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COALITION TO CONSIDER RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION ACT (17 Oct 2018)

By Australian Newsletter

Scott Morrison’s cabinet must decide on a proposal for a Religious Discrimination Act, but face a damaging backlash ahead of the crucial Wentworth by-election following disputed claims schools could be handed new powers to turn away gay students. The proposed legislation, a key recommendation in the Ruddock review of religious freedom, is viewed within the Morrison government as a way to end Coalition infighting and allay fears among religious groups following the divisive same-sex marriage debate. Liberal MPs who backed same-sex marriage including Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson and Dean Smith, have indicated they are open to a Religious Discrimination Act so long as the measure is not seen as the introduction of a bill of rights by stealth.

“This approach is consistent with the opportunity identified by the Senate committee into marriage equality, which said that a religious protection in federal law should be examined,” Senator Smith said. Senior government ministers have said they believed it “very likely” the proposal for a new religious discrimination act would be endorsed by cabinet, although the issue is not yet on the agenda for discussion. Support for the shake-up was jeopardised following a backlash over suggestions the review led by Philip Ruddock would hand new powers to faith-based schools, allowing them to discriminate against homosexual students and teachers on religious grounds.

The Liberal candidate in the by-election, Dave Sharma, has distanced himself from the debate and declared he was “opposed to any new measures that impose forms of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation”. Wentworth, vacated by Malcolm Turnbull, is home to one of the largest LGBTI communities in Australia and returned a 80.8% “Yes” vote for same-sex marriage in last year’s postal plebiscite. Mr Sharma is facing a challenge for the seat from prominent independent candidate and LGBTI advocate Kerryn Phelps, who has a strong following in the electorate. If the Coalition loses Wentworth, it would be forced into minority government.

Bill Shorten railed against the suggestion that faith-based schools would be given new powers to discriminate against students, a false claim reported in Fairfax Media. The Opposition Leader called on the government to rule out “creating new laws to discriminate against kids in education”. Attorney-General Christian Porter clarified that the exemptions allowing religious schools to refuse gay students and teachers already existed in carve-outs to the Sex Discrimination Act and were extended by Labor under Julia Gillard in 2013. They were not recommendations stemming from the Ruddock review.

“Bill Shorten saying that he opposes the religious schools making decisions about employment and student admissions consistent with their religion ignores the fact that those exemptions were introduced by Labor in 2013,” Mr Porter said. “Bill Shorten is either shockingly ignorant of laws that he created or terribly hypocritical in his desperation to score a political point”. Under the current law there are listed exemptions that apply to “educational institutions established for religious purposes”. They allow religious schools to discriminate against students and teachers in accordance with their religious doctrines. Similar exemptions exist in ACT, NSW and WA law.

Responding to Fairfax reports that the Ruddock review would hand schools new powers to discriminate against homosexual students and teachers, the Prime Minister said: “That is the existing law. The report in the Sydney Morning Herald forgot to mention one critical factor: that the existing law enables schools to do exactly what was in that report,” he said. “So that’s not a change. That’s actually backing in an existing law. We’re not proposing to change that law to take away that existing arrangement that exists.” The Ruddock review sought to trim back the exemptions allowing schools to discriminate against gay students and teachers.

“To the extent that some jurisdictions do not currently allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender characteristics, the panel sees no need to introduce such provisions,” it said. “Very few religious schools or organisations submitted that this was necessary. To the extent however that certain jurisdictions including the commonwealth do allow this type of discrimination, the panel believes the exceptions should be limited by the requirement that the discrimination be in accordance with a published policy which is grounded in the religious doctrines of the school”.

