Demand that PM Turnbull investigate anti-LGBTI bullying and vilification
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OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL
Dear Prime Minister:
We are a multifaith and multicultural coalition of clergy, lay leaders, and community members from across Australia writing to express our grave concerns about the recent open attacks on the existence of LGBTI people in Australian public life, the threats to young LGBTI people's health and safety from discrimination, and the vilification of LGBTI populations in Australia.
Recently, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, Liberal National Party MP George Christensen, Family First Senator Bob Day, and some special interest groups complained to you about the Safe Schools program. This evidence-based program was developed by request from educators to reduce anti-LGBTI bullying in schools and to protect young people from barriers to equal education.
You recently stated that "every child has the right to be safe at school..." and that "it is unacceptable on whatever basis that bullying occurs, whether it is on the basis of a child's sexual orientation, their perception of their sexuality, of their race, their gender, their religion, their appearance." Research evidence and reports from school administrators document that rhetoric alone does not reduce anti-LGBTI bullying in schools. We know that school-based educational programs do.
When describing the need for this review, you stated:
"When concerns are raised I've asked the minister to examine the complaints and to report back to me. That is the responsible thing that any PM, any government should do."
We agree with you that a responsible PM examines complaints, when concerns are raised. Therefore, we are now raising our concerns about the recent bullying and vilification of LGBTI people by some Australian organisations and individuals. This includes but is not limited to:
- the ACL campaign against the Safe Schools Coalition through misleading claims and vilification;
- the recent ACL request to suspend anti-discrimination legislation for the purpose of their campaign against equal marriage rights for same-gender couples;
- the Facebook-based 'Stop Safe Schools Coalition' campaign to shut down the Minus18 Same Sex Gender Diverse Formal that provides LGBTI young people with a safe and inclusive place to socialise in Melbourne once a year;
- the misuse of parliamentary privilege by multiple MPs who have publicly denigrated and vilified LGBTI populations;
- the leaked pamphlet prepared and funded by former Liberal MP and member of the Foreign Investment Review Board Chris Miles to promote dangerous and inaccurate propaganda about people in same-gender relationships; and
- the hate mail, email bullying, defamation, and personal social media attacks on staff working with LGBTI young people and organisations such as Safe Schools Coalition Victoria Coordinator Roz Ward
These actions promote an extremist, anti-LGBTI agenda that does not speak for us, the majority of people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds in Australia.
You have stated the importance of "standing up for children."
Prime Minister, as people of faith and people from some of the many cultures that make up Australian society, we ask you to do the right thing and stand up for LGBTI children as well.
We urge you to examine this insidious misuse of religion as a divisive weapon rather than a force for building a safer and more cohesive society. We call on you to uphold federal anti-discrimination protections in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 on the basis of sexual orientation, relationship status, gender identity, and intersex status.
We call on you to take our complaints as seriously as you have taken the complaints of those who wish to infringe on LGBTI people's basic right to be safe from bullying in school and to enjoy the same right to public life as you and your family enjoy. We call on you to initiate a formal review.
To quote your words, "that is the responsible thing that any PM, any government should do."
We trust you shall.
Dr Gávi Ansara, Founding Coordinator of Rosh Pinah: An Affirming Orthodox Jewish Network and psychotherapist, Ansara Psychotherapy
Benjamin Oh, Convenor, GLBTIQ Interfaith & Intercultural Network
Imam Nur Warsame, Marhaba Melbourne
Sue & Les Mico, Co-convenors, Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry, proud parents of two gay sons
Erin Chew, Kevin Bathman - Co-convenors, Asian Australian Alliance
Rev Matt Glover, Ordained Baptist Minister and Counsellor, MGA Counselling Services
Warren Talbot, National Secretary, Uniting Church LGBTIQ Network
Francis Voon, Sydney Gay Meditation Group Committee
Shinen Wong, Asian Australian Democracy Caucus
Jonathan Barnett, President of Keshet Australia
Rev'd Peter Weeks, Uniting Church Minister
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