• Tue
  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 5:27pm
NewsHong Kong

Gay teachers banned from International Christian School in Sha Tin

'Morality job contract' draws criticism, including from Anglican Church, for discriminatory stance

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 4:46am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 11:32am

A Christian school has imposed a ban on gay teachers under a controversial "morality contract", drawing criticism from activists and from a senior Anglican churchman.

The International Christian School in Sha Tin, which has about 1,200 pupils, requires existing staff and job applicants to sign a contract that makes having a gay relationship or living with someone of the same sex outside marriage a sackable offence.

The school says it wants to employ "good Christian role models for our students".

Gay groups have criticised the rules, while the Equal Opportunities Commission says it wants local laws expanded to cover discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

The Reverend Peter Douglas Koon, provincial secretary general for the Anglican Church in Hong Kong, said: "We don't support this policy because it is discrimination. Our Anglican schools [in Hong Kong] would not apply the same rules.

"You cannot assume gay people will promote homosexuality [to pupils]. A teacher should be judged on their professionalism. There are doctors and lawyers and people in many professions who are openly gay. If a judge is gay, we cannot say they would not be a good judge."

Teachers applying for jobs at the school, where fees range from HK$95,200 to HK$129,300 per annum, must agree to guidelines saying in part that they will be above reproach in areas of "sexual orientation and behaviour, marital and parental relationships". Any contraventions, the guidelines state, are grounds for dismissal.

The ICS administration and recruitment co-ordinator Sandy Burnett said in an e-mail to a recent applicant that the rules meant the school did not condone "same-sex relationships, extramarital relationships [or] couples of opposite sex living together outside of marriage".

Burnett added: "We are a Christian school. On our website it's very plain what our mission and vision is. It's on our application form so it's very obvious what our belief system is … We have a right to our beliefs."

Headmaster John Nelson declined to comment.

Michael Morrill, a US teacher at a primary school who won the Mr Gay Hong Kong contest last year, said he had lost teaching jobs in the past because of his sexuality. The school's morality code "isn't surprising at all".

"It is alarming the grounds on which schools can practise this discrimination," he said. "There needs to be a change in the law. There definitely needs to be protection from the government so the International Christian School doesn't get away with what it is doing."

Betty Grisoni, co-founder of Les Peches, the city's largest lesbian organisation, said: "Many of our members are teachers and sadly many have to keep their sexual orientation hidden from their employers in fear of repercussions on their employment."

The ICS ban on gay teachers is a breach of government guidelines against job discrimination - but legislating against it is likely to draw opposition from religious and conservative quarters.

The government says in its Code of Practice against Discrimination in Employment on the Ground of Sexual Orientation that denying people jobs on the basis of their sexual orientation is "morally wrong and irrational". The code, however, is only voluntary and not legally enforceable.

The commission said it would explore discrimination and "tackle this issue, including legislating against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity".


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This article is now closed to comments

