Ballarat Christian College has settled with a former teacher who claimed its teachings against same-sex marriage discriminated against her, with principal Ken Nuridin saying the case has taken an enormous toll on his small school. Rachel Colvin’s case against the school has been held up by faith-based communities as a key example of the need for a religious discrimination act following the 2017 same-sex marriage postal survey. As a result of the settlement, Ballarat Christian College in Victoria will not have to change its Statement of Faith defining marriage as a union between a man and woman and it has made no concessions on those teachings.
It is understood Ms Colvin will receive an undisclosed amount for loss of income and damages and will receive a positive employment reference from Ballarat Christian College. Scott Morrison’s religious discrimination bill is still to be tabled in parliament after drafts have come under sustained attacks from both faith-based and LGBTI groups. Mr Nuridin said that the school would continue to stand by its teachings on marriage. “Our College provides a high quality Christian education in accordance with our beliefs,” he said. “The claim has detracted from the ability of a small school like ours to focus on what is important, the education of our students”
Christian Schools Australia director of public policy Mark Spencer said the government needed to bring on its religious discrimination bill to protect schools like Ballarat Christian College. “We are calling on the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill clearly protects Christian schools from these sorts of claims,” he said. “Christian and other faith-based schools must be able to engage staff who share their beliefs and are equipped to teach those beliefs” he said. The case showed the need for increased protections for faith-based schools.
Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) chief political officer Dan Flynn called on the government to bring forward its final bill. “The sad reality for this school is that it took steadfast determination not to buckle under the pressure of a well-resourced legal attack,” he said. “To the school’s credit, they stood by their principles.” “This case underlines how the religious freedom debate must make faith-based schools’ legal rights crystal clear. “The ACL calls upon the government to ensure a case like Ballarat Christian College never happens again.” Following same sex marriage being legalised in 2017, the school amended its Statement of Faith through its constitution outlining its position on marriage.
The teacher formally notified the school of her objections to the statement in a letter on August 14, and was directed to meet with the chaplain and a female member of the school leadership to discuss her views. The college indicated she was free to hold her views personally but was required to support and teach in accordance with the beliefs of the school, which Ms Colvin was allegedly unwilling to do. As well as the positive reference for Mrs Colvin, the payout, and the school’s secured right to keep teaching against same-sex marriage; the parties will issue a statement of ‘mutual regret’.
Source: Australian Christian Lobby