked by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, resulting in global attention and an appeal filed by Ms Baumgarten with the assistance of the Free Speech Union of Australia.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish, has drafted legislation based on the ALRC report, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday the government was awaiting a response from the Opposition, who were handed a copy in March.

Mr Dreyfus’ office said at the time: “No Australian should be discriminated against because of who they are or what they believe.

“The Government will seek to enhance protections in anti-discrimination law in a way that brings Australians together.

“Just as Commonwealth law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, disability and age, no one should be discriminated against because of their faith.”

But Christian Schools Australia (CSA), Australian Association of Christian Schools (AACS) and Associated Christian Schools (ACS) said if the recommendations were adopted “Christian education as we know it will cease to exist”.

CSA Director of Public Policy Mark Spencer said: “Hundreds of thousands of Australian parents choose to send their children to faith-based schools because they value this type of education.

“They enrol their children knowing that our teachers and staff are aligned with our beliefs and that students will be taught according to our beliefs.

“If these recommendations are adopted, parents would lose this right, and the government has no right to remove this choice.”

He said it was important that the government understands that “Christian schools are communities of faith, where Christian teachers and staff engage with students from a faith perspective both inside and outside the classroom and are expected to be available for Christian devotion, prayer and support”.

“A staff member who doesn’t share and support our beliefs cannot effectively teach our beliefs or support students according to our beliefs,” Mr Spencer said.

AACS Executive Officer Vanessa Cheng called it “a line in the sand moment not just for Christian schools, but for all people of faith and for the principle of religious freedom across Australia”.

“If these ALRC recommendations are adopted, it means the government can tell Christian schools who we can employ, what we can believe and teach. It sets a scary precedent, and the question Australians need to ask is ‘who’s next’? Will they dictate to any other religious group or organisation what they can believe?”

She said the issue is not about discrimination but is about the right of parents to choose a school that teaches traditional Christian values and beliefs.

“Teachers and other employees who don’t share our faith or beliefs have the choice to work at many other educational options.”

She said that schools’ codes of conduct for teachers and staff reflect their faith beliefs and often include Christian teachings around sexuality and marriage, which are a core part of their faith.

“These core beliefs cannot be separated from our Christian faith and parents are choosing our schools for these values.”

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