Citipointe College's new enrolment contract referred to state board for investigation

Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane is making headlines this week for asking parents to sign a new contract with an attached Declaration of Faith or forgo their child’s enrolment. At a Press Conference today, Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said the matter had been referred to Queensland’s Non-State School’s Accreditation Board, Nine News reports.

Citipointe’s contract requires parents to affirm that their child identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth, stating, “The College believes that by creating each person, God in his divine love and wisdom gifted them their gender, as male or female. The College therefore acknowledges the biological sex of a person recognised at birth and requires practices consistent with that sex.”

“I/we agree that where distinctions are made between male and female (inclusive of, but not limited to, for example, uniforms, presentation, terminology, use of facilities and amenities, participation in sporting events and accommodation) such distinctions will be applied on the basis of the individual’s biological sex.”

The attached declaration asks parents to agree that “any form of sexual immorality (including but not limited 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”.

Principal Pastor Brian Mulheran emailed parents on Friday saying the school had included the new clauses in the enrolment contract “to ensure that we retain our Christian ethos, which is the foundation of what has made the College what it is today”.

The contract’s new clauses include the college having the right to “exclude a student from the college” for failing to adhere to the “doctrinal precepts including those as to biological sex”. But, in a statement, Mulheran said, “Citipointe does not judge students on their sexuality or gender identity and we would not make a decision on their enrolement in the college simply on that basis.”

Citipointe College is a private primary and high school in the Brisbane suburb of Carindale. It is one of four Colleges within the Christian Outreach Centre Movement (trading as International Network of Churches (INC)) – a small Pentecostal denomination. The College Board is an Advisory Board responsible through the Committee of Management of Citipointe Church to the National Executive.

The revelations about Citipointe come when the Morrison government Religious Discrimination Bill returns to parliament.

The revelations about Citipointe come when the Morrison government Religious Discrimination Bill returns to parliament. Attorney General Michaelia Cash has held out against the moderate members of the Liberal Party who want to bring forward the revision of the Sex Discrimination Act’s exemption which allows schools to discriminate.

More conservative schools have a lot riding on the Religious Discrimination Bill. If a softer bill passes, they face the task of accepting students and staff that won’t believe every aspect of the sponsoring churches doctrine, while still maintaining the school’s ethos.

Citipointe’s contract provides a working example of what might happen if Christian institutions hold a legal right to assert their theological beliefs (to maintain the institution’s religious ethos) –  regardless of whether it conflicts with the legal rights of other groups like LGBTQ people. The College’s hardline undermines the insistence of some conservative Christian groups that schools have not and will not expel LGBTQ students.

The school’s actions may decrease the chances of a religious discrimination bill in the current form being passed. It may parallel the example of some Christian aged care providers who argued in an earlier parliamentary inquiry that they should be allowed to keep LGBTQ persons out of nursing homes. The government regulations were swiftly changed to take a non-discriminatory stance.

Yet, Citipointe’s new contract has not only provided evidence of precisely the “worst-case scenario” the Bill’s opponents have warned of but also exposed the diverse range of beliefs on the issue held by the coalition of Christians calling for religious freedom.

The college’s actions have located the school at one extreme of a broad spectrum of views, as evidenced by recent submissions and statements to the parliamentary committees on the issue.

Some churches and schools like Citipointe College evidently believe that making clear statements condemning same-sex relationships is a necessary part of being a Christian. In a statement released defending the new contract, Citipointe’s principal explained, “We have always held these Christian beliefs and we have tried to be fair and transparent to everyone in our community by making them clear in the enrolment contract. We are seeking to maintain our Christian ethos and give parents and students the right to make an informed choice about whether they can support and embrace our approach to Christian education.”

To parents of students who openly identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer, Citipointe has signalled it will not provide a welcoming environment.

It is worth noting that some Christians have called for churches to adopt the type of approach Citipointe has and make it clear what the church’s theological position is on same-sex relationships. Groups such as Church Clarity in the United States argue it can be more hurtful for an LGBTQ person to be welcomed into a church community only to realise later it is not LGBTQ affirming.

However, Citipointe is not a church but a prep to grade 12 school. This is a salient distinction. Citipointe is one of a group of schools that thinks the school community is a church. The debate over discrimination is whether that sort of school, which includes schools from other religious communities, should exist. And, in the wider religious discrimination debate, progressives question whether a non-LGBTIQ-affirming school should exist.

To parents of students who openly identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer, Citipointe has signalled it will not provide a welcoming environment.

Similarly, for parents of kids who are Intersex or experiencing Gender Dysphoria privately, the course ahead is fraught. Citipointe’s view that Christianity requires those children to be shunned sends a clear message that their children will not be supported. Can a parent risk the mental health outcomes of immersing their child in such a community?

Citipointe parents of same-sex attracted kids face the question of whether a non-affirming school can ever be a healthy environment for their child. This is a question just as relevant to parents of same-sex attracted kids at the most respectful and welcoming of non-affirming schools.

Yet it would be incorrect to assume other non-affirming Christian schools wish to take a similar path to Citipointe. Religious schools vary a lot, from schools that reflect the LGBTQ affirming stance of their sponsoring denomination, to evangelical schools which try to genuinely welcome all students, to schools that blur the boundaries between being a church and a school, like Citipointe. And while all these groups might theoretically support a Religious Discrimination Act, each group would outwork their right to religious freedom differently within a school context.

Those differences may well have a profound impact on the emotional and spiritual health of children who attend these schools – whether they are same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted. Perhaps even future Australians’ openness to Christ and to Christians is on the line with this issue.