Rachel Colvin, a former teacher at Ballarat Christian College, launched a ground-breaking discrimination complaint this week against the non-denominational Christian college because she would not agree to the school’s amended statement of faith, that ‘a marriage can only be between a male and a female’.
“I am bringing the case to let my LGBTQI students know that they aren’t deformed or disordered. They were created as they are, in the image of God, and … they are fully loved by God and share equal dignity with all human beings,” Colvin said in a media statement.
“I am devastated by what happened to me. I loved my job. I am an extremely hard worker and loyal to a fault, and to have it end the way it did was, at first, professionally humiliating.”
Colvin lodged her complaint with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal on Monday, alleging that from around August 2018 – in the shadow of the national marriage postal survey – she was informed by the college that she would no longer be offered certain teaching and professional development opportunities at the school.
She had previously an unblemished teaching record with the Ballarat Christian College, and alleges she was counselled and then forced to resign when she refused to agree to and abide by an amended statement of faith, which was contrary to her own political and religious beliefs.
She offered to remain silent about her beliefs that same-sex marriage had the same validity as heterosexual marriage, but was forced to resign in February this year.
A committed Christian, Colvin has now chosen to speak out.
“Now, I see it slightly differently. I see it as a God-given opportunity to stand up for what is right, to represent what God is really about: loving others,” she said.
Under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act 2010, there are protections from discrimination on the basis of religion and political belief, but also broad religious exemptions which currently allow religious organisations and individuals to lawfully discriminate on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender and other grounds.
The Equality Australia group has praised Colvin for her stance.
“When I first met Rachel, I was immediately struck by her compassion and empathy, and the importance of her faith in her teaching and to who she is as a person,” Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said.
“She offered to teach in accordance with the school’s beliefs. She simply wouldn’t sign a statement purported to reflect her own beliefs that was actually at odds with her Christian beliefs.
“Sadly, the students at Ballarat Christian College have lost a caring and capable teacher, simply because an employer has sought to impose its narrow minded version of Christianity and control the personal beliefs of its staff.”
Brown added: “These issues are raised squarely by the proposed federal Religious Discrimination Bill, which presents even greater risks to workers in religious organisations who believe that LGBTIQ people are whole and human, not sick and broken.
“Exemptions from anti-discrimination laws privilege the interests of religious institutions over the rights and freedoms of everyday Australians.”
The Morrison Government has set a deadline of 2 October 2019 for public submissions on the draft Religious Discrimination Bill.
Submissions can be made via the Attorney General’s website.