Activists spy on sermons from churches meeting in public schools

Churches that meet in public school halls in NSW on Sundays are under attack for the content of their sermons.

The attack comes from a one-man advocacy group linked to the campaign against scripture in public schools.

Sermons found on the websites of Hunter Bible Church, Maitland Evangelical Church and The Lakes Evangelical Church (all part of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) on the NSW mid north coast were the subject of complaints by Dr Darrin Morgan, sent to the NSW Department of Education.

All three churches meet in public high school halls.

The Newcastle Herald and SBS report the content of some of the sermons, which relate to sexuality, including:

“Homosexuality is one of the things that send people to hell.”

“Anything outside of that, whether it is homosexuality, or adultery or pornography or sex before marriage; anything that doesn’t conform with what God created us into, is wrong.”

“God’s good design for sex within marriage” is between “one man and a woman”.

In an interview with SBS, Morgan said he didn’t believe public school facilities should be used to “promote beliefs which marginalise members of both the school and wider community.”

In a statement, the NSW Department of Education draws a clear distinction between what is taught to students during school time and how facilities are used outside of those hours.

“The Department does not allow any group or Church to use school grounds to preach homophobic messages,” reads the statement, while saying members of the community are encouraged to use school facilities for “appropriate purposes” when they are not required by the school.

“School principals manage the community use of school facilities as they are best placed to assess the benefit to the school and the community,” the statement reads.

The NSW Department of Education’s Community Use policy states that public school facilities must only be used for activities which are consistent with the “values of Public Education” and the school’s purpose and goals.

Sydney Anglican minister and head of Centre For Public Christianity, John Dickson, warned on Facebook this week about the new tactics of these advocacy groups.

“They search for references to same sex relationships, package up the quotations in a manner that suits their cause, and then write formal complaints to the Department of Education about homophobic sermons being preached in school facilities. For example, they will take a preacher’s passing reference to the Leviticus death penalty, and cast it as the preacher’s own view that LGBTI folk today should be killed (any reformed evangelical who actually taught such a thing would be disciplined for heresy and probably sacked).

“This isn’t fair play,” he wrote.

Murray Campbell, a conservative Baptist minister in Victoria, points out that the Internet has made church activities much more easily accessible to the public.

“… Our sermons and websites are available to whoever is interested, including whacky atheists, angry secularists, and agenda driven journalists,” he wrote on his blog.

Featured image: Lambton High School, where Hunter Bible Church meets on Sundays. Image: Google Street View 2015.