Carrie Bickmore has had an emotional conversation with a parent and former teacher at a religious school that has issued a contract condemning homosexuality and threatening to expel trans students.
On Monday night's episode of The Project, Carrie, 41, was visibly moved while speaking with Helen Clapham Burns, an English teacher and mum of a Year 11 student at Queensland's Citipointe Christian College.
The co-ed K-12 school, which is aligned with the Pentecostal church, sent parents an enrollment contract on Friday, just days before the new school year was set to commence.
Parents were required to sign the contract which stated homosexuality is "sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society".
Homosexual and bisexual acts were categorised with other forms of "sexual immorality" such as bestiality, incest and paedophilia.
The contract also stated that the college would only enroll students on "the basis of the gender that corresponds to their biological sex".
Any parent or student who rejects these declarations through 'word or actions' will have their contract terminated and will be forced to leave the school.
'Life turned upside down'
Carrie, who is herself a mum-of-three, held back tears as she spoke to Helen, who had resigned her position at — and also withdrawn her son from — Citipointe Christian College earlier that day.
"What a huge few days for you and for your son," she said. "Life as you know it has been turned upside down. What was it about that contract, what were the bits that you just cannot with your conscience, with your heart, accept?"
"It was the vocabulary around the children presenting with gender issues," Helen replied. "As an educator, my priority is to make sure that each child that I interact with feels safe. When a child tells us with tears in their eyes that they don't feel safe, what are we doing? What are we doing?
"And in fact in that documentation, it says that both at the beginning of enrollment and during enrollment, if they don't adhere to this we terminate the enrollment. I can't work for an organisation that does that to kids."
Helen explained that she was frantically trying to find a new school for her son, who is now not going to get to complete year 11 and 12 'with his mates'.
She opened up about the 'heartbreak' she felt after teaching her final senior English lesson that morning, admitting that she feels as though she's let her students down by quitting.
"As I was saying goodbye to them, I don't know if this is the last time I'm going to see them. I'm heartbroken. I feel like I'd let them down that I'm having to leave, but I have to let those queer kids know that there are Christians out there that love them, and aren't hiding behind Bible verses."
News of Citipointe Christian College's contract comes as debate surrounding the government's controversial Religious Discrimination Bill heats up.
The bill, which was introduced in November 2021 is designed to protect those expressing religious beliefs as long as it isn't done maliciously or in ways that vilify, threaten or intimidate others.
In introducing the bill, Prime Minister Scott Morrison compared it to Australia's existing sex, racial, disability, and age discrimination laws and said that it would fix a weakness in said laws.
However, states including Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have come out against the bill, saying it enables discrimination of minority groups such as the LGBT+ community, and would override local anti-discrimination laws.
Several former teachers at Christian schools who claim they were sacked for their sexual orientation have also spoken out against the bill.
School responds: 'Fair and transparent'
Citipointe Christian College Principal, Pastor Brian Mulheran provided this statement to The Project:
We have always held these Christian beliefs and we have tried to be fair and transparent to everyone in our community by making them clear in the enrolment contract.
We are seeking to maintain our Christian ethos and to give parents and students the right to make an informed choice about whether they can support and embrace our approach to Christian education.
Citipointe does not judge students on their sexuality or gender identity and we would not make a decision about their enrolment in the College simply on that basis.
We believe each individual is created in the image of God, with dignity and worth equal to every other person. We unequivocally love and respect all people regardless of their lifestyle and choices, even if those choices are different to our beliefs and practice.
Education Minister speaks out: 'Unacceptable'
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace told The Project:
I think this is unacceptable. Every student deserves to feel accepted and supported at school. The 'values' laid out in this document don’t seem very Christian to me.
I've raised the issue with the Attorney General around anti-discrimination laws, and I’d encourage parents, carers, or students at the school to report this to the Human Rights Commission.
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