Crucial evidence from two expert witnesses relied on by Christian Youth Camps (CYC) has been called into question during the final stages of an anti-discrimination case brought by WayOut rural youth group.
Under cross-examination Ridley College theologian Dr Peter Adam was questioned by WayOut’s legal counsel, Debbie Mortimer SC on whether his witness statement — re-drafted four times — contained additional passages prompted by the CYC’s legal team to reflect a more favourable outcome for the camp.
Adam told the VCAT hearing he stood by his evidence that the Christan Brethren-run CYC’s decision to refuse the group of same-sex attracted young people accommodation was “theologically defensible”. He said, if given the chance, he would not change his statement.
“I own the final draft,” he said. “If I sign it, I own it.”
WayOut — a support group for rural same-sex attracted youth — lodged the case against CYC two years ago after being refused use of the resort camping facilities in 2007.
Mortimer also questioned a Christian Brethren pastor Vicki Mustafa on why her initial evidence draft did not include a reference to the doctrine of “plenary inspiration”, which views Bible passages as the word of God.
The doctrine has been the basis of CYC’s argument that accommodating the WayOut youth group would theologically conflict with the Christian Brethren religion.
Mortimer also questioned Mustafa over the contents of her statement, alleging some had been unduly influenced by the CYC’s legal team.
According to VCAT rules, an expert witness has a “paramount duty” to assist the Tribunal and not show bias, or become an advocate for either party.
Legal counsel for CYC, Greg Garde QC, asked both witnesses whether they stood by the entirety of their witness statements, to which they both agreed.
Mortimer told Judge Felicity Hampel she would make a submission to have the evidence from the two witnesses struck out.
The case finished up this week.