Mr Ruddock told The Australian the review’s recommendations were aimed at “restricting” the ability of schools in the ACT, NSW and WA to reject homosexual staff and students. “It essentially deals with those students who might be disciplined where they are facing gender challenges and to make it clear that if any such actions are to occur it has to be dealt with in contractual arrangements before the student is enrolled,” Mr Ruddock said. “And the schools have to make it very clear that it’s part of their established ethos. It is restricting in those states where it is permitted”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS WILL NOT REJECT LGBTI STUDENTS SAY CHRISTIAN LEADERS (17 Oct 2018)

By Australian Newsletter

Christian schools will not reject students because of their sexual orientation and media headlines about “secret plans” to allow them to do so, are wrong, say Christian education leaders.  The news headlines sprung out of a leaked report into the Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review.  According to Fairfax the report, presented to the government in May but not made public, “calls for amendments to the federal Sex Discrimination Act to allow religious schools to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status”.

Mark Spencer, the national policy officer for Christian Schools Australia, said that Fairfax’s article didn’t represent the heart nor the intent of faith-based schools. “To sum this up in a cheap headline that suggests they’re going to be expelled doesn’t reflect the nature of Christian schools, and the care we have for all our students” Spencer said.  But a follow up article in The Australian about the Phillip Ruddock-headed review, says the Fairfax article is incorrect, and that the review seems to in fact be doing the opposite: seeking to restrict the ability of religious schools to turn away LGBTI staff or students. “The characterisation of this as a zero-sum game, winners-losers, that is the way the media tends to portray a lot of these really complex issues,” Spencer said.

“What we’re dealing with here in relation to students, is young people who are often struggling to work out who they are, their place in the world, how they fit in society, what they believe, and what their sexual identity is” Spencer went on.  Mr Spencer said Christian schools under his care have never expelled students just for identifying as an LGBTI person. Gay-identifying students have at times been expelled from schools just as straight students have, because of behavioural or conduct issues, but sexual orientation is not a reason for disciplinary measures, he said.

“We’ve had students who have been same sex attracted, and their schools have pastorally cared for them, supported them, taught them what the Bible teaches about morality and sexuality and sexual conduct, but still loved and cared for them,” he said.  Former Christian Schools Australia CEO and Christian radio presenter Stephen O’Doherty concurred, saying the idea that Christian schools want to sideline homosexual students or force them to conform their sexual identity, isn’t representative of Christian schooling. “The schools I know take tremendous efforts in supporting all students, including those who identify as same-sex attracted.”

“In my experience that’s not the way schools operate.  The schools I know take tremendous efforts in supporting all students, including those who identify as same-sex attracted.  Teenage years are a time of great change and flux and when a student is discovering their sexuality they do need a safe and supportive environment.  And schools do provide those environments.  That’s the heartbeat of those schools. “Christian schools are not asking for the right to expel kids on the basis of their sexuality.  And I would be highly surprised if the Ruddock report has recommended anything along those lines.

“It’s far more likely that it’s said there’s some lack of clarity about how schools are able to teach about religious values.   I’m sure the Ruddock Committee will have addressed that to say we need to make sure all the states and territories are on the same page.”  What the Christian education sector does want, is the right to maintain school culture, and appoint staff who will be comfortable teaching Christian values and beliefs to students.  “We want be able to ensure we have staff who share the values of the school, share the beliefs of the school, can model those and live that out in their lives, and reflect that in what they teach to the students,” Mr Spencer said.

“When it comes to others in the school community, all we’re wanting in the very rare cases where it becomes an issue, is the ability to actually ensure we can protect the essential fabric of the school.  If it came to a situation where someone was seeking to undermine the very fabric of who we are as a Christian school, then in those very rare cases, yes, we want the ability to be able to say to those students, their families, this may not be the school for you.”  In its submissions to the Religious Freedom Review, CSA has asked the government to be proactive in protecting peoples’ right to believe, rather than taking an exemption-based approach to religious freedom.

