The Salvation Army has publicly withdrawn its support for Safe Schools, after its members raised concerns with the Salvation Army’s initial backing of the radical gender program.
Only two weeks ago, the Victorian branch of the Salvation Army expressed wholehearted support for Safe Schools. After hearing from members, many of whom are parents and grandparents of school-age children, it revised its position, releasing a statement saying it “cannot unconditionally support” the program as it stands.
“Whilst acknowledging such positive outcomes (to address bullying), the Salvation Army cannot unconditionally support the Safe Schools programs in Australia in their current form… We believe there needs to be consideration and refinement to the scope and form of implementation.”
All too frequently, organisations have spoken on behalf of their members without consulting them. There are numerous stories of employees, whose companies added their logo to the “corporate support” page of Australian Marriage Equality, upset that their employer was expressing views on social issues that were different to their own. Subsequently, these employees became worried about being disciplined at work if they voiced their concerns.
Salvation Army national spokesman, Bruce Redman, told The Australian that further investigation is required once it was revealed that the program is implemented in varying ways in different states – such as opt-in or opt-out features. While The Salvation Army insists they do still care deeply about protecting LGBTI youth, they noted that something which claims to be a “national anti-bullying program” should be concerned with all high-risk student groups:
“…to issue a blanket edict and say, ‘everyone’s involved ... we’re just going to deliver the program’. That probably needs to be looked at.”
“To this end the Salvation Army is open to working with state and federal governments and other agencies to develop a program that more comprehensively addresses the issues associated with bullying within schools,” it said.
Victorian Opposition education spokesman, Nick Wakeling, met with top Salvation Army figures regarding The Salvation Army’s support for Safe Schools:
“I don’t think the issue here is so much about the Salvation Army changing its position,’’ he said. “What it really demonstrates is that this toxic program has little or no support in the wider community.’’
To no one’s surprise, the move has been criticised by supporters of same-sex marriage. In an op-ed piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist Andrew P Street suggested that faith groups should not express their views in public:
“…it's one thing to be a religious organisation which presumably has a particular moral and political outlook, and it's quite another to deliberately create a press release in order to explicitly and unambiguously express that point of view on a specific subject to the wider public.”
What this demonstrates is that radical sex-education programs and their supporters are the only ones allowed to choose who and what they support. Clearly, organisations with “a particular moral or political outlook” should not have a voice, but Safe School supporters should.
Mr Street went further, stating that he would not donate to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal because of its stance: in a faux show of “support” for one group of children, Mr Street is taking his anger out on another group of vulnerable children – at Christmas time.
Irrespective of the statements of journalists and Safe Schools supporters, the Salvation Army supporters made their voices heard, and effectively convinced the organisation to change its position on a controversial program. We can do the same.
Together, we will drive home the message to politicians that your voice matters. Just as the Salvation Army supporters have done, we will show the world that when it comes to controversial issues that are critical to our society, the silent majority will speak up – and we will be heard.