While some in Canberra are choosing their words carefully, emails obtained by New Matilda reveal a dark streak to a campaign spearheaded by the Australian Christian Lobby. Max Chalmers reports.
Emails sent to MPs encouraging them to oppose the LGBTI friendly Safe Schools Coalition describe homosexuality as “unnatural”, compare it to murder, warn God sees gays and lesbians as an abomination, rail against “heterophobia”, and claim lesser evils than the program have caused civilisations to end.
The disturbing content the campaign has produced emerges a day after the Federal Coalition agreed to review the Safe Schools program after complaints from the party’s right forced Education Minister Simon Birmingham to ease off previous statements of stern support.
New Matilda has seen a relatively small portion of the thousands of emails sent to NSW state MPs but they reveal a deep seam of open homophobia, paranoia, and confusion at the heart of the movement opposing the Safe Schools Coalition.
The majority of the emails appear to have been sent with the assistance of a generator produced by the Australian Christian Lobby, and the conservative lobby group’s talking points can be found throughout.
Many of the emails are openly hostile to LGBTI people.
“Do not allow these funds to be use for the advancement and propagation of gay lesbian agenda. We do not want our children to adopt these unnatural habits,” one says.
“It is an thinly disguised attempt to indoctrinate our children and young people into accepting homosexuality and ‘gender diversity’ as normal,” another notes.
The emails, some of which come from concerned parents, often put forward general religious objections to homosexuality or gender diversity.
Yet another email states:
“I am very disappointed to find a backside way to approve things God Almighty forbid using our children to force us to accept and also to distort a whole generation by insulting the human race. God only created am man & a woman nothing was unclear, to get marry each other & have babies & fill the earth.”
The Safe Schools Coalition provides resources to schools on request, and is currently working with close to 500 schools around the country. The material it offers for primary and high schools differs. Even once a school has signed on to work with the Coalition, teachers and principals are able to choose which resources they would like to use.
New Matilda understands the service offered to primary schools is specialised; a school with a trans child or a large number of same-sex parents may ask for assistance with training or resources, for instance.
Many of those who have contacted MPs opposing the program insist they support anti-bullying campaigns to help LGBTI students and that they are not homophobes, but argue Safe Schools goes too far, and introduces children to age-inappropriate material. A closer look at the emails, however, tends to cast doubt on how genuine those claims are.
“Please note, I am not homophobic,” one person writes. “That implies a fear. That would be like saying I’m lie-aphobic. Or treat-your-parents-disrespectfully-aphobic. Or steal-aphobic. Or murder-aphobic. I just believe homosexual behaviour is wrong.”
Another email reads, in its entirety: “Please stop. Gay and lasbians. (Abominacion) God never aprove gays and lasbians. Stop Know.”
New Matilda has opted not to fix the grammar or spelling reproduced here as it is indicative of the broader correspondence.
A key theme hit on by those who have written to MPs is that a secretive and powerful ‘gay lobby’ is responsible for the Safe Schools program.
“Why all the propaganda…. seems very political to me. Once again the loud gay community with lots of money is influencing our politicians,” one says.
Others attempt to provide their own sex education lessons to MPs, such as the following:
“The focus on explicit sexual deviations from the natural design of the human body lead to health risks both mental, physical, and sociological. The fact is the vagina in a female is primarily for the male penis to introduce sperm to fertilise ova and thus create another life. God created this act to be pleasurable. The anus is meant for expulsion of body waste products, and using it for sex is unhealthy and dangerous.”
Greens MLC David Shoebridge’s office told New Matilda they had received well over 2,000 emails since October 2015. Labor MLC Penny Sharpe said she had been sent “hundreds”, and said they were “at best misinformed, at worst homophobic and transphobic, and deliberately misleading.”
NSW Greens Sexuality and Gender Identity spokesperson, Jenny Leong, accused the Australian Christian Lobby of running a misinformation campaign.
“Sadly, many of the people opposed to Safe Schools are opposed to diversity in general,” Leong said. “They won’t accept our LGBTIQ communities and seem to think that by sticking their heads in the sand they can make diversity, in terms of sexuality and gender identity, go away. They need to realise that being gay, being transgender, being intersex, being a child in a same-sex family, are all very real experiences and very normal experiences that should be celebrated, not condemned or ignored.”
Much of the anger in the emails is not actually directed at content in the Safe Schools Coalition’s core All of Us brochure, instead making reference to peripheral materials, especially the Minus18 website, which Safe Schools recommends as a useful resource.
The emails are particularly focused on the idea children are being taught in the classroom to bind their chests, a practice used by some people who experience body dysphoria to reduce the appearance of breasts, by wearing compressing clothing. The claim is untrue, and is based on the fact an article on the Minus18 website lists ways this can be done safely. As BuzzFeed has reported previously, the ACL and anti-marriage equality groups have for some time been using chest-binding as a key talking point.
Minus18 CEO Micah Scott told BuzzFeed the resource was designed to ensure young people did not harm themselves if they engaged in the practice, common among transgender and gender diverse adolescents.
“Our transgender and gender diverse young people really identified that there were a number of people who were binding their chest,” he said. “But a lot of them weren’t aware of the risks, and they weren’t aware of what methods were safe.”
Though separate, Minus18 and Safe Schools have worked together in some instances.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton told New Matilda his organisation was not able to vet the emails their website helped generate to send to MPs, but that around 5,777 had been sent. He noted those seen by New Matilda, around 80, made up a small component of the total.
“The difficulty is how do you quantify how many of them there are there,” he said. “We always encourage people to engage respectfully with MPs and be respectful in the way they present issues.”
Shelton said when he had showed the Safer Schools Coalition resources to Federal Coalition MP Scott Ryan, the Victorian Senator had agreed they were inappropriate.
Shelton said rather than a sign of the program’s success, the fact so many schools had signed up was negative for children.
Much of the correspondence seen by New Matilda argues that there are bigger issues than homophobic bullying in schools which should be focused on instead. Others say it is simply not an issue worth tackling.
“Please do the cost benefit analysis,” a parent implores. “For the potential benefits in relation to a very small percentage of kids who are bullied for not being heterosexually oriented, the cost in damage done in exposing all kids to information that normalises unnatural behaviour is simply not worth it.”
In the Federal Parliament yesterday, Coalition MP Andrew Hastie said he opposed the program because “it is ideological big government reaching into the lives of ordinary Australians”. Senator Cory Bernardi told his party the initiative indoctrinated children “with Marxist cultural relativism” and has previously argued it would make them “advocates for the homosexual cause”.
The grassroots backers of Bernardi and Hastie are being a little less subtle. In fact, so worried are they, many saw the Safe Schools Coalition as contributing to the final decline of civilisation as we know it.
“Any society that can countenance such evils has reached an advanced stage of auto-destruction,” one email concludes.
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