Religious leaders petition PM to get behind Safe Schools

***** MEDIA RELEASE *****

16 MARCH 2016



A multi-faith and multicultural coalition of clergy, lay leaders, and community members from across Australia have united this week to call on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to defend the Safe Schools program and the LGBTI community from further misinformed public attacks.

The newly launched petition urges the Prime Minister to launch an investigation into the weeks-long attacks upon LGBTI people and young students. These attacks are likely being driven by more extremist elements within the Australian community and supported by some politicians such as Cory Bernardi.

The clergy, lay leaders, and community members representing the multifaith and multicultural coalition say they have grave concerns about the recent open attacks on the existence of LGBTI people in Australian public life, the threats to young LGBTI people’s health and safety from discrimination, and the climate of open and unapologetic vilification of LGBTI populations in Australia.

Leading the petition’s charge is Dr Gávi Ansara, psychotherapist and founding coordinator of Rosh Pinah: An Affirming Orthodox Jewish Network, who said:

“Prime Minister, as people of faith and people from the many cultures that make up Australian society, we ask you to do the right thing and stand up for LGBTI children as well.”

Addressing the widespread misinformation about Safe Schools, Ansara explained:


“The Safe Schools program was developed on request from educators to reduce anti-LGBTI bullying in schools and to protect young people from barriers to equal education. Research evidence and reports from school administrators document that rhetoric alone does not reduce anti-LGBTI bullying in schools. We know that school-based educational programs do.”

“We urge you to examine this insidious misuse of religion as a divisive weapon rather than a force for building a safer and more cohesive society. We call on you to uphold federal anti-discrimination protections in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 on the basis of sexual orientation, relationship status, gender identity, and intersex status.”

Benjamin Oh, convenor of the GLBTIQ Interfaith & Intercultural Network, also said:

“In my mind, it is no different to the sectarian discourses on the 1950s or the racial discourses of the 1960s. It took moral leadership, faith and courage, especially those who hold power and influence.”

Mr Oh said the current campaign being waged against Safe Schools would have its greatest negative effect on already vulnerable people and could set community relations back several decades.

“My biggest fear is that bridges of friendship and understanding that have been built over so many years will be washed away and we will be left with a polarising debate that is reductive, and further denigrates, shames, and humiliates LGBTI peoples as we have seen in parliament and in the media.”

Warren Talbot, from the Uniting Church’s LGBTIQ Network, noted a longstanding tradition of religious support for LGBTI people in Australia:

“It’s essential that Mr Turnbull and all MPs hear religious voices other than the narrow and excluding voice of the Australian Christian Lobby. The Uniting Church has regularly demonstrated a deep commitment to justice, compassion and inclusion.”

Other co-signatories to the petition include Imam Nur Warsame, from the Marhaba Melbourne organisation that welcomes LGBTI Muslims, as well as the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry and the Asian Australian Alliance.

Another prominent signatory is Reverend Matt Glover, a Baptist pastor whose support for marriage equality and LGBTI communities put him at loggerheads with Church leadership in 2011, eventually forcing him to leave his ministry.

In the petition, Dr Ansara urged Mr Turnbull to move beyond mere lip service:

“We call on you to take our complaints as seriously as you have taken the complaints of those who wish to infringe on LGBTI people’s basic right to be safe from bullying in school and to enjoy the same right to public life as you and your family enjoy. We call on you to initiate a formal review.”

The coalition of religious and multicultural community leaders are also calling on the wider Australian public, including non-religious people or those who may not have a particular faith, to show their support for Safe Schools and a safer world for all children by signing the petition.


Serkan OzturkFounder & Media Consultant, PR 4 The People
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