Stephen O’Doherty said the Religious Freedom Review is vital for Australia’s future.  “It’s about whether religious institutions, schools or other institutions, can act in a way that is consistent with their teachings, beliefs, and doctrines,” he said.  “It covers whether Christian organisations can hire staff who are Christians when they’re engaged in Christian ministry activities.  “Currently political parties have more protection than most religious organisations.”  The report is expected to look at whether a religious freedoms commissioner should be appointed, and whether freedom and discrimination laws should be standardised across the states and territories.

Source: 103.2FM

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QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT’S EXTREME ABORTION BILL (17 Oct 2018)

By Australian Newsletter

On 16 July 2018, the Queensland Cabinet unsurprisingly decided to accept the recommendations of the hand-picked Queensland Law Reform Commission and adopt its Draft Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018.  A parliamentary vote is scheduled for the parliamentary sitting week of 16 October.  The main points of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 are:

Abortion on demand up to 22 weeks for any reason.

Abortion past 22 weeks’ gestation until birth, under a wide range of criteria including “social” reasons.  Although a second doctor’s consent is required, the second doctor will not even have to see the woman, or look at her file, and there is no legal penalty if the abortion is performed without a second doctor’s approval.

Sex-selection abortion would be legal, so unborn female babies would be killed for the “crime” of being a girl.

There are no safeguards for women seeking an abortion, such as independent counselling, informed consent conditions and cooling-off periods.

No effective conscientious objection for doctors.  Doctors with conscientious objections would have to refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor who will be able to facilitate her request, thus making the referring doctor complicit in the outcome.

Any communication against abortion within 150 metres of abortion clinics would be criminalised, including peaceful “sidewalk” counselling, silent prayer, or even a mother asking her daughter not to have an abortion, or a boyfriend offering support and trying to persuade his partner to continue with the pregnancy.

Removing all provisions about abortion from the Criminal Code (other than an unqualified person performing the procedure).

One of the many consequences of this new law would be that abortions would be performed in taxpayer-funded public hospitals, and therefore would be free.  This inevitably would lead to an increase in the number of abortions and therefore the number of women harmed.

Under the current law, 14,000 abortions are performed in Queensland every year.  This is the equivalent of two classrooms of children being destroyed in Queensland every working day.  Private clinics already can get a licence to perform abortions up to 20 weeks’ gestation, and women don’t even need a doctor’s referral to book an abortion.  About 2% of abortions are performed in public hospitals, both before and after 20 weeks for foetal abnormalities and, in rare cases, where the pregnancy causes a serious danger to a woman’s health.  No woman has ever been convicted for having an abortion under the current law.  Most abortions attract a Medicare rebate.

Source: Cherish Life

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ATHEIST POLITICIAN FINDS GOD AT 85

By Australian Newsletter

Bill Hayden, former Governor-General of Australia and lifelong atheist, has found God and been baptized in a Catholic Church at 85 years of age. Hayden “said it was witnessing so many selfless acts of compassion by Christians over his lifetime, and deep contemplation while recovering from a stroke, that prompted his decision.” Hayden, who during his political career identified as a humanist, was baptized on September 9 at St. Mary’s Church in Ipswich. Hayden revealed that he had been experiencing “a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life.” “What’s my role in it?” he stated of the questions that bothered him.

He said that although in declining health, he is hoping his new-found faith will inspire others. “This took too long, and now I am going to be devoted,” Hayden noted. “From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God,” he pledged. Father Peter Dillon, the Catholic priest who baptized him, said that despite his life-long atheism, the former federal opposition leader and foreign minister had a change of heart several months ago. “It was a big thing for him, an act of submission to the fact that there was no denying for him that God is real and he had come to discover that,” Dillon said.

Hayden revealed that a big influence on his conversion was his own Catholic mother, who taught him the principles of humanity, social commitment and service to others. It was a recent hospital visit to see Sister of Mercy Angela Mary Doyle, the 93-year-old nun famous for her long history of helping the poor, that finally motivated him to turn to God, however. “I have always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example,” he said. “Sister Angela Mary Doyle was for twenty-two years administrator of Mater hospitals in Brisbane, a citadel of health care for the poor of South Brisbane where I grew up towards the end of the Great Depression,” Hayden explained.

