Christian schools

Christian Schools Under Attack: NSW Government Reviews Anti-Discrimination Law

16 August 2023

4.4 MINS

Back in March in the Daily Declaration, Mark Sneddon gave us a brilliant background for this topic. Today, the state of New South Wales is governed by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). But on 20 July, our Labor government released this:

The Law Reform Commission has been asked to consider whether the Act could be modernised and simplified to better promote the equal enjoyment of rights and reflect contemporary community standards.

NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said:

“We have come a long way since 1977 and it is time for the anti-discrimination laws to come under scrutiny so we can assess whether they are still fit for purpose. (my underlining)

What are contemporary community standards? How are they assessed, and by whom? Have we come a long way since 1977, with the implication that our society is now so much fairer than it was? I beg to differ. I think our society is now more divided than ever and far less tolerant of others than when this legislation was first drafted.

So, the assumptions in this review are suspect.

The Danger of this Review for Christian Education

I would like to highlight a study by Dr Stephen Brinton of contemporary Christian education entitled A Tale of Two Missions: The Stated and Perceived Mission of Three Member Schools of Christian Schools Australia (2023). This study offers invaluable material for the concerned to quote in their submissions to the NSW government’s review.

Stephen’s study reviewed the largest Christian school association in Australia, having 180 member schools that educate over 70,000 students. Admittedly, a minority of all Australian students, but shouldn’t our legislatures protect minorities?

The founding mission of these schools was to establish Christ-centred community schools founded on biblical principles, staffed by Christian teachers. The teacher’s spiritual formation was crucial. In other words, it is not what the teachers say so much as what teachers do that matters.

The founders (of these Christian schools) made an early decision that teachers, rather than teaching materials, would be central to the achievement of their goals and, consequently, the professional and spiritual formation of teachers, was crucial. (Brinton)

However, these schools are now much more inclusive, having children of the neighbourhood as well as children of the church, and operating in a dual educational context of evangelism as well as discipleship.

Stephen highlights the need to fully integrate the teacher’s Christian faith into the subject content and contemporary issues. He argues that teachers coming through secular tertiary institutions find this very hard, and schools that seek to retrofit their philosophy on their teachers really struggle. But Christian schools that grow their own teachers in partnership with Christian tertiary providers are building much better foundations for their capacity to maintain their founding principles and mission.

Christian Schools Today

Schools now perceive they have an evangelistic focus, but along with this, they need to be deliberate in discipling students. Students are immersed in the secular contemporary culture that gives a different message to that of the gospel. All teachers need to be ‘on message’ with the gospel; not just evangelising but deliberately countering the message of the secular culture and ‘selfism’. (Brinton)

Stephen’s study found that Christian schooling is at a crossroads. Many acknowledge their mission from their foundation but find themselves drifting towards a ‘private school’ model. Here, the ‘future success’ of their students is driving their mission, rather than the Christian focus.

In some places the vision for Christian education took root and a flourishing school has developed, but over time the vision of Christian education has been squeezed out by the cares of the world – meeting the demands of NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority), parent expectations, changing leadership etc. – the school remains but what fruit is it producing? (adapting part of Luke 8: 4-15)

Across Australia, we see Christian schools that have been like the third soil (of Jesus’ parable) where the vision of Christian education has been squeezed out. The school remains but what fruit is it producing? It is my hope, that this study might encourage schools to take stock and produce a bountiful harvest of good fruit (Brinton).

The Review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977

In 1948 Australia signed up to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. Article 18 reads:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

How will this review accommodate this?

Further, Mark Sneddon put the spotlight on the competing Australian legislation that makes the review more complicated. And in addition to the federal, and state and territory legislation, we now have the end LGBTQ+ conversion practices campaign. This extract from their website illustrates their views, another attack on the Christian church and on Christian education:

We know that everyone deserves to live freely, no matter where they live, who they are, or whom they love. Yet, harmful “conversion” practices that attempt to change LGBTQ people are still taking place around Australia. These practices, underpinned by ideologies that see LGBTQ people as broken, instead of whole and human, cause great harm to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of faith.

