Monthly Archives: June 2012

Australian teachers campaign against SRI (Special Religious Instruction)

Tonight, I was buoyed to hear of a major push by Australian teachers and academics to lobby for an end to the outdated and divisive ‘Special Religious Instruction/Education’ delivered to students in state schools across the nation.

I really don’t need to do more than reproduce a comment from David Zyngier, Senior Lecturer of Education at Monash University, on “The Conversation”.

If you are a teacher or an academic, may I urge you to contact David to add your name to the following statement. And, as David says, please feel free to circulate the statement widely to your own networks.


Academics are running a campaign to end SRI. If you agree with the following statement please email me [David Zyngier] directly.

If you agree to have your name added please email David Zyngier (Monash University) Feel free to circulate this statement.

Special Religious Instruction –

a statement from the teaching profession

The policy of ‘Special Religious Instruction’ (SRI), )*, currently enacted through differing state Education statutes across Australia, is an outdated and flawed model of segregated, unaccountable and unprofessional religious instruction, which caters to the interests of religious organisations and not the needs of students, teachers, educators or families.

Under the system as it stands:

• State government schools must allow non-teacher volunteers from religious organisations into classrooms to instruct students on a weekly basis and the teaching program must be disrupted for SRI to take place.

• In most Australian states, students who do not participate in SRI are barred from completing any meaningful learning. The NSW ‘Ethics’ alternative is still an unprofessional and segregatory option.

• Schools have no option over whether or not SRI is delivered. School principals and school councils must put the wishes of their communities aside and allow religious volunteers into classrooms each week, irrespective of how many students’ parents elect for them to participate.

• Students are segregated according to religious belief. Such segregation contributes to stereotyping and suspicion of minorities and risks promoting religious exclusion as an accepted norm.

• Respect for religious and cultural diversity is not fostered.

• Valuable class time is taken up to enable the delivery of SRI. Against the backdrop of a crowded curriculum and a new Australian Curriculum that makes no mention of SRI, we argue that this is a waste of students’ precious learning time.

• The separation between church and state – a central tenet of Australia’s democracy – is not upheld under the current model.
This system needs to change and the current legislation must be amended.

The 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians made a clear commitment ‘to nurture an appreciation of and respect for religious diversity’. It is time public education clearly stepped up to that commitment and ended discrimination and segregation in our state schools and focused on promoting cultural diversity instead.

In place of current SRI legislation, we believe that the general approach to values and ethics education currently taught by university prepared and accredited teachers in schools already promotes both social inclusion and intercultural understanding that will best meet the needs of all children and families. Families are in the best position to provide specific religious education and guidance of and for their children either in the home or through special after school organisations.

The secular principle in public education is and remains an indispensible foundation of public education. As stated in the Education Act (2006) guiding principles, the Government will “provide a secular education and will not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect”. [1]

Australian government school students are participating in an outdated model of SRI, which presents children with a singular, and in many cases, an exclusivist faith perspective, that is at odds with Australian state and federal governments’ commitment to promoting a socially inclusive society. The Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union has called for the removal of SRI in a special resolution, arguing that it should occur only outside school hours and be provided on a voluntary basis. [2]

We the undersigned call on the Australian Council of Deans of Education to demonstrate leadership on this important education issue by supporting the secular principle and the removal of the exceptions legislated in support of SRI in our schools today.

[1] Principles underlying the government education and training system 1.2.2 p. 13
* Some states refer to ‘SRI’ as Special Religious Education (SRE).

If you agree to have your name added please email David Zyngier (Monash University)

Feel free to circulate this statement

Urgent – Lobby Greens to Uphold High Court Challenge Ruling on Chaplaincy

National School Chaplaincy/High Court Challenge Update:

This is urgent. It would be great if everyone could get behind this today and promote it to your own networks. This is the time to mobilise folks.

The Federal government announced last night they are going to pass legislation to circumvent the High Court ruling on funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program. This is a cynical, underhanded move which, I imagine, won’t impress the High Court at all. It is not at all clear that this attempt to snub the ruling won’t end the government back in the High Court, but we have to wait to see their legislation first.

What we can do immediately, although it won’t overturn the legislation, is try to get the Greens to stand up in Parliament and oppose it – or at least demand amendments to the program. This will get publicity about what is going on and shine a spotlight on what the government is doing. But we need *you* and your networks to help.

As a matter of urgency, please send an email to the following list:,,,,,,,,,

Here is a sample letter. You can use your own words if you like, but please use the three dot points as they appear so we present a cohesive message.

Subject: Funding – National School Chaplaincy Program

Dear Senators and Mr. Bandt

You will be aware the ALP are planning to rush legislation through parliament to subvert the High Court decision in Willams v the Commonwealth and Ors.

This is an opportunity for the Greens to hold the government to account. The High Court has made a ruling which provides a greater level of public accountability and now the ALP – undoubtedly with the support of the coalition – intend to circumvent that ruling through legislation.

This is an opportunity for the Greens to make a public stand for some incredibly important issues, including public accountability, separation of church and state and our children’s right to a secular public education system.

I would be grateful if the Greens would represent my views in respect to this matter. They are as follows:

1) I do not support the Howard-Gillard program that supplies chaplains of any faith in Australia’s public schools, and I urge you to prevent the continuation of chaplains in today’s forthcoming legislation.

2) If we are to have Commonwealth assistance supplied to schools in this manner then I am firmly of the view that they must be fully qualified as school counsellors, which means they are qualified teachers with a degree in psychology and postgraduate qualifications in school counselling, and nothing less can do.

3) It is time to stop outsourcing this work to third party contractors and these fully qualified school counsellors must all be employed as public servants in the relevant Education departments in each state and territory in order to ensure some high level of confidence in their training, integrity and the outcomes.

Yours sincerely


Fellow bloggers – can you please consider reblogging this – either cut and paste this post or rephrase as you see fit, but please keep the three dot points intact.

PS:  Perhaps Gillard, Garrett and Roxon should listen to Foreign Minister, Bob Carr who said last May that the chaplaincy program was “abhorrent” – Bob Carr slams chaplain funds.

Update:  Greens want tertiary counselors and Bringing down the House? Anne Twomey, a constitutional lawyer predicts the new legislation will see the government ‘clobbered’ in the High Court.

Williams wins High Court challenge against school chaplaincy

Maria Proctor, Ron and me outside the High Court on the first day of the hearing. Photo by Nelson Lau.