You all do realize that a private Christian school has the right to teach and hire according to Christian values, don't you?
Most of you are from ignorance advocating positions that are not held in the rest of the world, regardless of what you seem to believe: Catholic schools can be Catholic and can teach Catholicism, etc.
This is nothing more than activism, and an egregious example of someone picking "soft targets." Why not complain about an Islamic school in HK not hiring gays?
You're arguments are ignorant, irrational and worrisome for the future of personal and religious liberty. Christian attitudes toward homosexuality are not a novelty, despite all your feigned outrage.
Actually, no it doesn't. It's against the law to discriminate based on sexuality. Now, if the argument you want to put forward is that Christianity (and all archaic religions) have no place in modern society due to attitudinal changes, that's one debate that's worth having!
By your logic, a church should be required to consider an Buddhist nun for the position of priest. Remember, it's illegal to discriminate based on sex and religion as well. Of course religious institutions are allowed to discriminate!
Again, why don't you try to work through the logic of your position? Since it would be absurd for the institution to hire someone who flaunted its stated values, you're essentially saying that the school should have to change its values/beliefs to operate, which is a direct assault on the very meaning of religious liberty. But being non-religious, the liberties you don't use don't mean very much to you, do they? Is it so surprising they do to other people?
Believe me, I would love to have a debate about the place of archaic religions in modern society. Unfortunately, I'm afraid your side would much rather shout down and call names than have a meaningful debate. Modern society has its own heretics, its own taboos, and its own blasphemies.
The last time I looked a school is not a church, a temple, a mosque or a synagogue. Having worked in a Buddhist school in Hong Kong that had a Christian Principal (as well as a teaching body with varied beliefs), I can tell you now, it is not only feasible to have a wide and varied range of educators, but, in my opinion, an absolute necessity.
It seems that you're entire argument is based around the fact that religious organisations be exempt from the rule of law; A fact I find absolutely outrageous. If a religious school cannot operate within the rule of law, then it has no place in society. France, I hate to admit, has the right idea in a total separation of church and state.
Finally, when you consider that homosexuality was a) only explicitly mentioned in Leviticus b) the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was interpreted as being about homosexuality, but was probably more about raping guests, and c) homosexuality was not even mentioned in the New Testament outside of the more generic 'sexual immorality' or was addressed directly by the big J himself, you've got to ask yourself... without explicit guidance from pretty much anyone in the bible, let alone the lead character, on the issue of homosexuality, why is it taken as read that 'GOD' hates gays?
Also, who's name calling?
Discrimination is discrimination. You've just allowed that churches and mosques can be exempt from the rule of law, so why not private schools that likewise teach religious values? Christian schools often operate an operational arm of a church or mosque, after all; in the real world, the distinctions are rarely so cut and dried.
If you want to enter the theological discussion, that's a different issue. Suffice to say, I'm not arguing that "God hates gays," and no, the Bible never says that. It does identify every form of sexuality that falls short of monogamous marriage as sinful, however--but for some reason, nobody seems to get too worked up about the fact that a Christian school won't hire a bigamist or adulterer either. This is the cause celebre of the moment.
As for calling names, you didn't... at least not explicitly. But implicitly you've come very close to calling me a homophobe. Many who take your position would. I admire their ability to read into my mind and see the supposed deep, seething hatred that motivates me--rather than accept the more simple explanation that I and many other conservative Christians are operating on an understanding of human sexuality that has been near universal up until the last few decades--to say nothing of the fact that it has been the obvious Christian position for the last two-thousand years.
Before I get on to my rebuttal, I have to say I am enjoying this debate and have no desire to resort to name calling. I have no capacity or desire to look into your mind, so as to whether you are a homophobe or consider yourself to be or not be one is neither here nor there.
Now, firstly, I don't agree that churches, mosques etc. can be exempt from the rule of law. The abusers within the Catholic church in Ireland and the US and the hate preachers in Mosques throughout the Middle East (and Europe) are testament to this. A school is a place of education, not indoctrination and I find it hard to believe that in this day and age there is a place for any school, college or university that teaches intolerance.
In the case of this school, it can be argued it is as much a business as a school. HK$ 95K to HK$ 130K fees per annum before we even get on to debentures and the like. It employs people and as such should be bound the employment laws of HK, just like any other commercial enterprise.
I do agree that the bible (especially the Old Testament Leviticus) did state that any sexual contact outside of marriage is sinful, and that adulterers, bigamists etc. should also not be hired by this school. But where do you draw the line? Sex outside of marriage? Being in a common law, husband - wife relationship? Surely these are just as sinful as being homosexual.
And this is where Christianity and pretty much all religions fall down. Almost everything must be interpreted by man.
Though I disagree, I do appreciate how you have discussed this matter with me logically and reasonably. There's been far too little of those on both sides of the debate.
Now generally speaking, of course, I do not want religious institutions to be exempt from rule of law. As far as I can tell, discrimination laws are put in place to protect certain groups who have historically experienced disadvantage. Otherwise organizations may choose to hire whomever they will. It's not a blanket protection for everyone. So, for example, the NBA is not discriminating against me by not hiring me to play for them as I cannot play basketball simply because my genetic code does not allow me to perform very well in that capacity--even though I was born that way.
Now my argument is that ostensibly religious organizations possess the right to hire and fire people based on how they align with their values, regardless of how narrow or ridiculous those values may seem to us. Admittedly there are many, many variables and an infinite number of situations, but I prefer to come down on the side of religious liberty.
Thanks for your response. While I too agree with most of what you say, I would still place a school as an educational institution rather than an extension of a religious organisation.
It was interesting that you mentioned, "certain groups who have experienced disadvantage". Surely, the gay community falls into this bracket?
You also mention your genetic code and being born a certain way. I'd guess this opens up the nature v nurture debate and homosexuality and, just as certain individuals are genetically superior sportspeople, whether the same genetic coding is responsible for having different sexual preferences from the norm.
So, is it right therefore that someone is discriminated against due to their sexuality? I would argue it isn't.
One final thought; we've been discussing whether teachers should be discriminated against due to their sexuality not being compatible with a religion. Where is the line drawn here? Do we hound out students who have leanings towards same sex relationships? Maybe some already are... what happens to those kids? Kicked out? Indoctrinated further? Taught to feel ashamed of their sexuality? Taught that they are almost definitely going to hell because they are different? These are the reasons why I will never send my son or daughter to a religious schools and the reasons why I feel they have no place in modern society.
Christian ministries look after people with a lot of emotional issues, they help people who are 'lost' to find love in God. Demonising homosexuality is just one way of ensuring that there are people out there with hang-ups. More hang ups, means more potential parishioners for these modern churches that preach love but as the solution to the hatred that they themselves propagate.
"it is their school, they can let in anyone they want"
Can they exclude black people? Is that OK with you?
People don't choose to be gay.
Know this, of the 1200 pupils at that school, some are or will be gay...it's just the way things are.
Should they be expelled immediately if they 'come out'?
Or maybe they should be stoned to death? (what does your little 'book' say?).




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