Christian schools were established by parents from their desire to have their children’s education in alignment with their own faith and values. Today these parents still have an expectation of a Christian ethos for their children. They still expect that their teachers will model the beliefs and values consistent with their home environment. In addition, many parents from different or no faith backgrounds choose to send their children to Christian schools because they recognise the benefits of such an education.

Any review of the Act should not limit the choice of parents to select the style and quality of education for their children. That would be discrimination.

Any review of the Act that precludes faith-based schools from selecting the best person for the role in an employment situation would rightly claim unfair discrimination against their religion.

The legal compliance requirements placed on school staff and teachers are already extremely burdensome, taking away from their core business of education. If the legal duties were to increase as a result of a new Anti-Discrimination Act, they would seriously need to review their ability to meet their mission’s commitments.

Christian Schooling at the Crossroads

As Stephen’s study has demonstrated, the onslaught on Christian education has been relentless. Many schools are now a pale reflection of their former selves. If they could no longer employ staff who would be best for the job and if they could no longer operate according to their ethos, they may as well take the cross down from their chapel and permanently remove anything Christian in their name, mission, vision, and practice.

Please consider making a submission to the review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act (1977). Submissions close 29 September 2023.


Image by Joe from Pixabay.

We need your help. The continued existence of the Daily Declaration depends on the generosity of readers like you. Donate now. The Daily Declaration is committed to keeping our site free of advertising so we can stay independent and continue to stand for the truth.

Fake news and censorship make the work of the Canberra Declaration and our Christian news site the Daily Declaration more important than ever. Take a stand for family, faith, freedom, life, and truth. Support us as we shine a light in the darkness. Donate now.


  1. Jim Twelves 17 August 2023 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Further, Bernard Gaynor’s Religious Discrimination Bill, published 14 March 2022, is worth a listen:

  2. Stephen Brinton 18 August 2023 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your article. The Christian schools that were the focus of my study began because of parents’ concern about the secularisation of education – God being left out of the classroom. The intent of these schools was to be distinctively Christian. My study, however, found that although these schools were Christian in their welfare, care and support of students and families, in the classroom they were no different from the private school down the road. To be provocative, these schools were Christian in the chapel, but pagan in the classroom. As you note, many schools are now a pale reflection of their former selves. What do you see is as a solution to this mission creep?

  3. Jim Twelves 19 August 2023 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you Stephen for your comment and question. I am ‘retired’ now from Christian education, so looking on from a somewhat removed perspective.
    It seems to me that a ‘slow, piecemeal’ response to this latest ‘tsunami’ from the woke left is not going to cut it. Its as if a massive steam roller is advancing on Christian schools and all they are doing is holding up a lollypop lady’s ‘stop sign’.
    I would like to see the schools ‘threaten to close their doors’ unless the steam roller engages reverse. Then all the students would need to rock up at the local state schools. I fail to see how they would cope.
    I would also like to see all the parents who have invested their lives into Christian education demand their local member take a stand against this atrocity or they will defect to parties that ‘will’ represent them. Being afraid that may give more fuel for the woke left is a false fear. Yes it might be true if the defection from the Lib/Nats simply vacated the field but if their defection could be strong enough they can elect some honest folk to Canberra and Sydney who will have the courage to take a stand.

  4. Stephen Brinton 20 August 2023 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Jim, what you propose is akin to what Catholic schools did in the Goulburn Strike This resulted in capital funding for schools. For Christian, independent and religious affiliated schools to do the same would swamp public schools with students – they would not cope. I am not sure schools will have the courage to do so. They might motivate their parents to contact their local members and seek their support – or vote for parties/candidates who will support religious schools.

Leave A Comment

Recent Articles:

Use your voice today to protect

Faith · Family · Freedom · Life



The Daily Declaration is an Australian Christian news site dedicated to providing a voice for Christian values in the public square. Our vision is to see the revitalisation of our Judeo-Christian values for the common good. We are non-profit, independent, crowdfunded, and provide Christian news for a growing audience across Australia, Asia, and the South Pacific. The opinions of our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of The Daily Declaration. Read More.