“Dallas (my wife), our daughter Ingrid and I recently visited Sister Angela Mary in the Mater Hospital where she was a patient,” he added. “The next morning I woke with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman. “So after dwelling on these things I found my way back to the core of those beliefs, the Church.” Hayden said that he would like to play an active part in the St, Vincent de Paul Society, one of the major Catholic charities in the country. Amid his conversion, Hayden did touch upon a major controversial topic that has gripped Catholic churches worldwide, namely decades-long child sex abuse. “The problems are caused by human agents of the Church, but we shouldn’t let our faith be undermined those who aren’t quite as good as they should be,” the former politician said of the issue.

Source: The Christian Post

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DOCTORS COULD BE DEREGISTERED FOR PERSONAL BELIEFS

By Australian Newsletter

A new threat to the freedom of conscience, speech and action of doctors is the Australian Health Practitioners’ Regulatory Authority’s (AHPRA’s) proposed revision of their code of conduct called: Good Medical Practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia. AHPRA is the statutory body that controls registration of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. It has the power to deregister health professionals if it sees fit. Changes to the wording of the code mean that doctors could be deregistered for expressing personal opinions.

The proposed revision says: “The boundary between a doctor’s personal and public profile can be blurred. As a doctor, you need to acknowledge and consider the effect of your comments and actions outside work, including online. If making public comment, you should acknowledge the profession’s generally accepted views and indicate when your personal opinion differs.

Behaviour which could undermine community trust in the profession is at odds with good medical practice and may be considered unprofessional”.

This proposed draconian change to the code seeks to silence any dissent to the view expressed by AHPRA. It threatens the livelihoods of doctors who do not subscribe, for example, to the view that gender dysphoric children should be quickly pushed down the path of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones or who have a conscientious objection to abortion, to name but two.

Toowoomba GP Dr David van Gend is currently being investigated by APHRA for simply retweeting comments.

Please pray:

  • that the wording of the final code will not result in the limitation of free speech.
  • that the committee considering the new code will not be influenced subjectively by pressure groups.
  • that the voice of all in the medical profession will be heard and considered before final decisions are made. The loudest voices or vested interests do not always represent the majority view.

Source: Australian Family Association 

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STUDENTS SET FOR RADICAL 21ST CENTURY CURRICULUM

By Australian Newsletter

Australian students are set to be taught fashionable but contentious 21st-century skills, ranging from critical and creative thinking through to “mindfulness”, “gratitude” and “resilience”, with moves under way for a radical redesign of the national curriculum. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has started a review of the curriculum that is understood to draw heavily on the recent Gonski review, an OECD future of education project and the work of a US-based “futurist” who has been contracted to help “modernise” the mathematics curriculum.

The push has attracted criticism from ACARA’s recently retired chairman, Steven Schwartz.  “The 21st-century skills movement is the latest in a long line of educational fads,” Professor Schwartz said. “In each case, early enthusiasm gave way to disillusion. The problem is always the same: children cannot learn to be critical thinkers until they have actually learned something to think about.” ACARA chief executive Robert Randall alluded to the review during a recent University of NSW lecture. He revealed the next iteration of the curriculum would be out within two years.

It is understood work is centred on two objectives: bringing 21st-century skills, known as “soft skills” and “generic competencies”, to the fore of what is taught in classrooms; and incorporating equally contentious learning progressions that have been linked to a proposal to replace student achievement, including A-E grades, with “gain” as a measure of a student’s success. Both were endorsed by businessman David Gonski in his recent review into educational excellence. Former ACARA director of curriculum Fiona Mueller, who resigned late last year after two years in the role, exposed the review in a recent online opinion article.