Chaplaincy challenge: Trophy for Williams, but ‘poison chalice’ for the states?

We were advised several days in advance that a decision on Ron Williams’ High Court Challenge against federal funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program would be handed down on Wednesday, 20 June 2012.

Anticipating that a decision must surely be imminent, I’d already started drafting an article and conducted an interview with Ron – I knew when the decision finally came down he’d be swamped by media!

The decision was scheduled for 10.15am. At the appointed hour, I was busily working on the article with ABC News 24 playing in the background. And, then, through the background hum came the decision:  Williams had won!

My hand flew to my mouth, my whole body went tingly, then numb and I started to scream, “We won! We won! We won!”

When Maria Proctor, (president of the Humanist Society of Queensland, which donated a significant amount towards Ron’s legal costs) rang we repeated the “We won! We won!” chant in duet.

Next Andrew Skegg (Godless Biz) was on the phone.  Andrew has been a tireless supporter of the High Court Challenge with his Stop the National School Chaplaincy facebook page and #StopNSCP tweets.

When the excitement died down, I felt like someone who’d simultaneously won the lottery and been run over by a truck.  Speaking to Ron, yesterday, I discovered he felt much the same!

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to speak to briefly to Ron and enjoyed a longer conversation with Ron’s  main supporter and ‘trusty side-kick’, Hugh Wilson, later that night.

In a 6:1 decision, the High Court upheld Ron’s claim that funding the National School Chaplaincy Program exceeded the executive powers of the Commonwealth. In short, it was unconstitiutional.

The judges were unanimous, however, that the program did not breach the ‘religious test’ clause of Section 116 of the Constitution.

While some glass-half-empty folks have chosen to see the latter decision as a ‘failure’ it was an ambit claim that Williams never expected to win.

“It was always about the funding,” he told me.

“Of course, we would have loved to have mounted another DoGS (Defence of Government Schools) case and reinstated Section 116 as a separation clause, but every bit of legal advice told us that just wasn’t possible.”

What Ron’s legal team did was to find another avenue to attack the program and he has emerged victorious. I think that’s time for some glass-more-than-half-full celebration.

It was always highly unlikely that the High Court Challenge was going to stop chaplaincy in its tracks. Everyone who followed the case closely understood that. Ron has always been clear that this was the ‘opening salvo’ in a much longer battle.  But what a salvo!

The most likely scenario now is that the government will fund chaplaincy through the states, via a tied grant or special purpose payment (SPP).  But, as I’ve explained in an article for ABC’s Religion and Ethics today, this may be something of a ‘poisoned chalice’ for the states.

When I spoke to Ron yesterday he assured me that if chaplaincy is to be administered by the states, that’s where the battle will move to.  This is, by no means, the end of the fight for the education system our founding fathers envisaged:  free, secular and compulsory.

I hope you’ll enjoy my Religion and Ethics article. I hope that Ron’s thousands of supporters will continue their interest in secular public education through following this blog, subscribing to the Stop the National School Chaplaincy Program Facebook page, and, if you happen to be independently wealthy, through monetary support to help the fighting fund.

There are not many people who get the opportunity to be a small part of making constitutional history. I’m so glad when the opportunity presented itself to work with Ron’s team – specifically Hugh Wilson (SPEL), Maria Proctor (Qld Humanists), Max and Meg Wallace (Australian United for the Separation of Church and State),  Dan Stevens, Nina Pace and Nelson Lau – I ‘seized the day’.

Those interested in the chaplaincy issue should be sure to watch the videos on Ron and Hugh’s Secular Public Education Lobby (SPEL)  website.

Parents experiencing problems with chaplaincy or any other kind of religious interference in public schools can contact Hugh and Ron at . They really do want to hear from you.

Chrys Stevenson

Chaplaincy challenge: Trophy for Williams, but ‘poison chalice’ for the states?



When the arse falls out of your arsenal – praise Godwin!

From Wikipedia: Godwin’s law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies is an observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that has become an Internet adage It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches … there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin’s law.”

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about “Godwin’s Law” recently. As the Australian Marriage Equality juggernaut forges ahead, the religious right grows increasingly frustrated as their arguments lose traction with the wider community.

“We are comprehensively losing this”, the Australian Christian Lobby wrote to its followers earlier this year.

Meanwhile, there are fears for the health of Bill Muehlenberg as his head appears to ‘asplode’ at each new sign that Australians will no longer accept his brand of bigoted bastardry which fundamentally flies in the face of Australians’ ‘fair go’ ethos.

Last year, Kevin Rudd’s sister, Loree hit the headlines after she accused same-sex marriage advocates of being a “Gestapo”. According to Ms Rudd there is a worldwide gay network feeding ‘propaganda’ to politicians.

“I call them the global gay Gestapo — it is the lobbying movement that is brainwashing people, particularly the young in the community that this [homosexuality] is an optional extra in life,” she said.

Callously disregarding the collateral damage to Jewish Australians,  The Australian Christian Lobby backed Ms Rudd’s comments:

“I suggest Loree Rudd’s opponents visit the museum in Nuremberg and see how important it is that these deplorable tactics be opposed,” said the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace.

Holocaust survivor Frederick Weisinger – a gay man with first-hand experience of Nazis – responded to the slurs:

 “I spent three years in a concentration camp as a child, and I am horrified by this comparison between the Gestapo and ordinary citizens like me who just want to be treated equally … Before she makes such offensive comments, Ms Rudd should read about the horrors perpetrated by the Gestapo, particularly how it hounded, persecuted and killed homosexuals in large numbers.”

Bruce Copeland, an ex-military Australian who campaigns against mainstream programs for HIV/AIDS prevention in Papua New Guinea has similarly complained that ‘several churches in Papua New Guinea’ have been severely bullied by the ‘AusAID lesbian gestapo officers’.  Copeland is clearly an A-grade nutter but his rantings are indicative of the depths to which Muehlenberg, Wallace, Ms Rudd and others are prepared to stoop.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed Australian fundamentalists increasingly resort to Godwin’s law.

Most publicly,  Jim Wallace, recently likened ‘teh’ homosexual lobby and their supporters to Nazi arch-propagandist, Joseph Goebbels. Adding insult to injury, the remark was made in front of (and, partly directed towards) Dr Kerryn Phelps – who is both a lesbian and a practicing Jew.

