GAYNZ.COM ARCHIVED ARTICLE
Title: The Pro-Bullying Lobby Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 29th February 2016 - 2:01pm1456707660 Article: 17992 Rights
 
Across the Tasman, the Australian Christian Right is facing the loss of its side of the marriage equality debate through predictable measures- it has decided to target the LGBT youth anti-bullying "Safe Schools Coalition" instead, and as usual, the other side's diatribes are full of distortion, mendacity and outright lies. These shenanigans began earlier in February 2016 and centred on a safe school 'formal' or ball organised for LGBT students by the Safe Schools Coalition, organised by the previous Gillard administration to educate straight and cisgender students about LGBT concerns and encourage LGBT students to maintain presence and collective agency within schools, enabling them to continue and complete their secondary education. Given that one outcome of antigay and transphobic bullying is youth suicide, and given that in conservative Catholic circles, suicide is seen as a 'mortal sin', grounding their opposition to euthanasia, one wonders what led the Australian Christian Right down this abhorrent road. The announcement of the ball led to the emergence of an ad hoc "Stop Safe Schools Coalition." Interestingly enough, the whole debacle has been ignored by Bob McCoskrie and Family First, which usually acts as a waystation for antigay/transphobic propaganda, tactics and strategy from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom- possibly because it isn't an issue in the United States, apart from the ailing campaign against transgender child protection school policies, which have failed in Tennessee, Washington state and Fairfax, Virginia during February, despite an organised if covert campaign from the US Christian Right's Family Resource Council and its satellite organisations. Perhaps the rhetoric is too over the top even for him? The harassment campaign began when the SSSC asked its followers to purchase tickets to obstruct LGBT student attendance, which badly backfired, leading to increased ticket purchases and positive mainstream media attention from the Fairfax media and Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and SBS. Minus 18, one of the organisers, raised twice the amount needed to cover the costs of the ball! Even better, it led both Australian Labor Party federal Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and the Liberal/National Coalition Minister for Education Simon Birmingham to defend the utility and need of the Safe Schools Coalition. Meanwhile, the organisation itself has welcomed the investigation, stating that it has nothing whatsoever to hide. Unfortunately, the matter didn't end there. In another disappointment for those that hoped that the new Turnbull administration would herald a return to mainstream liberal pluralist and democratic secular Australian social values, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull bowed to pressure from extremist social conservative elements within the Coalition, namely antigay Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, Queensland Coalition MHR George Christensen and Senator Jo Lindgren, and Tasmanian MHR Andrew Nikolic, at a federal Liberal caucus room meeting. Already, Bernardi has been caught out lying, stating that the Australian Capital Territory had joined the programme when none of its schools have, prompting a fiery exchange between Bernardi and Bill Shorten, who bluntly called the other a homophobe. TheNew Matilda(24.02.2016) progressive news website has seen some of the antigay emails sent to Australian federal MPs over the programme. Unsurprisingly, most of them seem to be orchestrated by an Australian Christian Right pressure group, the "Australian Christian Lobby." While this pressure group describes itself as "non-denominational" and "non-partisan" on its website, the organisation's real agenda is obvious if one closely examines its website. It opposes marriage equality, opposes protective no-protest zones around abortion clinics to prevent harrassment from anti-abortion extremist protestors, opposes the deregulation of brothels and euthanasia. The organisation is based in Canberra and has about twenty paid staff members. It was founded in 1995 by John Gagliardi, a fundamentalist Queensland businessperson and retired Baptist minister John McNicoll. Other significant figures are retired SAS Brigadier Jim Wallace, who chairs the organisation's board, and Lyle Shelton, formerly associated with the National Party of Australia, who has also worked at his father's Pentecostal church, and is now the ACL's Managing Director. Shelton denies claims that overseas funds power the organisation, claiming it is supported by local donors. Amongst the inflammatory emails sent from the ACL's letter generator are accusations that the Safe Schools initiative "promotes homosexuality" amongst teenagers, rhetoric about "indoctrination" and overt fundamentalist religious discourse. The generator and its talking points can be accessed below. The debate goes on, but it has triggered a backlash from LGBT communities and their allies. State and territory governments are strongly criticising Turnbull's retrograde move. Let's hope Education Minister Buckingham can help his leader and the extremists within his caucus to see sense, and not obstruct a useful programme that encourages suicide prevention, educational retention and aiming for excellence amongst LGBT youth. Recommended: Minus18:http://www.minus18.org.au Safe Schools Coalition:http://www.safeschoolscoaliti on.org.au Jill Stark: "Safe schools programme: Why zealots are trying to drag us back to the dark ages"Age: 24.02.2016:http://www.theage .com.au/comment/safe-schools- program-why-zealots-are- trying-to-drag-us-back-to-the- dark-ages-20160223-gn1ryq.html Shalailah Medhora: "Only one school has quit the Safe Schools LGBT programme after parents objections"Guardian: 24.02.2016:http://www. theguardian.com/australia- news/2016/feb/25/only-one- school-has-quit-safe-schools- lgbti-program-aft er-parents-objections Matthew Knott and Judith Ireland: "Malcolm Turnbull orders review of Safe Schools LGBTI programme after right-wing pressure"Sydney Morning Herald: 23.02.2016:http://www.smh. com.au/federal-politics/ political-news/malcolm- turnbull-orders-review-of- safe-school-lgbti-program- after-right-wing-pressure- 20160223-gn16rg.html Fergus Hunter: "I've never met anyone who is homophobic: Coalition backbenches vent over safe schools":Sydney Morning Herald:25.02.2016: http://www.smh.com.au/ federal-politics/political- news/ive-never-met-someone- who-is-homophobic-coalition- backbenchers-vent-over-safe- schools-20160225-gn3859.html Shalailah Medhora: "State and territory governments criticise review of LGBTI Safe Schools programme" Guardian: 24.02.2016:http://www. theguardian.com/australia- news/2016/feb/24/state-and- territory-governments- criticise-review-of-safe- schools- lgbti-program Shannon Power: "Safe Schools programme welcomes federal investigation into its programme" Sydney Star Observer: 24.02.2016:http://www. starobserver.com.au/news/ local-news/safe-schools- coalition-welcomes-federal- investigation-into-its-p rogram/146275 Judith Ireland: "Who are the Australian Christian Lobby?" Sydney Morning Herald: 18.02.2016:http://www.smh. com.au/federal-politics/ political-news/w ho-are-the-australian- christian-lobby-20160218- gmy67y.html Not Recommended: Safe for All Students (ACL Propaganda Source and Email Generator) (?!):http://www.safeschools. acl.org.au/ ?polliemail_pc=  
 
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