Devout Christian Teacher Sues School For Discrimination On Same-Sex Marriage Beliefs
Rachel Colvin has alleged she was forced to quit Ballarat Christian College after refusing to sign a statement that affirms the school's stance on same-sex marriage.
Colvin, a devout Christian who grew up in an evangelical household and was once a missionary, is alleging discrimination by Ballarat Christian College on the basis of her religious and political beliefs that same-sex marriage has the same potential as heterosexual marriage to be a reflection of God’s love.
A teacher with the College since 2008, Colvin claims she offered to remain silent about her beliefs with her students and teach in accordance with the school's beliefs, but she was allegedly forced to resign when she refused to sign the school's updated Statement of Faith.
“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 said.
The school amended its Statement of Faith in late 2017 after same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia.
“A marriage can only be between a male and a female, and upon this foundation alone should children be conceived and families formed,” the constitution says.
A clause in the school's enterprise agreement states employees should "possess and maintain a firm personal belief consistent with the Statement of Faith of the college".
Colvin filed her discrimination complaint to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal on Monday, under the state's Equal Opportunity Act.
Her case is being supported by Equality Australia. CEO Anna Brown told 10 daily the organisation was moved by Colvin's "compassion and support for LGBTQI+ people".
"She offered to still teach in accordance with school policy, but she couldn't in good conscience sign a statement that didn't reflect her belief system," Brown said.
"It's not very common you have to sign a statement [at work] that says you believe something. It's like the employer trying to get in your head, and that's absolutely what should be protected above everything; your right to believe what you choose."
Colvin's claim that she would keep her pro-marriage equality stance to herself wasn't "the school's understanding", according to Christian Schools Australia's Executive Officer of Policy, Mark Spencer.
"I can suggest the school doesn't share that view. She wanted to be able to communicate both the school's and her personal views," Spencer told 10 daily.
Spencer said Colvin wasn't forced to resign and contended "there are two views about the facts of what happened, and the school disputes those claims".
"There is no doubt the school has particular views around marriage. Mrs. Colvin has a different view, and effectively she's wanting to live her faith as she understands it, in a school where fundamentally she disagrees with their teachings and beliefs," he said.
Colvin is bringing her case “to let my LGBTQI students know they were created as they are, in the image of God, and that they are fully loved by God and share equal dignity with all human beings," she said in a statement.
Victoria's Equal Opportunity Act allows religious organisations and individuals to lawfully discriminate on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender and other grounds, but not political beliefs.
Because Colvin's case is "two-fold", according to Brown, it will first be argued on the basis her belief is political and then religious.
"We argue it's also a religious belief, and the religious exemption that applies shouldn't allow the school to treat her the way it did.
"The case will raise the question of how do we grapple with broadly Christian sets of values which could have many interpretations," Brown said.
The heart of the case is whether "suburban Australian mums and dads can continue to choose a school reflecting their beliefs and values", Spencer said.
"The outcome of the claims by Equality Australia are that all schools would be forced to adopt a set of beliefs that they endorse -- eliminating parental choice and genuine religious freedom," he said.
The Ballarat Christian College has been contacted for comment.
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