The principal of a Queensland private school has denied his school is discriminating against students by making parents sign a contract calling homosexuality “sinful” and comparing it to paedophilia and bestiality.
More than 130,000 people have signed a petition against the Pentecostal-associated Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane, and a state government investigation is now under way.
“Some people have criticised the college and said that we are discriminating against gay and transgender students. This is not the case,” principal Brian Mulheran said in an online video to parents on Wednesday.
“While I’ve been principal at the college, we’ve not expelled or refused to enrol any students on the basis that they’re gay or transgender.”
The school’s new enrolment contract asked parents to sign up to the school’s declaration of faith.
“We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including but not limiting to adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual acts, bestiality, incest, paedophilia and pornography) is sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society,” it read.
It also stressed “God created human beings as male and female” and made repeated references to “biological” men and women – language that’s commonly used to erase transgender people.
The public outcry started on Sunday after former student Bethany Lau, 25, saw the contract being shared on social media by her former classmates.
“This belief system exists in a lot of schools, but to have it in a contract like that is so confronting and wrong,” she told The New Daily.
Ms Lau said she noticed homophobic undertones during her time at the school, and that students such as herself were given the impression that “if we deviated from the straight, narrow path, we would be going to hell”.
The state government and Queensland Human Rights Commission are both investigating the enrolment contract, while a protest has been organised for Friday afternoon.
Amid the outcry, Mr Mulheran extended the deadline for parents to sign the contract by two weeks.
A sign of what could come
Rodney Croome, a board member of queer rights organisation Just.Equal and former Tasmanian of the Year, said the Citipointe enrolment contract is part of a worrying trend at some schools.
The long-time queer rights campaigner currently works with schools – public and private – to address homophobia and transphobia.
“We know from national research that LGBTIQ+ students are much more likely than other students to experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and potentially attempt suicide, because of the discrimination and stigma against them, and that discrimination and stigma is only intensified by the policies of a school like the Citipointe Christian College,” he told TND.
“A contract like that and the attitudes it represents would be devastating to many queer kids.”
Mr Croome believes the language used by the school appears to be influenced by the government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.
“It has such a wide definition of what discrimination is, that it will enable independent and faith-based schools to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ kids under the cover of their religious beliefs,” he said.
He added: “It is all in anticipation of the Religious Discrimination Bill. If it wasn’t, then the Citipointe Christian College would have framed the discrimination in traditional terms.”
The school insists it does not discriminate against queer students, but stands by its contract.
In November 2020, Scott Morrison defended the bill and argued that it would simply protect religious people and institutions from discrimination.
“Gay students should not be expelled from religious schools and nor should gay teachers who have been employed at those schools be dismissed if they are gay,” he told reporters at the time.
“That has always been my view, and this bill does nothing to enable such a dismissal.”
However, in light of the Citipointe saga, Labor education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek questioned Mr Morrison’s commitments.
“Three years ago, Scott Morrison promised he’d change the law to protect kids,” Ms Plibersek told TND on Wednesday.
“He must explain to the Australian people, and his own Liberal MPs, why he hasn’t. There’s no excuse for further delays.”
Education Minister Alan Tudge was contacted for comment.