Two years ago, in 2019, teacher Rachel Colvin sued the Ballarat Christian College for discrimination because she did not agree with its view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Parents send their children to this Bible-based school because they expect Christian schools and their staff to uphold the Christian view of marriage.
But Colvin resigned, because she supported same-sex marriage and wanted to teach her view. She sued the school under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act.
The case was eventually settled in March last year. The school retains its Statement of Faith defining marriage as a union between a man and woman, but had to pay an undisclosed amount to Rachel Colvin and give her a positive employment reference.
The legal battle was stressful. College principal Ken Nuridin said: “Our college provides high-quality Christian education in accordance with our beliefs. The claim has taken an enormous cost in time and resources already – detracting from the ability of a small school like ours to focus on what is important, the education of our students.”
But now there is a new case of religious freedom under attack, this time in a UK Christian school. And the boot is on the other foot.
In June 2018 Trent College in Nottingham invited the leader of LGBT activist group Educate and Celebrate, to conduct staff training. The college – founded to educate children according to “the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England” – wanted to “embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of their school” from the earliest preschool years.
During the training session, staff were encouraged to chant “smash heteronormativity!” – that is, to reject any idea that heterosexuality is the norm.
A number of pupils were concerned about the school’s new teaching. They asked the chaplain, Rev Dr Bernard Randall, whether they had to agree with it.
Dr Randall’s job description states he is to be “the particular voice and embodiment of … Christian values which are at the heart of Trent’s ethos”.
So, among other things in his next sermon, he said that “when ideologies compete, we should not descend into abuse, we should respect the beliefs of others, even where we disagree”. He added: “No one should be told they must accept an ideology. Love the person, even where you profoundly dislike the ideas”.
He said same-sex attracted people and those struggling with gender dysphoria should not be discriminated against. They are made in the image of God. But he also said: “You do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists” where they are in conflict with Christian values.
Would you believe? For this sermon the college board suspended him, referred him to a counter-terrorist organisation as a potential violent extremist, and to the local child protection authority as a danger to children.
I kid you not!
Dr Randall was reinstated after appealing to the school’s governors, but was ultimately made redundant five months ago after his hours were drastically reduced. He has no income to support his family. He is now suing the college for unfair dismissal, supported by Christian Concern UK.
This case is a sad reminder that the religious freedom we once took for granted is now being trampled across the Western world.
Please pray for Dr Randall, that he may receive justice. And for us at FamilyVoice, as we campaign for religious freedom – including the right of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. We greatly value your ongoing financial support as we work to uphold religious freedom here in Australia.
Peter Downie - National Director