Scott Morrison has "thrown us under a bus"; campaigners respond to Citipointe fallout.

“In less than a week, Christian parents are thrown under the bus by a Christian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and his Christian education minister, Stuart Robert,” is how Lyle Shelton describes this week. A week in which Citiipoint College in Brisbane issued an enrolment contract that set out the schools right to exclude outspoken LGBTIQA students, then withdrew it, just as the government promised to protect those students.

The turn-around by the Morrison Government, which had pledged to hold the line on passing the religious discrimination bill (RDB) before getting the Australian Law Review Commission to look at removing the exemption clauses in the Sex Discrimination Act (that give schools rights to discriminate) has upset some of the RDB’s strongest supporters.

In a Spectator article, Shelton describes how he sees the fallout: “The Citipointe Christian College enrolment contract controversy marks the beginning of the end of Christian education in Australia.

“Parents wanting to preserve their children from harmful gender-fluid ideology – which takes them by the hand to doctors experimenting on them with chemicals, hormones and surgery – will now have to teach them in underground academies or at home.”

Shelton, the former Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, now works for the Christian Democratic party as a campaigner.

“Morrison ‘Betrays’ Christian Voters” is how Greg Bondar the national spokesperson for Family Voice headlines his statement. The pledge by Attorney-General Michaelia Cash – withdrawn yesterday) to hold on removing the exemptions to the Sex discrimination act was given to a Family Voice Webinar.

“The recent public announcement by the Prime Minister denouncing the enrolment choices of the suburban Brisbane school Citipointe Christian College highlights the hypocrisy of this government on its Religious Discrimination Bill (RDB) currently before parliament awaiting its release.

“Australia is increasingly a hostile place for people of faith. Christians and other religious believers are being fired from their jobs, stripped of their qualifications, silenced with litigation, and excluded from the public square.

“So where is the outrage?

“Christians are now experiencing ‘buyers remorse’ having been promised an RDB that would give some protection for faith-based schools. Voters put their faith in the Prime Minister based on his promise to deliver on religious freedom.”

However, there will still be a Religious Discrimination Bill, despite the shock expressed in these comments.

Senator Amanda Stoker, Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, pushed back strongly this morning on behalf of the government. “The government continues to do all that it can and has done all that it can to keep an important promise that was made to religious communities prior to the last election,” She told Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National.  And that was that we would legislate that there would be meaningful protections for their right to speak and live according to their deeply held and genuinely held religious belief.

“That is what the bill that is before the parliament does.”

Pressed on the PM’s comments following the Citipointe controversy Stoker said: “At about the time of the Wentworth by-election  we committed to act so that no gay child would face expulsion, purely on the basis of their sexuality.”

“We plan to deliver that. And that reflects all the discussion and consultation we have had with stakeholder groups within the community. There are no surprises there.”

“The only question is about how that is implemented.”

Pressed on whether the religious exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act should be removed at the same time the religious discrimination bill is passed Soker said “That provision [to the Sex Discrimination Act] shouldn’t be changed unless we know the final form of the Religious Discrimination Act. It is important that the two integrate well.”

“I understand that the Primed Minister is looking at ways those things can be done at the same time… we are looking at ways that we can compress that timeline.”

Stoker said that the PM was keen to have all the changes made before the election.

What needs to be resolved is exactly what protection LGBTIQ students will have, and whether schools for example will discipline them short of expulsion, in some of the matters raised by Citipointe – for example, the uniforms that transgender students would wear.

As Senator Stoker points out the government promised “a long time ago” that the commitment that LGBTIQ students should not face the threat of expulsion. This makes the response of Citipointe in proceeding with the enrolment contract, and the response of some ardent supporters of Christian schools surprising. It was simply a matter of timing. The exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act were always to be rolled back.

The debate about the religious discrimination bill will now focus on the recruitment of teachers in religious schools and the expression of views that as Stoker put it ” might offend some others in our community.”

Update: the Australian Christian lobby has also responded to the PM’s announcement.

ACL’s National Director of Politics, Wendy Francis, said:

“We have previously declared support for the Bill, but now we don’t know whether we can support it. Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act are being rushed through at short notice, without consultation. They could severely undermine the Bill if not finely balanced.

“We are very concerned that the Government won’t get the balance right and we may have to withdraw our support for the whole legislative package.”