Staggering I thought as I read the front page of the Armidale Express. A picture of Bishop Michael Kennedy fills the page with the caption, “Education Politicised”. My first reaction was when has education ever not been politicised. On this occasion our local Catholic Bishop came under fire for a letter sent home to parents noting that he had voted “no” to same-sex marriage and urging them to do the same. The opposition said they found this “a little bit icky”. What might they have said of the campaigners for the “yes” vote who put their posters on the Anglican Cathedral without permission?
Throughout the current debate I have sought to be respectful but I have to say I thought the Catholic Bishop totally disrespected and with him the intelligent parents of his school community. I must admit to thinking I had misread the comments by the Family Focus Consultancy Director who in response to the Bishop’s letter said politicising education through children is inappropriate.
Let’s consider the issues for a moment. Firstly the Catholic Bishop wrote to parents not the children. Secondly, he did not attack people who are same sex attracted but was defending a traditional view of marriage which the church has held for millennia and is still the subject of debate. Thirdly, people choose Catholic, Anglican, or Independent education for a reason and not by force. Fourthly, if the shingle hanging at the front of the school says Catholic then you can safely assume that it will happily educate its students in the Catholic faith and encourage parents to participate also in the same faith. The Bishop as the head of the Catholic Church here in Armidale has every right to inform the parents of Catholic school students as to the Church’s views. If parents are unhappy they have every right to withdraw their children from a Catholic school and head to the State system.
If Family Focus Consultancy is concerned about politicising education through children, where was its voice when the “Safe Schools Program” was snuck into schools without parents being informed? I can think of a lot of parents who would have loved someone like the Bishop to inform them of such a program.
To my dismay, on looking at the Family Focus Consultancy (FFC) website I learnt that FFC was actually a state sponsor of the Safe School’s program, a supporter of Same-Sex Marriage and conducts teacher workshops. At the time of reading the Armidale Express I wondered if the FFC offered the same advice about the effect on children’s education to the NRL, AFL and Swimming Australia’s politicising of the issue. On reviewing FFC’s website I expect it did not. I can only imagine that Family Focus Consultancy thinks that such organisations have every right to educate children as they politicise the issue. But if that is the case then its position seems to suggest the church should not be extended the same rights which is disturbing for all families including the ones Family Focus Consultancy purports to assist.
Personally, I find it a little “icky”, to quote the director, that Family Focus Consultancy would challenge freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is “icky” to misrepresent the Bishop as pushing a moral barrow through children when all he did was write to their parents. It seems that FFC has taken the “moral barrow” high ground at this point. I find it even more “icky” that the director of FFC would use the suicide issue to make her point. No one doubts the seriousness of the suicide issue but to use this issue to challenge the Bishop’s traditional view of marriage is emotive, manipulative, unfair and very “icky”.
Most parents want more information not less from those in leadership. Children are not ignorant of the Same-Sex Marriage issues that confront our nation and parents should be informed by all sides of the debate so as to understand the implications, able to make sound judgements and better educate their own children so as to ensure respect for all people’s views and lifestyles.
A Protestant leader defending a Roman Catholic Bishop historically would have been very odd. However historical religious bigotries and modern FFC bigotries should not prevent a Bishop writing to parents involved in a school for which he is responsible, openly and honestly. I assume the Bishop thought the parents of one of his schools sufficiently important to communicate with and intelligent and capable enough of considering the issues.
Bishop Rick Lewers