Teacher sues Christian school for religious discrimination

rachel colvin christian school teacher religious discrimination
Photo: Supplied

A teacher has filed a discrimination complaint against a private Christian school, claiming she had to quit after refusing to accept its policy opposing same-sex marriage.

Rachel Colvin claims Ballarat Christian College discriminated against her due to her political and religious beliefs, including her support for same-sex marriage.

The married mother of three alleges she was counselled by the school then forced to resign when she refused to abide by an amended statement of faith which stated “a marriage can only be between a male and a female”.

“I’m devastated by what happened. I loved my job. I’m an extremely hard worker and loyal to a fault,” Mrs Colvin said.

“And to have it end the way it did was, at first, professionally humiliating.

“Now, I see it as a God-given opportunity to stand up for what is right, to represent what God is really about: loving others.”

Mrs Colvin, who is Christian, refused to agree to the statement because she believes same-sex marriage is equivalent to heterosexual marriage as “a ­reflection of God’s love.”

“I am bringing the case to let my LGBTQI students know that they aren’t ­deformed or disordered,” she said.

“They were created as they are, in the image of God. [They are] fully loved by God and share equal dignity with all other humans. I am hoping to achieve policy change, so LGBTQI students and staff don’t worry about being expelled or fired.”

‘A marriage can only be between a male and a female’

Ballarat Christian College principal Ken Nuridin told The Australian the school’s enterprise agreement states “all employees are expected by the college to possess and maintain a firm personal belief consistent with the Statement of Faith of the college”.

“A marriage can only be between a male and a female, and upon this foundation alone should children be conceived and families formed,” the school’s constitution reads.

Mr Nuridin said the Statement of Faith was updated in 2017 to “capture the long held beliefs of the college”. He said it would be “devastating” if the college could not teach its beliefs and hire staff “who will adhere to those beliefs”.

However Mrs Colvin alleged she had agreed to remain silent about her beliefs and teach the school’s beliefs to students.

She started at the school in 2008. But from around August last year she alleges she was denied opportunities, forcing her to resign in February this year.

She has lodged the complaint in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal alleging discrimination against her under the Equal Opportunity Act.

Equality Australia backs Rachel Colvin’s religious discrimination case

Equality Australia is supporting Rachel Colvin’s discrimination complaint. The organisation’s CEO Anna Brown said Mrs Colvin “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,” Ms Brown said.

“Australians shouldn’t be hounded out of jobs simply because their religious beliefs support and affirm same-sex relationships, and respect the dignity of LGBTIQ people.

“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.”

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