The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has been back in the news in the past week. I’ll give you three guesses why. Could it be that they are using their resources to help addicts into recovery? Perhaps they are funding a new program to help homeless youth? Or maybe they are using their influence to lobby for an outreach program to go into the community and make sure children aren’t going hungry? These would all be very Christian-like and worthwhile use of their time as a Christian organisation that wants to uphold Christian values.
Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, the ACL is actually in the news for a very different reason. Instead of spending time and energy helping the disadvantaged, poor, and trodden-upon members of society, they are running a campaign against a national anti-bullying campaign aimed at preventing homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination in schools.
That’s right. The Australian “Christian” Lobby is dedicating its time and energy to campaigning against an anti-bullying program in schools. WWJD, indeed. Sorry everyone, Jesus can’t turn that fish into more fish so you don’t starve; he’s too busy protecting bullies.
There are 450 schools participating in the Safe Schools Coalition program, which has been designed to assist schools in constructing a safe and supportive environment for same-sex attracted and gender diverse students. The ACL is so horrified by the thought of an inclusive and supportive environment that they have immediately encouraged people to sign a petition calling for the program to be axed, and to send emails to their MPs (many of which SHOCKINGLY turned out to be homophobic and transphobic, who could ever have guessed?).
"The ACL is so horrified by the thought of an inclusive and supportive environment that they have immediately encouraged people to sign a petition calling for the program to be axed."
They also released a flyer claiming that the program teaches students ‘gay and lesbian techniques’ (whatever those are, someone please send a flyer to my home so I may learn), and chest binding. The Safe School program has links to various organisations that distribute some of this content, but the program itself does not. It seems the Australian Christian Lobby is being misleading and - of course, as well all know - Jesus loved dishonesty.
The ACL is scared of progress. They advocate for a return to the dark old days, for schools to function like they did when I was a teenager in high school. They want kids to be taught that the lives of cisgender heterosexual people are the only normal or positive lives, and definitely the only lives worthy of learning or talking about (a message which did not stick for me). They want kids to be sitting in a sex-ed class, terrified, spending all of their energy hiding who they are; a teenage girl sitting at her desk in regional Queensland, looking down at her diary covered with photos of male celebrities she painstakingly created to make sure nobody discovered the truth, because she was so scared of what might happen.
Groups like the ACL want the feelings and desires of queer and gender diverse kids to remain silenced. And silencing is exactly the effect discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia will have. LGBTI youth in this country still have extremely high rates of depression and suicide compared to heterosexual youth. And even in 2015, in a world that has seen Glee, most of the verbal and physical homophobic bullying LGBTI youth experience happens at school. We have come a long way, but this group in particular still needs a wide range of support.
"I cannot fathom how different my life might have been if I didn’t spend almost every moment of high school thinking about my sexuality and how to keep it a secret."
I cannot fathom how different my life might have been if I didn’t spend almost every moment of high school thinking about my sexuality and how to keep it a secret; what it would have been like to not hear homophobic slurs every single day. What might have happened if I got to walk into a school that had implemented a program like Safe Schools, the action of which explicitly tells queer and gender diverse kids that they are welcome, and that it’s okay for them to be themselves. I imagine walking through the gates every day would have been like breathing fresh air, instead of holding the weight of dread and sadness on your chest. Nobody should have to feel fear, simply by attending school.
But the ACL doesn’t care about these kids, or what they feel. They will do everything they can to pretend that their actions are of noble intention, and that they are simply trying to protect children. But they aren’t. Their words, their tweets, their flyers, their emails, and their campaigns are things that will have no impact besides damaging an already vulnerable group. Society has left the ACL behind, and now all they can do is frantically fight and claw and mislead and motivate their supporters to make life hard for a group they don’t like.
This campaign feels like a warm up to the propaganda the ACL will unleash if there is a plebiscite on marriage equality next year. The damage they will attempt to do in the lead up to the plebiscite will be yet another example of their intentions – ignoring all of the practical good they could do in the community for people who are actually hurting, in favour of targeting queer people who simply want equality.
There is no doubt in my mind that they will lose all of these battles, and ultimately the war, but until then we all need to make sure we minimise the casualties.