Christian organization punished for acting in accordance with its beliefs
What’s at Stake
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of conscience
Christian Youth Camps (CYC), founded by the Christian Brethren Denomination, was sued after it declined to rent its campsite for an event that encourages homosexual behaviour. In 2008 Cobaw Community Health Services sought to rent the campsite for a project called ‘WayOut,’ which is designed to provide support and suicide prevention services to ‘same sex attracted young people.’
However, the programme specifically asserts that ‘homosexuality or same sex attraction is natural part of the range of human sexualities.’ CYC believes this view is in direct contradiction with scriptural teaching, so it declined to book the event. Cobaw sued, claiming that CYC had violated the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic.). In 2010 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal declared that CYC had unlawfully discriminated and ordered CYC and its director to jointly pay a fine of AUD 5,000. In 2014 the Victorian Court of Appeal ruled that CYC was liable, but that the director was not personally liable.
The Appellate Court found that exemptions for a ‘body established for religious purposes’ and for a ‘person to comply with the person’s genuine religious beliefs and principles’ did not apply to CYC. Moreover, the Court of Appeal found the provisions for freedom of religion and religious practices as well as the right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) did not help CYC.
The case was appealed to the Victorian Supreme Court, which rejected CYC’s appeal, striking a blow to the principle that religious freedom protects not just the right to believe, but the right to manifest those beliefs in action as well.
Our Role in the Case
ADF International provided funding to the lawyers who represented CYC at the High Court.