Australia: Christian youth camp appeals against discrimination ruling

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A Christian youth camp which was ordered to pay damages for discriminating against a gay youth support charity in 2010 when it refused to accept its booking, has begun an appeal against the court’s ruling.

WayOut, who are a suicide prevention group working with young LGBT Australians in Victoria, sought to book the Christian Youth Camps’ Phillip Island Adventure Resort back in June 2007 where they intended to lead a workshop on fighting against homophobia.

The youth camp claimed they would not take the booking because WayOut promotes homosexual activity which they said was against the denomination’s understanding of the Bible for promotion of a “homosexual lifestyle”.

Christian Youth Camps (CYC) was ordered to pay $5,000 (£3362) in compensation.

CYC challenged the decision by the tribunal’s decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal, on Wednesday.

Its objection to the ruling, as argued by its lawyer, Joseph Santamaria QC, was that the man who refused to take the booking did not do so because the bookers were homosexual, but because he believed the group’s syllabus would involve promoting sex before marriage, reports the Age.

He went on to say that the group was a religious organisation, and therefore should have been considered exempt from the Equal Opportunity Act.

Court of Appeals president, Justice Chris Maxwell asked if the church thought ”that same sex orientation is wrong, evil or to be discouraged”.

Mr Santamaria replied: ”No … the doctrine is that sex should be confined to marriage.”

Justice Maxwell went on to question whether Mr Santamaria thought that the stance conflicted with the Christian ”obligation to be tolerant” and the first commandment to ”love thy neighbour”.

”I thought Jesus embraced tax [collectors] and prostitutes, it wasn’t [based on a] character assessment,” the judge continued.

He went on to say that the church would not need to argue that it needed exemption from discrimination laws if it allowed homosexuality to be compatible with its belief system.

Critics have said that this case could set a precedent on how courts will treat cases with religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws, in future.

The case continues.