She lamented the “fixation on 21st-century competencies” and “lack of broadminded, transparent and objective leadership on the part of local decision makers”. Approached by The Weekend Australian, Dr Mueller said she was concerned that work under way amounted to a redesign of the curriculum by stealth. “You might call it a rather stealthy shift in approach, and the implications for students, teachers and other stakeholders are absolutely enormous,” she said. “What they are talking about is actually another radical shift in teaching and learning.”

Despite ACARA’s frequent assurances that any changes to the two-year-old curriculum would be “refinements”, it recently commissioned the US-based Centre for Curriculum Redesign, headed by self-described education thought leader and futurist Charles Fadel, to work on a new maths curriculum. It was referred to on ACARA’s website in July under the obscure heading “Australian Curriculum: Mathematics recognised as global leader”. A media release reveals the project would lead to the creation of a “world-class mathematics curriculum” that paid explicit attention to “21st century competencies” addressing the “learning needs of students for life and work in the 21st century”.

Mr Randall was quoted as saying that the project would be used to “inform any future refinement to the Australian curriculum in mathematics and to help guide improvement to ACARA’s overall curriculum design and development process”. Hailed by many as a panacea to declining educational results, both locally and when compared with international counterparts, the general capabilities received a big tick in the Gonski report, which described them as “critical to equipping students with the skills necessary to successfully live and work in a changing world and are increasingly sought after by employers”.

Positioned in the national curriculum with eight core learning areas, such as English, maths, science and history, there are seven general capabilities: literacy, numeracy, ICT capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, intercultural understanding and ethical understanding. Australian Catholic University research fellow Kevin Donnelly, a former secondary school principal who conducted the government’s 2014 review of the curriculum, said the push to elevate the role of skills and capabilities in education was a worldwide trend, driven by “globalist groupthink” about “changing times”.

It is to prepare students “for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated”. It is also a major theme of the OECD’s Education 2030 position paper, The Future of Education and Skills, in which ACARA was heavily involved. The report, released this year, features a long list of “constructs” of competencies currently under review that could find their way into the curriculum, such as adaptability, compassion, equity, global mindset, gratitude, hope, integrity, motivation, justice, mindfulness, resilience, respect, purposefulness and trust.

“Such competencies represent a content-free approach to the curriculum that is guaranteed to further lower standards and ensure that Australian students continue to underperform and leave schools morally and culturally bereft,” Dr Donnelly said. Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Jennifer Buckingham also questioned the push, describing it as “well-intentioned but misguided”. “Of course it is important for young people to be able to collaborate, communicate and think critically and creatively, but there is absolutely nothing new about that,” Dr Buckingham said.

“What is new is the idea that these things can be taught by schools as a set of generic skills or capabilities disconnected from disciplinary knowledge. Good evidence suggest that this is a fool’s errand.” A spokesman for ACARA confirmed that the organisation was engaged in work designed to inform the next generation of the national curriculum, but any action would require the endorsement of all education ministers. The spokesman said that the recommendation in the Gonski report built on ACARA’s recent work in producing literacy and numeracy learning progressions, which “help teachers locate the literacy and numeracy development of their students and identify what development should follow”.

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HILLSONG TO BECOME ITS OWN DENOMINATION

By Australian Newsletter

Citing the growing global nature of the church, Brian Houston, global senior pastor of the popular Hillsong Church, has announced a split from Australia’s largest Pentecostal denomination to become a denomination of its own. Since their inception, Hillsong Church has been a part of the Australian Christian Churches (ACC), a branch of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, which is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. In a recent letter to the ACC, Houston said Hillsong’s operation as a church had outgrown the capacity of the ACC.

As Hillsong Church has continued to grow, we no longer see ourselves as an Australian Church with a global footprint, but rather a Global church with an Australian base, our global office now resides in the USA. Two thirds of the people attending Hillsong Church each weekend live in countries beyond Australia. We have pastoral staff in twenty-four nations around the world, representing 123 campuses and locations, with 263 different church services on any given weekend. We consider it to be ‘One House, with many rooms,'” Houston explained in the letter.