(Nazi slur at 1:30)

But Wallace isn’t the only one invoking Nazi slurs in a farcical attempt to keep the anti-gay argument afloat.

In January, Catholic anti-abortion campaigner, Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn accused the gay community of “rainbow fascism” over protests relating to Margaret Court’s virulently anti-gay views.

Muehlenberg regularly refers to ‘the gaystapo’ on his despicable blog.

“Every day we witness another example of the pink jackboots in operation,” Muehlenberg despairs.

“I better run through some of the most recent examples of this homosexual fascism,” he says elsewhere.

(I won’t link to Muehlenberg’s on principle – google if you must read his filth.)

It’s inflammatory language meant to frighten the community and intimidate gay rights activists. Instead, it’s widely read as last-gasp-Godwinism – the death-rattle of a minority group of religious extremists aghast that they are’comprehensively losing’ the debate.  Ironically, these gutter tactics only function to alienate decent Australians and outrage and embarrass the vast majority of Australian Christians.

As Jim Wallace is a former brigadier, perhaps we should employ a military analogy:

It’s like this Jim. When you have to resort to Nazi slurs, it’s a sure sign the arse has fallen out of your arsenal.

Chrys Stevenson

Gloria Jean’s – Lying for Jesus?

Oh dearie dear, the PR’s just getting worser and worser for Gloria Jean’s!

Here’s a tip. If you’re going to plough money into causes which deny equality to your fellow Australians then you’d better:

a) be prepared to stand up for your beliefs, regardless of the public outrage and economic fallout; or

b) find a really, really good PR company.

Unfortunately, GJ’s has pursued neither of these options.

My dear friend, Dave the Happy Singer from Dave the Happy Singer dot com has been cogitating on the Gloria Jean’s dilemma.  He’s a great cogitator, my friend Dave.  And, during his cogitational revery, he kept thinking about a particular image that just didn’t seem to gel with Gloria Jean’s’ insistence that their $30,000 donation to the Australian Christian Lobby was purely for advertising and that:

“This was a once off donation during the time of the election… in support of the prime ministerial debate only. What’s more, it is important to reiterate that we are not religiously affiliated or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences, including Hillsong.

By the same token, nor do we discriminate against others based on their beliefs or preferences. We are proud of our culture of equality and embrace diversity across our entire business.

The religious affiliation and preferences of some our management, Franchise Partners or Team Members, is their personal choice and bears no relevance to the way that our business runs day to day.”

As tens of thousands of outraged coffee-drinkers joined the boycott of Gloria Jean’s (this little blog, alone, had almost 30,000 unique views of the Gloria Jean’s material this week), the increasingly desperate company issued this statement on their Facebook page:

“To the community,

Over the last few days there has been a lot of discussion about our company and we would like to take the opportunity to clear the air.

Gloria Jean’s Coffees has a strong culture and belief in respect, equality and diversity. As a brand we comprise of many individuals including our Support Office team, hundreds of Franchise Partners and thousands of coffee house team members, each with the right to hold their own beliefs.

As a company we hold no position on marriage law, and in line with our values support people’s freedom to choose who they love. We are not homophobic and are proud that our team members come from all walks of life and sexual orientations, and we respect everyone’s opinion and the right to freedom of choice – political, religious, marriage or otherwise.

Again we would like to apologise for any hurt or offence which may have been caused by the paid advertising we undertook for the 2010 prime ministerial debate event, hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

The paid advertising was undertaken on a commercial basis only, and it appears that there is now a perception that we endorse the views and values of the ACL. This is not the case. Gloria Jean’s Coffees does not support the independent views and values of the ACL.

There is also still confusion about our relationship with Hillsong Church. Gloria Jean’s Coffees is a privately owned business and not owned by the Hillsong Church.

This misunderstanding often arises because our founders are active parishioners of their local Hillsong Church.

We are not affiliated with Hillsong, however we do support a wide range of charities and churches in the communities in which our coffees houses operate including Hillsong.

We are proud of our contribution to the community so please follow this link to our website where you can see the range of causes that we support.

Yours sincerely,

Gloria Jean’s Coffees Senior Management Team: Nabi Saleh, Angela Saleh, Keith Brown, Gareth Pike, Rudi Selles, Nicole Saleh and Matthew Button

But, despite the spin, it just wasn’t ringing true.  No religious affiliation? How do you explain this little gem, provided by one of Dave’s trusty readers, ‘Shaz’:

click to enlarge

Or this, which washed up on Facebook today:

As  my dear friend, Bruce Llama reveals in Jesus Jean the Coffee is Off, Andrew Fisher, the owner of this car probably put his foot in it when he said that sponsorship from ‘mainstream secular companies’ would ‘confuse’ the Christian message of his enterprise too much.  Indeed!  Thanks Bruce – love your work!

But wait! There’s more!  Following a lead from one of my very astute readers, Kas Grigonis (see Kas’ comment here), Dave did some more digging on Gloria Jean’s parent company, Jireh International Pty Ltd. Cleverly, Dave thought, “If  $30,000 was donated to the Australian Christian Lobby under the name of “Gloria Jean’s Coffees”, what donations might have been made under the parent company’s name, “Jireh International Pty Ltd”.  And what do you know? Bingo!

As Dave explains at Dave the Happy Singer dot com:

“In 2004, Gloria Jean’s holding company donated to the NSW Liberals and an entity called Families Australia. Pulling up the return [PDF] for Families Australia, we see that it received $105,000 in three donations, promptly donating that same sum on to…

Family First.

And whose name do we find next to one of those donations? $10,000 came from:


See Dave’s blog post:  Did Gloria Jeans donate to Family First, too? for all the tawdry information.

Oh, happy day! Gloria Jean’s – the ‘non-religiously affiliated company’  slipping 10,000 bucks to Assemblies-of-God-linked Family First? Who’d a thunk it?  Was this another one of those ‘one offs’, Gloria Jean’s?

And why does Assemblies of God ring a bell? Oh, yes! It’s because Nabi Saleh – one of the co-signatories to the protestation of innocence above – is the director of Alphacrucis (formerly the Southern Cross College of the Assemblies of God). What an incredible coincidence!

Following the bouncing ball with this lot is so much fun.  Guess who one of the Family First’s senate candidates was? Yes! A gold star for those of you who got it right:  @WendyJoyFrancis – now Queensland director of … the Australian Christian Lobby.

