Evangelical Christian churches are using some New South Wales schools to allegedly preach homophobic messages, SBS can reveal.
Recordings of sermons obtained by SBS include teachings that the punishment for gay sex is death, marriage and sex is between a man and a woman only, and that the gay “lifestyle” is “unhappy”.
The sermons are being delivered by members of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. Many of the churches are housed on public school grounds in NSW, where they conduct weekly services by arrangement with the individual schools.
One recording of a sermon on homosexuality and the Bible’s book of Leviticus from the Lakes Christian Church, based inside the Berkeley Vale Campus, Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College on the NSW Central Coast, includes references to the “death penalty” as a punishment for the “sin” of homosexuality.
“In Chapter 20, He [God] states the death penalty for those who disobey. And notice throughout…if it is not the death penalty, it’s being cut off from the people of God, which is still death, not just instant death and so God is serious about sexual purity,” the pastor claims in the recording, which has since been removed from the church’s website.
The sermon goes on to preach that: “God’s good design for sex within marriage” is between “one man and a woman”.
“Even though books have been written and studies have been conducted to show that the gay lifestyle is not a happy one, people persist in the rejection of God. Let me encourage you that if you are in any doubt about how destructive that sexual sin is…have a look at the research and I can, I can point it out to you.”
In a response to questions about the sermon from SBS a spokesman for The Lakes Church said it was from 2013 and that he did not believe the sermon was homophobic in nature.
“Views on sexual ethics differ in society,” he said. “Our beliefs are those of mainstream Christian churches around the world. We teach that Christ offers life and hope in a world which lacks both.”
The spokesman also told SBS the sermon was specifically in relation to a talk on sexual ethics at The Festival of Dangerous Ideas and that it was being misconstrued when taken outside of that context.
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said it was forbidden to use school facilities to spread homophobia.
“The Department of Education does not allow any group or church to use school grounds to preach homophobic messages,” he told SBS, referring to the NSW Department of Education’s policy on the use of school facilities.
Berkeley Vale Campus, Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Lambton High School and Maitland Evangelical Churches did not respond to requests for comment by SBS.
Maitland Grossman High School said it did not wish to comment.
Darrin Morgan, from the lobby group Human Rights Advocacy Australia (HRAA), said he complained to both the Department of Education and Berkeley Vale Campus, Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College in April this year but said other than asking the church not to preach homophobic messages, no further action had been taken.
“HRAA believes that NSW public school facilities should not be used to promote beliefs which marginalise members of both the school and wider community,” he told SBS.
In response to a complaint from HRAA to Lakes Secondary College Berkeley Vale Campus, the acting principal confirmed the school was aware of the sermon and that it was not appropriate material.
“I have determined that the sermon described in your complaint was not consistent with the expectations of the community use agreement between Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College Berkeley Vale Campus and The Lakes Church,” she wrote in response to HRAA’s complaint.
However the church continues to operate from the school. The Lakes Church spokesman said he believed the Church was compliant with the Department’s guidelines.
“We believe that we comply with the conditions of our agreement to use school facilities,” he told SBS.
Mr Morgan said religious groups with these views should not be accessing school facilities.
“HRAA is simply asking the minister for education and the Department of Education to implement the department’s own policies and procedures in an objective and neutral manner. This requires such organisations to be deemed ‘inappropriate organisations’ and therefore must be denied use of public school facilities,” he said.
SBS can reveal at least two other churches from the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches based in NSW public schools have made anti-gay sermons.
In two recordings posted online by the Hunter Bible Church, based at Lambton High School in Newcastle, a pastor states that homosexuality is a sin and wrong.
“Homosexuality is one of the things that send people to hell,” the pastor states.
“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.”
A spokesman for the Hunter Bible Church denied anti-gay sermons had been preached on the school site.
“No message that fits what you’ve described has been given on school grounds,” he told SBS.
When SBS drew his attention to the recordings about homosexuality on the church’s website, the spokesman did not respond further.
An audio recording from the Maitland Evangelical Church discusses the evils of incest, homosexuality and adultery in the same sermon.
“God does not want us sinking in a sea of shame,” the Pastor says.
“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, with the wife of his neighbour; both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Now that sounds drastic doesn’t it and it is – God will judge sexual sin – the Israelites didn’t get away with it back then, and we will not get away with it either.”