Anti-bully advocates fight back

Anti-bully advocates fight back

Gay rights advocates and a Jewish community body have rejected a rabbi’s claims a government funded anti-homophobic bullying scheme is teaching “moral wrong”.

In an article for the Australian Family Association journal, Institute for Judaism and Civilization director Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen (the son of recently deceased former Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen) wrote that anti-bullying initiative Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV) is “unethical” because it teaches children about homosexuality which goes against the word of God.

“As part of its program, [SSCV] requires schools to teach the acceptability of homosexual behaviour as a norm. By so doing, it flies in the face of over 3000 years of religious and cultural tradition since Sinai,” the Melbourne-based rabbi wrote.

“In terms of the world religions and world civilization, it is teaching something which is a moral wrong and fundamentally unethical.” Cowen, also an associate of Monash University’s School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, claims the anti-bullying program breaches religious rights.

“The notion that every child in a school, of which a great many come from religious backgrounds which prohibit homosexual behaviour, … must be taught in the school from infancy that homosexual behaviour is equally normative is coercive,” he said.

“State institutions are being required by it to teach values which override and negate the teachings of the traditional world religions and so infringe religious liberty.”

In November, the Baillieu Government, as part of a $4 million funding grant to tackle suicide and self-harm among LGBTI youth, awarded the SSCV program $416,000 to expand its work.

SSCV coordinator Roz Ward slammed Cowen’s attack. She said schools, including Progressive Jewish school King David, have opted into the program, which aims to create a supportive environment for same-sex attracted teens at risk of being bullied.

“Our research … shows a clear link between homophobic bullying and levels of self-harm and suicide,” Ward told the Star Observer.

“It’s an ideological position to say there should be specific religious education in schools. Saying there should be a level of safety and welfare for the health of students in schools is not an ideological position, it’s a bare minimum.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) executive director Peter Wertheim said Cowen’s views were not representative of the larger Jewish community.

“The ECAJ reiterates its and the Australian Jewish community’s strong opposition to bullying at school on any grounds, including sexual orientation, and welcomes any government program designed to counteract bullying that has the support of victims and educators,” he said.

“While opinions differ both in the Jewish community and in the wider community about whether sexual orientation is predetermined in any sense, it is essential that any public discussion of the issue must not vilify individuals or groups on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity, to which we are totally opposed.

“The view that homosexuality is an illness does not represent a general view of the Jewish community.” Gay Jewish support group Aleph convenor Michael Barnett accused Cowen of using “junk science” to back up his claims that a specifc anti-gay bullying program is not needed.

“Saying it’s immoral to support people who are homosexual is distressing,” “Tradition is not an argument for pulling apart a proven, accredited support program,” Barnett said. “It carries no weight, it’s not based in science, it’s not based in reason, it’s not based in any modern practices, it’s simply an outdated understanding of human behaviour which is simply flawed.”

“We have traditions in the past we no longer stand by because they were bad, this is another bad tradition.”

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11 responses to “Anti-bully advocates fight back”

  1. This is a man who will happily stand by and watch a gay teenager kill themselves – with a smirk on his face, the thought of god in his heart and a sense of righteousness on his shoulder.

    There is no reasoning with a man like this.

    I’m pretty damn certain though, that what awaits him in his ‘afterlife’ is the punishment for every death his words incite.

    To all children – Be strong, it gets better.

  2. Dash’s brash composite of Biblical texts is impressive, but nothing endures quite like Leviticus, Chapter 18, Verse 22, and a world which continues to identify as heterosexual. Anything else would be an abomination!

  3. It is attitudes such as this by Rabbi Cowen that contribute to the bullying the GLBTQI students face in a wide variety of educational settings. If parents really object then they can always change schools for their children and I pity the children of parents such as these who teach their children that hatred of those that are different is OK. Hatred and bullying of those that are different is never OK.

  4. let us consider the bible’s position on other issues for a moment.
    exodus 21:7 sanctions selling children into slavery
    leviticus 25:44 talks about owning slaves
    exodus 35:2 suggests those who work on the sabbath should be put to death
    leviticus 11:10 suggests that eating shellfish is an abomination
    leviticus 21:20 suggests that those with a defect in their sight may not approach the alter of god
    leviticus 19:27 expressly forbids trimming hair, including around the temples
    leviticus 11:6-8 suggests touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean
    leviticus 19:19 suggests that one may not plant two different crops in the one same field, that one may not wear garments made of two different types of thread.
    leviticus 20:14 suggests that those to sleep with their inlaws should be burned to death at a private family affair.
    as illustrated above, anyone can use select passages from the bible. how many people can really say they have not done any of the above (apart from the in-laws bit)?

  5. Haven’t we worked too hard for to long to be tolerant to simply sit by the inciteful rhetoric? It makes little difference to the child in school (and lets keep in mind they are children, even up to age 16) who preaches the hate, bigotry and the creation or fostering of an ‘unsafe’ environment or why they do it.

    What matters is how this is perceived in the mind of a young person, and what outcomes this has. As a community and as mature humans, let us do all we can to protect, foster, nurture and love all young people. Emotional security, spiritual awareness are crucial to their development.

    As adults, it is time to take ownership of our actions and consequences. Inaction on this issue will be overlooked until tragic outcomes result. Speak out now, before this occurs.

  6. It also worth noting David Perrin, the Australian Family Association President in Boxhill in Melbourne, told reporters “The medical professions have a view that homosexuality is a disease”. He complimented the Victorian Attorney General Robert Clark, who told parliament we molester children more and homosexuality is worse than cancer.

    The addresses of the Australian Family Association are here:

  7. In the camps, GLTBTI people had pink triangles, and those of the Jewish faith had yellow stars. Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen needs to convince me he could distinguish the pitch of the screams, when they were herded together and gassed, before I take him seriously. Better still, could he honestly distinguish between the ashes of people who were forced to wear yellow stars, and those forced to wear pink triangles?

    A killer is a moral wrong, not someone who is same-sex attracted or Jewsih or both. What next, open a special camp for those moral wrongs? I think this sort of hate belongs in a darkened room filled with gas, not here in modern Australia. I would have hopen at least Dr Shimon could look to his fathers legacy before he speaks again.

  8. The Australian Family Association, AKA the American funded Christian cult the Festival of Light, has a long history of publishing hate material. The have said for instance, homosexuality is a cancer. What does society do to cancer, cut it out?

    Etched into my mind are the photos of Catholic Bishops giving a NAZI salute to Hitler. I hope some religious leaders would have learned the ultimate message of religious intolerance.

  9. […] Anti-bully advocates fight back | Star Online. Share this:EmailPrintFacebook This entry was posted in GLBT, Health, Human Rights, Jewish, Youth and tagged Australian Family Association, Bullying, ECAJ, Homophobia, Junk science, King David School, Michael Barnett, Peter Wertheim, Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, Roz Ward, Safe Schools Coalition Victoria. Bookmark the permalink. ← Fran Drescher To Marry Gay Couples | […]

  10. Perhaps Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen isn’t concerned that homophobic bullying is linked to gay youth suicide because the Bible says homosexuality is punishable death.