Come on! You remember Wendy. She’s the one whose twitter feed read:

“Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse.”

But let me stress, Wendy didn’t tweet this herself! It was some unnamed person, tweeting under Wendy’s name. Someone who just happened to have her twitter password. And believe me, those are NOT Wendy Francis’ views and the person who tweeted them HAS BEEN COUNSELED!  Let me restate that, they HAVE BEEN COUNSELED!

In a ham-fisted effort to dig herself out a rapidly deepening hole, Ms Francis told AAP that children used in the “social experiment” of same-sex parenting were open to emotional abuse, like those of the stolen generations.

Wendy, of course, IS NOT HOMOPHOBIC; although, mysteriously, having failed to gain a Senate seat, she is now a senior manager in an organisation which spends the majority of its time  telling us that allowing same-sex couples to marry is not in the best interests of children and that that child rape by clergy is primarily attributable to homosexuals infiltrating churches.

In 2010, Family First disendorsed David Barrow,  a Victorian candidate for the Federal Seat of La Trobe, because it was discovered that Barrow “supports the marriage of any committed partnership and says same-sex couples should have the right to adopt”.

Family First  chairman, Peter Lake, said:

“It came to our attention that he had posted some information on his website and blogs which was inconsistent with the stated position that he had given us as a candidate when we had endorsed him and the views were different to the values that Family First espouses” (emphasis added).

This is the party to which the NON-RELIGIOUSLY AFFILIATED Gloria Jean’s decided to donate 10,o00 smackeroonies.

Geez GJ’s! I’m a little short of cash this week.  If I strap on a sandwich board that reads “God Hates Fags” and walk up and down the Queen Street Mall at lunch time will you throw me a lazy ‘thou’ or ten – in the most unreligiously, unhomophobic way of course!

The thing is, Gloria Jean’s, you are neck deep in the manure of Balaam’s talking donkey. Your company has enthusiastically sponsored a variety of homophobic organisations and now it’s beginning to have negative financial consequences you’re trying to backpedal as fast as Nabi Saleh can mumble in tongues.

I was asked by a Christian this week why I was ‘so angry’ about this.  Well, you know, the social environment created by organisations which deny the scientific consensus on homosexuality causes gay teens to attempt suicide at a rate significantly higher than their heterosexual peers. That tends to get me riled. I guess I’m just funny that way.

The facts are that:

  • homosexuality  is entirely natural in terms of the spectrum of human sexuality
  • it is neither chosen nor changeable
  • children do equally as well with homosexual parents as they do with heterosexual parents
  • homosexuality and pedophilia are not linked – the use of the term ‘homosexual molestation’ does not and should not be taken to imply that the adult molesting the child is a homosexual, only that the molestation was performed by a man upon a male child or teenager.
I also get very cranky about people trying to dig themselves out of bad situation by feeding the public with bullshit.

As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake … HUGE!”

It’s too late now to take a ‘neutral position’ on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Gloria Jean’s. You guys are going to have to pick a side.

May I make some suggestions?

a) Admit that, under the influence of Saleh (and others?) your organisation has unwisely invested in organisations that have caused great pain and suffering, not only to homosexuals, but to other vulnerable groups.

b) Admit this has been contrary to the interests (both personal and financial) of your franchisees and their staff.

c) Announce that you are now prepeared to put the past behind you; that neither Gloria Jean’s – nor any companies even remotely associated with it – will contribute either financially or in kind towards organisations which view homosexuality, the sexual expression of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as ‘abnormal’ or ‘sinful’.

c) Pledge to compensate for your company’s betrayal of your LGBTIQ customers and employees by contributing the sum of $30,000 plus $10,000 to Australian Marriage Equality.  After all, it’s the least you can do.


Simply come clean and say, “Yes, we contributed that money to organisations which think homosexuality is sinful and abnormal because our company is based on fundamentalist Christian values and as a corporate entity, we endorse those views.  Further, as this is our fervently held position, we are prepared to accept (on behalf of our franchisees) any backlash that might occur because of this principled stance.”

At least that would be honest.

Chrys Stevenson

PS: Oh, and Gloria Jean’s? We know you had the logo promoting your company as a ‘partner’ in the Hillsong Conference removed from the conference website.  Can you confirm if you’re still sponsoring the conference?

Update: Dave Singer tells me that the Gloria Jean’s logo has since reappeared on the Hillsong Conference sponsors list. Despite having ‘no affiliation’ with Hillsong they are listed as a “MAJOR PARTNER”.

Dave shares this photo of a Gloria Jeans Coffee cart.  Note the t-shirt on the barrista and the logo on the coffee cup?

Oh, Gloria Jeans! You’ve done it again!

So, let’s just recap this ongoing saga, shall we?

1. Doug Pollard discovers that Gloria Jeans Coffee donated $30,000 to Australia’s leading anti-gay group, the Australian Christian Lobby.

2. A call to boycott Gloria Jeans Coffee follows.

3.  It goes viral.

4. Gloria Jeans issues a statement trying to play down their affiliation with anti-gay organisations such as the Australian Christian Lobby, Hillsong church, Mercy Ministries and the Salvation Army (we’re still not sure about Kenneth Copeland Ministries).

Here’s the spin:

“This was a once off donation during the time of the election… in support of the prime ministerial debate only. What’s more, it is important to reiterate that we are not religiously affiliated or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences, including Hillsong.

By the same token, nor do we discriminate against others based on their beliefs or preferences. We are proud of our culture of equality and embrace diversity across our entire business.

The religious affiliation and preferences of some our management, Franchise Partners or Team Members, is their personal choice and bears no relevance to the way that our business runs day to day.”

4. I do some more digging and find that Gloria Jeans charitable foundation donates to Compassion Australia. Compassion (and its global partner Compassion International) appear to be decidedly anti-gay. Compassion is also closely linked to Hillsong Church and sponsors it annual conferences.

5. And then, the brilliant Dave the Happy Singer from Dave the Happy Singer dot com makes an amazing discovery. Three days ago, it seems, Gloria Jeans logo was proudly displayed online as a ‘partner’ of the Hillsong Conference. But, after the boycott controversy – POOF! – the evidence of Gloria Jeans’ close and continuing ‘partnership’ with Hillsong mysteriously disappeared from the site.  Luckily Dave managed to save it with a screen capture!  Bet they’re relieved!

