The Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, is to be congratulated for his attempt to shut down a scare campaign by The Australian newspaper over a program that teaches high school kids about gender and sexuality.

For the past week the Oz has given a mouthpiece to the ultra-conservative Australian Christian Lobby in its campaign to have the schools program defunded.

But yesterday Birmingham moved to shut down the hysteria about the so-called “gay manual” in schools, telling Sky News:

“These types of debates … are very unhelpful because the debate that seems to be occurring in the public space is one of whether or not we should be teaching inclusiveness and tolerance in our schools. Well that’s a pretty foolish debate to be having.”

He is to be applauded. However, more concerning is a claim by the ACL’s Lyle Shelton that the organisation has been approached to run the “no” campaign in the government’s forthcoming plebiscite on marriage equality.

This is an organisation that has questioned whether same-sex marriage could foster another “stolen generation” and suggested Australia needs to have a debate about the right of gay people to have children. These are the kinds of messages we can expect on our televisions and in our newspapers if the ACL leads the plebiscite’s “no” campaign.

Birmingham is right — the ACL’s views are unhelpful. An organisation that preaches narrow-mindedness and discrimination, especially about the lives of children, should not be given taxpayer funding to amplify their message.

Peter Fray

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