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UPDATE (2/2/21): That was quick. After days of intense public pressure and an outcry from graduates, parents, and current students, Citipointe Christian College announced it would be withdrawing its anti-LGBTQ contract.

Principal, Pastor Brian Mulheran said, “We deeply regret that some students feel that they
would be discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity, and I apologise
to them and their families on behalf of the College.

“As stated previously, the College does not and will not discriminate against any student
because of their sexuality or gender identity. It is central to our faith that being gay or
transgender in no way diminishes a person’s humanity or dignity in God’s eyes.

“It is also deeply distressing that some of our students have been vilified in the community
simply for their religious beliefs or because they attend the College.

“I hope that by withdrawing the contract we can return all of our focus to the Christian
education of our students as we begin this new year.

There are many unanswered questions here. What will happen in the future? What ultimately led to the withdrawal? Why would anyone trust the leaders of this school when it’s clear what’s in their hearts? What will the school be doing to make sure LGBTQ people are welcomed and affirmed?

Still, for now, the big story is that the Christian school attempted to pivot in a bigoted direction and caved after more decent human beings spoke out against the plan.

Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane, Australia is under fire for doing something that’s second nature to Christian schools in the United States.

Last week, Citipointe Christian College (which serves K-12 students) sent a new contract to all parents. If they didn’t want to sign it, their kids could no longer attend the private school. The contract specifically required parents to say their kids’ gender matched the one on their birth certificates (so no transgender kids allowed) and added a clause condemning “homosexual” and “bisexual” acts… in the same section condemning bestiality, incest, and pedophilia.

Part of the declaration states 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”.

Why were these additions necessary? Principal Pastor Brian Mulheran said it was all part of a plan to “ensure that we retain our Christian ethos”… which is a strange way to admit Christianity rests on a foundation of bigotry and hate. (It’s not like they added a new clause requiring families to volunteer at a homeless shelter.) Mulheran’s statement implies that there’s no room under the Christian umbrella for LGBTQ+ people who aren’t celibate or ashamed of who they are.

The backlash

The Christian school appears to be legally allowed to do this, and many students have said that the school was already promoting these ideas in theory if not in writing. But it’s not going over so well with current students or graduates who see this change as the result of a particularly toxic form of the faith creeping into their alma mater.

A 2018 Citipointe alumnus Bree Leitch, who identifies as bisexual, said she was “pretty floored” when her parents received the amended contract on Friday.

She said her brother has been attending the school and he was supposed to start Year 12 today.

I’m worried about what my brother is going to do and how he’s going to get his education and graduate this year, and I’m really wanting to do something about it,” Ms Leitch said. 

She’s not alone. A Change.org petition demanding the school recall its amended contract already has nearly 150,000 signatures and includes this very blunt statement:

Citipointe is using their religious beliefs to openly discriminate against queer and trans students, as well as threatening to take away their education. Sign the petition to show Citipointe that we will not stand for such blatant transphobia and homophobia. 

Even the Queensland Human Rights Commission weighed in, arguing that the new contract could create legal problems for the school (perhaps because they received nearly $11 million in federal funding as recently as 2019):

“Expelling, disciplining or otherwise treating a student unfavourably because of these characteristics is unlawful discrimination in Queensland,” the commission said in a statement.

“A school policy that requires a trans or gender-diverse young person to be treated as their sex assigned at birth, or that requires a young person to hide or deny their sexuality, is likely to amount to unlawful discrimination.

“Schools cannot contract out of their duties under discrimination laws by asking parents or students to agree to discriminatory terms.

“While there is an exemption in Queensland that allows for a school to operate as a single sex or a religious school, this applies only to prospective students, and does not allow a school to refuse enrolment based on gender identity or sexuality.”

The reason for the change

Mulheran has said in multiple interviews, however, that he believes he’s on firm legal ground. He said in a public statement that this isn’t about hate and that the school “does not judge students on their sexuality or gender identity and we would not make a decision about their [enrollment] in the College simply on that basis”… except that’s exactly what the new contract does. It creates a pathway to expel students based on their sexual or gender identity. Mulheran needs to pick a lane: Is he for bigotry or against it? He can’t have it both ways.

In the meantime, parents of LGBTQ+ students now have weeks to return the signed forms or else their kids will have to find a new school.

So why did this change occur now? Is it because Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently introduced a Religious Discrimination Bill that, if passed, would provide cover to religious institutions that want to discriminate? That idea has shown up in some articles about the new contract, but Citipointe graduate Emmy Leo offered a much more direct explanation:

“I had planned to wear a dress to the formal. They told me that I would be ruining everyone else’s night by showing up in a dress,” Emmy said.

“I do believe that I may have been a catalyst in pushing that forward, just because I spoke out against the school. They wanted to prevent anyone like me from doing anything like that ever again.

It’s unclear if any one incident inspired the new contract. But maybe the reason this is hitting so many nerves is because the school’s old contract just required families to adhere to the Apostles’ Creed. Do you accept the divinity of Jesus? If so, come on in. Your beliefs about sexuality or abortion were irrelevant.

As parents with children in the school, we reject the amended contract because it violates the faith and values that the school itself promised to uphold in their original enrolment contract. Our Christian faith makes it impossible for us to sign the amended contract. As a result, our children will be excluded from the school — not because of anything they’ve done, but because of our shared beliefs and values as Christians.

There is a reason why we are unable to sign the amended contract — and that is because we are Christians. Among our number are doctors and CEOs, academics and town planners, engineers and educators and postgraduate students. But what unites us all is a faith that is reflected in the Apostles’ Creed, which presents a universal vision of God’s love for the world in Christ. All people are created by God, all are loved and embraced by Christ, and all are accountable to the same ultimate standard of God’s justice. That’s the faith that we each professed when we were baptised. That’s the faith that is professed by more than two billion Christians around the world. Because we hold this faith, we believe that God loves all people regardless of their sexuality, gender identity, or other characteristics. Because we hold this faith, none of us can accept any policy that singles out or stigmatises any group of people, thereby exposing them to humiliation and exclusion.

The parents also added that that the school never consulted them on the contract changes.

One teacher has also quit her job rather than work at a school that promotes such hatred. Helen Clapham Burns didn’t just work there; she had a child at the school who now has to relocate at the beginning of the term. But she couldn’t bring herself to sign the hate-papers because “I have to let those queer kids know that there are Christians out there who love them.”

It’s a beautiful sentiment in an awful situation.

There’s no indication the school’s leaders care about the outpouring of grief and criticism. There are no signs they’re walking back their contract. Which means that, so far, this bigoted revision has only led to a public relations crisis, alumni backlash, and a new reputation as a school that preaches hate.

It’s everything Jesus wanted, I guess. Weird way to spread the Gospel, in my opinion, but I suppose I should thank them for making my job a hell of a lot easier. Why waste time making logical arguments against Christianity when it’s so much simpler to just point to Citipointe and show people what happens when you follow the religion.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.