What was it Gloria Jeans said in their statement? Oh yes!

“We are not religiously affiliated or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences, including Hillsong … The religious affiliation and preferences of some our management, Franchise Partners or Team Members, is their personal choice and bears no relevance to the way that our business runs day to day.”


Please visit Dave’s blog for more information!

7. Then comes a most interesting ‘revelation’ from one of my readers, Kas Grigonis, who writes:

The company that is trading as Gloria Jeans is called Jireh International Pty Ltd. Jireh is the Hebrew verb meaning “to provide” and is commonly known in the term “Jehovah jireh”, meaning “God will provide”.

Also, in the book of Genesis, Jehovah-jireh is the place where God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering,* (Abraham named the place as such after God provided him with a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac).

The North American affiliate set up for Jireh International Pty Ltd (trading as Gloria Jeans) is called Praise International North America Incorporated.

The links between church and addictive drug peddling… sorry… coffee selling… to the world couldn’t get much stronger.  🙂

What was that, Gloria Jeans? The line’s breaking up, you’ll have to speak louder! Oh, yes, okay, I can hear you now:

” … it is important to reiterate that we are not religiously affiliated or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences … The religious affiliation and preferences of some our management, Franchise Partners or Team Members, is their personal choice and bears no relevance to the way that our business runs day to day.”

Yeah, sure!

I’ve been mulling on this overnight and it’s brought to mind an amusing incident from many years ago.

I had just bought a coffee at my local (independent) coffee shop. I took my drink to an outside table and sat down. Just as I looked up I saw at the table opposite, a child of about 6 years old, sitting by himself and shovelling sugar out of the sugar bowl into his mouth. Just as the next teaspoonful rose to his lips, I said, “You’re not going to eat that, are you?”

The child looked at me with wide-eyed innocence, spoonful of sugar still poised centimetres from his mouth, and responded with a sing-song, “Noo–oh.”

Oh, how it reminds me of Gloria Jeans with their hand, caught in the Christian anti-gay cookie jar while flat-out denying their religious affiliations.

Wake up, Gloria Jeans! You’re not six and we’re not stupid.

You’re just making the situation worse.

Meanwhile Starbucks Australia have followed their US parent, done the right thing and publicly announced their support for marriage equality.

Chrys Stevenson

*This may explain GJ’s own ‘burnt offerings’!

Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

I’m very proud to announce my writing debut on the New Matilda. New Matilda is a crowd-sourced online political journal and I have to say I’ve been very impressed by their professionalism.

I guess that’s one of the reasons they’ve been able to attract such great writers.  Contributors include:

and many more.

My article, The Happy Clappers who run Queensland focuses on the evangelical forces within Queensland’s Liberal National party.

During the Civil Unions debate last year, Anna Bligh said:  “The religious right has taken over the National Party. Bruce McIver and his cronies are running it.”

You might be surprised to read who agrees with her!

I hope you enjoy the article.  While you’re at the New Matilda site, take a look around and consider subscribing. It’s quite reasonable at around $8 a month.

Hopefully they’ll let me write for them again soon.

Chrys Stevenson

Starbucks Support Marriage Equality

For those who have been following my posts  on Gloria Jeans this week (see here and here), I have a great announcement. Oh, it’s so nice to be able to write something positive for a change. I’m practically dancing with joy!

Starbucks have just publicly announced their support for marriage equality!

This went up on their Facebook page just half an hour ago:

“Core to who we are and what we value as a company is our belief in equal treatment of our partners (employees) and our customers. It is with this in mind that Starbucks Australia would like to publicly announce our proud support of Marriage Equality for all. Many of our stores and partners are actively participating in events and activities aimed at changing local legislation – together we can make a difference.”

Congratulations Starbucks! What great corporate citizens.

And good on Doug Pollard for suggesting to Starbucks it was a good time for them to make a public announcement.

So, all you people who have sworn off Gloria Jeans – now you know where you can order coffee, knowing the money won’t filter through to anti-gay groups.

And Mr Starbucks – Australian Marriage Equality is currently asking for donations to fund a television advertisement to counter one being produced by the Australian Christian Lobby. A sizeable donation to AME would be a wonderful confirmation of your support (and a great marketing/photo opportunity too!)  I put in 50 bucks this morning and I reckon Starbucks has a bit more disposable income than I have. 😉

Chrys Stevenson


Media Release
Tuesday June 12th 2012


Advocates have welcomed support for same-sex marriage from Starbucks Australia.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said,
“Starbucks’ support is a boost for the marriage equality campaign and is in line with the views of a majority of Australians.”
“Starbuck’s stand is based on principle and reflects the company’s concern that its staff and customers are treated equally under the law.”
This evening Starbucks Australia posted the following statement on its facebook page (
“Core to who we are and what we value as a company is our belief in equal treatment of our partners (employees) and our customers. It is with this in mind that Starbucks Australia would like to publicly announce our proud support of Marriage Equality for all. Many of our stores and partners are actively participating in events and activities aimed at changing local legislation – together we can make a difference.”
Starbucks in the US already supports marriage equality, sparking a “Dump Starbucks” boycott by anti-equality groups.
Mr Greenwich said any attempts at a boycott in Australia would be met with strong support for the company from supporters of marriage equality.
Starbucks’ statement comes only days after it was revealed that Gloria Jeans coffee chain donated $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby in the 2010-2011 tax year. For more see:

An Open Letter to Gloria Jeans Coffee – not buying the ‘spin’ guys

Dear Gloria Jeans

Following the revelation that Gloria Jeans donated $30,000 to Australia’s pre-eminent anti-gay organisation, the Australian Christian Lobby, I (along with many others), have called for a national boycott of your stores. I realise this is harsh on franchisees who may not share your founders’ extremist, homophobic views. But it seems only a boycott will motivate store owners to put pressure on your company to change its historic, and on-going support for anti-gay organisations.

Yesterday, Gloria Jeans issued a statement which said in part:  “ it is important to reiterate that we are not religiously affiliated or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences, including Hillsong … We are proud of our culture of equality and embrace diversity across our entire business.”

I think you might have been fudging – just a little.

You see, I looked into Gloria Jeans “With Heart” charitable foundation and noticed that the two major recipients of your philanthropy – Compassion Australia and Opportunity International – are both Christian evangelical organisations. Surely that is not just coincidence?

