Gay rights activist slams Christian academic

Steve Chavura

Having pressured Coopers, IBM and PwC and their senior staff to sever links with Christian associations, gay rights activist Michael Barnett has turned his sights on academia, demanding Macquarie University force one of its lecturers to renounce a Christian educational organisation.

The move led the Christian group to warn the onus was on the university sector, as a national pillar of freedom of thought and ­expression, to back its academics against political pressure from LGBTI campaigners.

Mr Barnett, who tweets as ­“mikeybear”, re-posted the list of directors of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, a training organisation established by the Australian Christian Lobby, and singled out Macquarie University senior research associate Steve Chavura as a member of the LMI board. “A bad look @Macquarie_Uni having a Lachlan Macquarie Institute board member and director on your payroll, as a @PrideDiversity member,” Mr Barnett tweeted.

Mr Barnett yesterday told The Australian he believed Macquarie University was conflicted while it was a member of the Pride in ­Diversity campaign which supports LGBTI individuals’ rights and safety in the workplace, while Dr Chavura was a director of LMI.

Mr Barnett said he did not know if LMI or Dr Chavura had ever issued any anti-gay material, but said “I don’t think they are going to be running floats down Mardi Gras.” Mr Barnett issued the post as The Australian revealed that ACL and LMI had been granted official permission to keep their board members’ names secret on the grounds of “public safety” after abuse and threats from gay activists forced IBM executive Mark Allaby to quit the LMI board.

Dr Chavura yesterday said he would not resign as a lecturer and director at LMI, and would resist what he described as an attempt by Mr Barnett to “weed out any dissenters from his view” about sexuality, in any public institution.

“I hope the university is strong enough not to capitulate” to this type of pressure, Dr Chavura said.

But Macquarie University yesterday declined to support Dr Chavura. “As a matter of practice, Macquarie University does not comment on individual matters pertaining to employees,” spokeswoman Megan Wright said in a statement to The Australian.

“When commenting publicly, the university asks that employees adhere to the university’s public comment policy.”

Dr Chavura, who lectures in history and political theory at the university and LMI, said while he privately maintained traditional Christian views on sexuality and marriage and would talk about them if asked, he did not canvass them in his teachings which ranged widely from Karl Marx to liberalism to political concepts.

“I think it’s a bad look for the tweeter, seeking to destroy the ­career of someone who has engaged in no abuse, no inflammatory speech whatsoever,” Dr Chavura said of Mr Barnett.

Mr Barnett, who describes himself as a campaigner for human rights and equality, is convener of Jewish LGBTI group Aleph Melbourne. He denied his post against Dr Chavura was an assault on the academic’s rights to freedom of expression, religion and association. “No one is stopping him going to church, being a member of a faith,” he said. “Being a member of a board is not religion.”

Source: The Australian

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/gay-rights-activist-michael-barnett-turns-on-christian-academic/news-story/ba36cfd3c967370371f8b9edb3f69dec

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