“So with that growing footprint, it has become clear that we need to be able to credential our own pastors and restructure our church in a way that enables us to give due diligence to governance, risk, church health, safe church, and many other policies that are crucial to the future progress of Hillsong, globally,” he said. “For this reason, we are now registered by the Australian Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, as a recognized denomination with the ability to credential pastors in our own right. This recognition alleviates the issues that would occur if, for example, a concern arises that affects the credential of a Hillsong Church youth pastor in one of our campuses in Europe.

The Australian ACC cannot be expected to have adequate information to address this issue or even know who the person is, let alone the resources to appropriately deal with the issue on a personal or pastoral level.” In an email to the denomination’s pastors, ACC President Wayne Alcorn likened Hillsong’s decision to split from the group to a child growing up. “Recently Hillsong Church advised its desire for a change in its relationship with the ACC. In a way, this can be likened to a child who has grown up and now has a larger life outside the family home,” Alcorn wrote.

In his letter announcing the split, Houston noted that there was no dispute involved in the separation. “I love the ACC and have been a part of this denomination since I was a five year old in New Zealand, and have held a credential in Australia with the AOG/ACC for virtually forty years. I also served as NSW State President for six years, and National President for twelve,” he wrote. “It is a movement I have devoted many years of my adult life to both serving and leading. I believe wholeheartedly that Pastor Wayne Alcorn is doing a wonderful job in leading the movement, and I want to make it clear that we have no grief or dispute at all with the ACC.

Instead, this decision comes after almost two years of prayerful discussion within both our global and Australian church boards.” While Hillsong Church may be splitting from the ACC, it will remain at least in its doctrine, a Pentecostal church with a more contemporary approach to ministry. Notably, Houston has stated earlier this year that he prefers to call Hillsong “contemporary” or “charismatic” more so than “classic Pentecostal.”

Source: Christian Post

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FRANKLIN GRAHAM TO TOUR AUSTRALIA FEBRUARY 2019

By Australian Newsletter

There are so many people in your community and across Australia who don’t know Jesus Christ, and they need your prayers. In February 2019 Franklin Graham will boldly proclaim the Gospel in cities all over Australia and pray with Christians like you at free evangelistic events during the Graham Tour. Before the tour, you are invited to join with other believers from your city at upcoming prayer gatherings and ask God to open hearts throughout this country? We’ll worship and join together in Jesus’ Name to pray that many Australians will come to know Him. Before the meeting, will you lift up people across Sydney in prayer for the Graham Tour?

The first public expression of the 2019 Graham Tour is coming up fast. A prayer rally and Pastors reception will be held on Saturday 13th October and a second prayer gathering on Wednesday 24th October (details below). A Pastors and spouse reception will be held prior to the Prayer Gathering at Hillsong at 5:30pm on 13th October. The prayer rally will begin at 7pm. Hillsong Church will be providing worship and there will be prayers on the night by denominational leaders, as well as the Vice President of Crusades from Billy Graham USA, Rev Viktor Hamm.

Saturday, 13 October
7:00 PM
Hillsong Church Hills Campus
The Hub
1/9 Solent Circuit
Baulkham, NSW 2153
Senior Pastor and Spouse Reception at 5:30 PM
Or
Wednesday, 24 October
12:30 – 1:30 PM
St. Andrews Cathedral
Corner of George and Bathurst Streets
Sydney, NSW 2000

DATES AND LOCATIONS FOR THE 2019 GRAHAM TOUR
Perth: February 9, 2019
Darwin: February13, 2019
Melbourne: February 16, 2019
Brisbane: February 18, 2019
Adelaide: February 20, 2019
Sydney: February 23 – 24, 2019

To find more information on the Graham Tour and discover how your congregation can get involved and to register your Church go to www.GrahamTour.com.au  Also keep an eye out for Facebook events on the Billy Graham Australia Facebook page.  

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