Compassion Australia is part of the Compassion International Global network. Compassion uses the ‘child sponsorship’ model to work with children in poverty throughout the world. Very admirable at first glance but let’s look closer.

I’d like to begin our exploration of Compassion Australia and its global partner by introducing you to my friend Rodney Chiang Cruise and his family.  Rodney is a patent attorney from Melbourne;  his husband, Jeff, is a library technician. They are your average young, professional family with three beautiful young children.

I don’t know about you, Gloria Jeans, but when I look at this photo, the words that spring to my mind are ‘normal’, ‘wholesome’ and ‘happy’.  The Chiang Cruises are the epitomy of a solid, middle-class, respectable Australian family – just the sort who are likely to patronise Gloria Jeans Coffee.

And yet, if my friends Rodney (left)  and Jeff  (right) wanted to sponsor a child through Compassion Australia – the charity your company supports through your “With Heart” program – they would be faced with some rather major obstacles.

Having agreed to sponsor a child, the Chiang Cruises would receive an instruction kit with instructions on how ‘to write to her, encourage her and develop a relationship with her’. But, the Compassion guidebook would warn that their correspondence will be censored and that “materials that condone lifestyle choices inconsistent with our beliefs, such as those: condoning sexual relationships outside the heterosexual marriage covenant or advocating the living out of a homosexual lifestyle” will not be forwarded.

Rodney and Jeff may be able to sponsor a child through Compassion Australia, but they would not be able to send photos of their happy family or describe their every day family life. To add insult to injury, just as Gloria Jeans refers to homosexuality as a ‘preference’, Compassion describes it pejoratively as a ‘lifestyle’.

Just to be sure the message has got through, a warning on the form provided to write a message to your sponsored child reads:

“Please do not send communications … or comments condoning sexual relationships outside the heterosexual marriage covenant.”

Now, of course no one in their right mind is going to write to a sponsored child about the wild night of gay sex they had last night; of course that would be inappropriate, just as it would be inappropriate to write to a child about your heterosexual sex life. But, that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a normal family with two dads (or two mums) simply sending a child family photos like the beautiful photo above. That would not be acceptable to Compassion.

I imagine that if I sponsored a child through Compassion and wanted to write about spending time with my friends Rodney and Jeff and their three children, that would be censored too. Compassion children are not allowed to know that homosexuals can marry, have children and happy, healthy, thriving families. It might suggest that homosexuality is ‘normal’. It might lead to tolerance for homosexuality in countries where homosexuals face persecution and, often murder. That would never do.

Given your founders’ close connection with Hillsong Church, I was not surprised to find that Compassion Australia also has a very close association with Hillsong.  Hillsong boasts that it is the largest single sponsor of Compassion International children. As you’re probably aware (but didn’t mention when you were busy distancing yourself from Hillsong yesterday) Compassion Australia is a major supporter of Sydney’s annual Hillsong conference and Colour Your World women’s conference.  It’s all very cosy.

Of course, helping poverty stricken children and families is to be applauded – but this is help with an agenda. Compassion is an evangelical ministry. Children are not just housed, fed and clothed – they are brainwashed into fundamentalism; a fundamentalism which condemns homosexuality as sinful.

To carry out its work, Compassion partners with churches in the countries in which it works. But they are highly selective. Partner churches must be ‘part of an evangelical denomination’ – none of those wussy liberal churches allowed. Even in Brazil, where 70 per cent of the population is Catholic, Compassion do not, apparently, partner with Catholic churches.

The aim, you see, is not primarily to feed the poor, but to spread the faith – a very particular brand of the faith with very particular fundamentalist, literalist views. The kind of faith promulgated by, let’s say, Hillsong Church and the Australian Christian Lobby,

In countries where Compassion is dealing with HIV/AIDS their attitude towards homosexuality raises serious concerns. As one sponsor wrote:

“My family recently (last weekend!) sponsored a young boy in Rwanda through Compassion. I’m concerned about the comments here regarding the organization’s stance on homosexuality. We sponsored this young boy in large part because of his living in an area with a horrifically high incidence of AIDS. We wondered why this young boy had been on the waiting list for over 6 months- now, perhaps it’s a little clearer. I hope to discover the people working through this organization are teaching these vulnerable people ALL the ways in which AIDS is spread … ours is not to judge the soul into which the person is born, ours is to promote safe practices and the knowledge that we are ALL God’s children.

I would hate to think our young man – already feeling marginalized by a world around him – would be any less educated about the risks involved in ANY unprotected physical relationship. Given what we know in 2009, we cannot afford to support the naive notion that telling someone who they are, is wrong- and will change who God made them to be-dangerous territory, if you ask me.”

So, what does Compassion teach about HIV/AIDS prevention? The answer will send shivers down the spines of my friends who are experts in this area and familiar with ‘world’s best practice’.

According to Compassion International:

Our goal is to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections among Compassion-assistedchildren through a focus on purity in sexual behaviors (abstinence and faithfulness) and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).

…  grassroots, local churches are well positioned to present the positive, life-giving message of “sex within marriage” that African youth need to hear — and to which they do respond. Uganda, for example, has witnessed a decline in HIV prevalence from roughly 12 to 4.1 percent over the past decade and that decline is largely attributed to successful prevention strategies encouraging abstinence and faithfulness.*

Compassion funds will not be used to purchase or promote the distribution of condoms. The message of “safe sex” to youth is contradictory to the Biblical message of sexual purity.”

The CEO of Compassion Australia is Tim Hanna – formerly CEO of Willow Creek Australia. Willow Creek is part of an international evangelical ministry founded and still largely directed by Bill Hybels.

For many years Willow Creek (in the USA – I don’t know about Australia) had a close relationship with Exodus International – the notorious ex-gay ministry – although that relationship has since ended. While coming to the acceptance that homosexuality cannot be ‘changed’ Hybels (and presumably his church) are a long way from accepting homosexuals. “We challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in Scriptures, which encourage sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage,” says Hybels. Hybels adds that the Bible prescribes “sexual abstinence and purity for everyone else.”

This seems to echo Compassion’s commitment to the ‘Biblical message on sexual purity’.

So, let’s get this straight, Gloria Jeans. Yesterday, you denied your company had any ‘religious affiliations’. You declared that Gloria Jeans ’embraced diversity’  and does not  ‘discriminate against others based on their beliefs or preferences’.  (I wonder if you realise how revealing the phrasing of that last sentence is: Homosexuality is no more a ‘preference’ than heterosexuality;  and should not be referred to as such.)

