Proposed Bill Amendment Raises Religious Freedom Concerns for Adventist Schools, Churches

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia (AUC) is concerned that proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act could adversely impact both Adventist schools and churches.

It has voiced these concerns in a submission to the review of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018. Adventist Schools Australia has partnered with Christian Schools Australia in a separate submission.

The bill, introduced to Parliament by Senator Penny Wong on November 29, 2018, proposes amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. It aims to “remove the capacity of bodies established for religious purposes that provide education to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.”

The bill fired up debate between the Government and the Opposition late last year, and no consensus could be reached before the final sitting day of Parliament for 2018. Consequently, the Senate referred the bill to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for review and to report back by February 11. Submissions to the inquiry closed on Monday (January 21).

AUC general secretary Pastor Michael Worker said the principle of removing discrimination against students sits comfortably with the Adventist Church’s beliefs, doctrines and tenets of faith. However, he believes the bill not only poses a threat to schools upholding Adventist beliefs but could have consequences outside the classroom. For example, it could impact the teaching of Adventist beliefs and principles in Sabbath School classes and at Pathfinder meetings.

“The Church believes that the bill does not adequately address the competing rights that are at play in this discussion,” said Pastor Worker, director for Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia.

“It is our contention that positive protections should be enacted that protect the rights of faith-based organisations while removing any unfair discriminations that might exist.”

Pastor Worker said there is no evidence to verify claims that LGBTIQ+ students are being expelled from Christian or other faith-based schools because of their sexual orientation.

“Adventist schools continue to maintain and operate an open enrolment policy that accepts students from all walks of life, providing they are willing to respect the tenets, doctrines and principles of our faith,” he said.

Religious freedom was again in the headlines on December 13 when the Government released its long-awaited response to the Ruddock review into religious freedom. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to introduce a religious discrimination act to protect the rights of Australians of faith.

“Clearly, there is a lot happening in this space, and things are moving very quickly,” Pastor Worker said.

“I would ask all of our church members to continue to pray about these issues and for our nation’s leaders as they deliberate over matters that could have serious implications for the Adventist Church in Australia.”

To view the Church’s submission (No 191) on the Parliament of Australia's website click here, or read it below:

This article was written by Tracey Bridcutt and originally appeared on the Adventist News Network.

Image: Parliament House in Canberra, where there has been much debate recently over religious freedom. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Adventist schools and colleges accept LGBTI students, but we do not fully embrace who they are. We continue to think of them as “sinners” through trotting out the mantra, Love the sinner but hate the sin.
Four weeks after the RECORD published a review of Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives (Oct 4, 2008), it published a clarification that reinforced the consensus statement adopted by the GC and the SPD, reassuring members that our official position had not changed. The item ended with a comment about how “distasteful” we found the “lifestyles” of these people to be. They are only fully acceptable to us as they choose to remain celibate.
What the church should fear is its own unwillingness to move forward on this issue. We are not listening. Many of our own scholars are urging us to reconsider the traditional interpretation of Leviticus and Romans in particular, passages that appear to address perverse activity, not same-sex loving relationships.
Perhaps when we finally accept full gender equality, we might be ready to examine other areas that we find difficult to understand. Many are hoping and praying this day comes sooner rather than later. In the meantime, many believers are suffering due to the ongoing, relentless rejection they experience in the church.

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Religious liberty factions and office of the Adventist church think they are doing us a favor by doing others favors. They are not. For each new liberty given to false religions, a little less will be afforded our way. We try to have it both ways… go to bat for false religions, then whine when these false religions are given latitude at OUR expense. Wake up people. Religious liberty, as we are made to swallow it, is a farce. Show me anywhere in The Bible where anyone tolerated, aided, abetted, propped up, or otherwise allowed false religions latitude.

Decades ago, professor Dr Renee Drumm, writing her dissertation for her doctorate, interviewed dozens of Adventist LGBT young people.

Poignant, pitiful, painful stories emerged recounting the shabby shunning, shaming episodes and the demeaning, discriminating denigrating treatment encountered by LGBT young people in Adventist families, schools and congregations.

Nothing has changed in the ensuing decades since Dr Drumm wrote her dissertation ( an abbreviated summary was posted in Spectrum Magazine )

This abysmal and decidedly unchristian intolerance has resulted in numerous suicides and attempted suicides.

Since self worth and self esteem are so vital to an adolescent’s personhood, I advise all LGBT Adventist young people to seek out the nearest public high school, community college or university, where they can get instate tuition.

Not only will they spare themselves student debt. ( three of our SDA
colleges in USA rank in the top fifty for graduating students with the most debt , ) they also will retain their dignity and self respect.

Why subject yourself to demeaning, destructive diminution ??

More power to the Australian government who recognize how important it is for teenagers not to be subjected to harassing humiliation!

I support this government effort and decry the response from the Adventist hierarchy who seem willing to tolerate a perpetuation of pernicious persecution of our LGBT offspring.

Let it be noted that TW’s largest “ compliance “ committee is consumed with a hateful homophobic witch hunt against our LGBT members.

No wonder our millennials are leaving the church in droves.

They neither support the overt miserable misogyny nor the hateful homophobia so pervasive and prevalent in Adventism.

My daughter is a millennial, born in 1981. So many of her friends from academy left many years ago…long before the WO discussion. They don’t believe EGW is a prophet, or even believable, nor do they find the other peculiar beliefs of the SDA church viable.

Not to say that some are leaving because of WO issues, but probably at least half of them left a long time ago, along with a huge amount of adults over the last 30+ years.


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