In your statement, you note that: “The religious affiliation and preferences of some our management, Franchise Partners or Team Members, is their personal choice and bears no relevance to the way that our business runs day to day.”

Then how do you explain the fact that one of the major recipients of your philanthropy just happens to be an evangelical Christian organisation with close links to Hillsong Church? Did you think no-one would notice? Given your company’s propensity for making corporate contributions to anti-gay organisations such as Mercy Ministries, Hillsong and the Salvation Army, how do you explain that even a little investigation found similar anti-gay sentiments within Compassion Australia?

It is disingenous to believe that a non-discriminatory policy in your stores excuses you financing anti-gay groups at a corporate level.

Why, given Gloria Jeans salutory experience with Mercy Ministries did you decide to throw your weight behind another fundamentalist, evangelical organisation with close links to Hillsong?

I’m sorry, Gloria Jeans. I’m not buying your lame attempt at PR spin. Gloria Jeans corporate contributions – both past and present – align with the homophobic views of founders Nabi Saleh and Peter Irvine. As long as that continues, I will continue to boycott your company and I expect that the tens of thousands of people who have joined the boycott will be similarly unmoved.

Chrys Stevenson

*In fact, the drop in HIV prevalence in Uganda is attributed to the Ugandan government’s ABC campaign:  Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom if A and B fail. One of the most recent studies, showed that while abstinence and fidelity rates were declining, HIV/AIDS rates were not rising. This suggests condoms are playing an important role in HIV/AIDS prevention in Uganda. Sadly, another reason for the decline in prevalence was the high rate of premature deaths of those who had contracted it.

Doug Pollard writes the perfect accompaniment to this article:  An Open Letter to Starbucks

And I write a follow-up post with more ‘hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar’ revelations here:  Oh, Gloria Jeans! You’ve done it again!

Why I boycott Gloria Jeans Coffee – and you should too

There’s something about Gloria Jeans Coffee that leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth – and it’s not just the overheated, tastes-like-dishwater brew in the cheap paper cup.

Whether its franchisees, staff or customers know it or not, profits from this franchise are put to some pretty objectionable uses.

$30,000 donation to Australian Christian Lobby

Recently, thanks to the investigative efforts of Doug Pollard from community radio Joy 94.9FM, it’s been revealed that Gloria Jeans contributed $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby in 2010. That figure is only public because it is classified as ‘for political expenditure’ and exceeds $11,500. We simply don’t know how much Gloria Jeans may have contributed financially to the ACL under other headings.


Why is this important? Because the Australian Christian Lobby is Australia’s leading anti-gay lobby. Don’t be fooled by the moniker ‘Christian’. They spend very little time feeding the poor, housing the homeless or arguing for a more fair and just society. In fact, another JoyFM volunteer, Jacob Holman, recently took stock of the ACL’s activities and found their obsession with homosexuality and same-sex marriage sticks out like – well – like an enormously large erect penis. Just check out the graph! It’s easy to see what gets those good ol’ boys at the ACL excited!

That should concern every Australian who is gay, or who has gay friends or relatives. In fact, it should concern all Australians who believe this is a country in which every citizen should be treated equally.

The Australian Christian Lobby does not support equality. It supports an ‘us’ and ‘them’ policy when it comes to our gay population. In fact, it even supports discrimination against gay teens.

ACL endorses expelling gay teens

In 2011, Jim Wallace, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby endorsed a NSW law that allows private schools to expel gay students simply for being gay.

To be fair, Wallace said clarified his endorsement by saying:

“But I would expect any church that found itself in that situation to do [expel the gay child] that in the most loving way that it could for the child and to reduce absolutely any negative affects.”

Hmmm, I wonder how you say lovingly: “Well, Jason, you’re gay and you refuse to hide it, so, kiddo, you’re out on your ear – we don’t want ‘your sort’ around here contaminating all the nice, heterosexual kiddies.”

I wonder how you deliver that message without ‘absolutely any negative effects’.

The thing is you can’t. Which is why that kind of message, endorsed by the Australian Christian Lobby, prompts gay teens to commit suicide in far greater numbers than their heterosexual peers.* Support the Australian Christian Lobby in any way and you are inadvertently supporting the social climate that leads to gay teen suicides.

And these are the views being financed by Gloria Jeans Coffee.

Sexual abuse by clergy? Gays are to blame, says Wallace

When it comes to the sexual abuse of children by clergy, Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby is quick to assign blame. Only he doesn’t blame the churches which have enabled abuse, covered it up, and done their darndest not to take responsibility. No. Jim blames homosexuals for infiltrating churches in order to prey on vulnerable children. Completely ignoring all the academic studies which show there is no link between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children, Wallace continues to disseminate that vile lie and paint the church as the ‘victim’. *

Offending Muslims, homosexuals and diggers

But Wallace doesn’t stop at offending homosexuals. On ANZAC day 2011, he tweeted with an appalling lack of sensitivity for either his targets or Australian diggers:

“Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”

Nazi slur

This week, while debating a gay, Jewish woman (Dr Kerryn Phelps) in front of a man with a Jewish surname (Sunrise on Seven host, David Koch), Wallace accused Seven, Sunrise and the ‘homosexual lobby’ of acting like Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist renowned for ‘creating an atmosphere in Germany that made it possible for the Nazis to commit terrible atrocities against Jews, homosexuals and other minorities.’

The slur was astounding in its insensitivity, casting Jewish Phelps in the role of ‘Nazi’ and Wallace in the role of ‘victim’.

LGBT Jewish group, Aleph, responded with incredible dignity and restraint:

“Tens of thousands of homosexual men were murdered under the hand of Joseph Goebbels, alongside many millions of Jews and people from a variety of national identities and religious beliefs. To be compared to this person, in the pursuit of equality and human rights is unconscionable. It beggars belief that an individual with a respected career in the Australian Defence Force is incapable of comprehending the gravity and insensitivity of the words he uttered on national television.”

Please consider, if you’re Muslim, Jewish, gay or a member of (or descended from a member of) the Australian military who fought to defend equality in this country, drinking your coffee at Gloria Jeans may well mean you are financially supporting the Australian Christian Lobby.

Financial support to Salvation Army

If your particular concern is not to finance homophobic organisations, there’s another good reason to steer clear of Gloria Jeans. Apparently they also donate to the Salvation Army. Now, while the Sallys, at least, do some useful, practical work in the community, their attitude towards homosexuality is not good as my friend Michael Barnett explains. According to the Salvation Army’s Australian positional statement on homosexuality:

“Homosexual practice … is, in the light of Scripture, clearly unacceptable. Such activity is chosen behaviour and is thus a matter of the will. It is therefore able to be directed or restrained in the same way heterosexual urges are controlled. Homosexual practice would render any person ineligible for full membership (soldiership) in the Army. However, practising homosexuals are welcome to worship with, and join in the fellowship of The Salvation Army.”

How very kind of them!

How badly do you really want that coffee now? How much effort is it to just walk on to the next coffee shop?

And, sadly, when it comes to Gloria Jeans that’s not all.

Gloria Jeans’ owners

Gloria Jeans was founded by Nabi Saleh (an elder and board member of Hillsong Church, director of Alphacrucis – formerly the Southern Cross College of the Assemblies of God – and director of Kenneth Copeland Ministries Eagle Mountain International Church) and Peter Irvine (a member of Hillsong Church and formerly a director of the notorious Mercy Ministries) .

Kenneth Copeland Ministries

Let’s look at Saleh’s connections first. In 2010, Kenneth Copeland Ministries ‘Believers’ Voice of Victory Show’ was canned by Australia’s Channel 10 after complaints the program breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice by vilifying gays.

Copeland likes to whip up hatred for gays by telling his followers Jesus was gang raped by homosexual Roman soldiers ‘in every way possible’.

“Listen to me very carefully. The Bible’s very careful about the way it says these things. But down there in that dungeon, Romans, ungodly men, ungodly men, put Him (Jesus) to every kind of abuse that you can think of. There is no sin that Jesus didn’t bear. There is no thing, there is no such thing as a sexual abuse on somebody that Jesus doesn’t know firsthand what it’s all about.” – Copeland, The Resurrection Truth

Like Brian Houston from Hillsong, Copeland preaches the ‘prosperity gospel’ – code for the congregation tithes and the pastor gets obscenely rich. Copeland has done well out of it. The televangelist is reportedly worth $769 million. A US Senate investigation into Copeland revealed that:

“… the Copelands’ church provides the Copelands with an 18,000 square-foot mansion that was valued at over $6 million in 2008. It has two three-car garages and three boat slips. Its doors, Gloria Copeland brags, come from a castle. John Copeland confirmed the value of the house and added that their parsonage is also used for housing guest ministers, television taping, rest and relaxation, and includes offices for Kenneth and Gloria Copeland.”

As the owner of Gloria Jeans is a director of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Australia, one has to wonder how much money from Gloria Jeans is being filtered through to KCM to prop up the Copelands’ extravagant lifestyle and homophobic propaganda.

Mercy Ministries

Gloria Jean’s co-founder, Peter Irvine, was a director of Hillsong-backed Mercy Ministries. Gloria Jeans Coffee was a sponsor. Mercy Ministries offered treatment to young women suffering from depression, mental illness and eating disorders. Ostensibly ‘free’, once inducted into the program, the women were told to sign over their Centrelink payments. The professional medical help they were promised came in the form of exorcisms by Bible college students.

In December 2009, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found Irvine and other former directors of Mercy Ministries had engaged in false and misleading conduct and ordered to pay $1,050 to each of the 110 young women who took part in their programs. Pragmatically, both Hillsong and Gloria Jeans severed their association with Mercy Ministries in 2009.

Unpaid commissions to join venture partner

But Saleh’s and Irvine’s dirty dealings aren’t just confined to their religious delusions. In an ongoing battle, Gloria Jeans’ parent company has been found guilty of screwing over their joint venture partner, Western Export Services, for millions of dollars in unpaid commissions.

David Cisneros, a director of Western Export Services says:

”[Mr Saleh and Mr Irvine] had an external accountant who kept giving us numbers that we couldn’t trust .. For us this has been 16 years and this lawsuit has been running for six years. It represented 40 to 50 per cent of our business – we were a small company and we could not just walk away from it.”

On 11 June last year, Gloria Jeans’ parent company was ordered to pay Western over $12 million in commissions plus interest and court costs after the court found Jireh (read Nabi Saleh and Peter Irvine) had breached their joint venture agreement. According to Western, Jireh may not have the funds to make the payment and, at this stage, a stay order has been granted by the court.

Tantalisingly, Ross Koffell, lawyer for Western added, “A lot of information people have been trying to find out for so long about this business may finally be revealed in this case.”

So much for the Saleh’s ‘strong business acumen and Godly wisdom‘ touted on Hillsong’s website! Is it considered astute financial management, godly or wise to cheat your joint venture partner partner out of 12 million bucks and not be able to pay them back?

Hillsong Church

While Gloria Jeans and Hillsong have no formal financial ties, Nabi Saleh is an elder and board member of Hillsong and appears to be heavily involved in managing their financial affairs. Peter Irvine is a member of the church. Gloria Jeans ‘assists’ Hillsong with fundraising by supplying mobile coffee carts and coffee supplies.

Hillsong teaches that homosexuality is unnatural. For many years, Hillsong ran an ex-gay program called Exit International and, after its closure, referred homosexuals to other programs such as Exodus and Living Waters until the mid 2000s. Apparently, Hillsong’s current policy is not to refer homosexuals to ex-gay programs, but the church does not appear to be a safe or welcoming place for LGBTI people. As one gay former member of the church says:

“… every week I get another email, facebook message or someone else from church speaks to me, telling me they are being bullied at church or that they are depressed and just can’t break free from self hatred. Sadly, the most common story I hear is of a closeted gay or lesbian person at Hillsong who tells me that they are too scared to come out because they feel like if they did, people in church wouldn’t treat them the same.”

Hillsong has also had some very questionable business dealings. In 2006, for example, the church’s charitable arm, Hillsong Emerge was stripped of a sizeable federal grant for fraudulently suggesting its proposed program had the support of a local indigenous community. The Federal parliament was told, “”Hillsong Emerge has misused the Riverstone Aboriginal community to get taxpayers’ money for its own purposes.”

Making matters worse, when the fraud became apparent to the Riverstone Aboriginal Community and they threatened to take the matter to the media, Hillsong Emerge offered them a bribe of $280,000 to keep it quiet and fudge their support; an offer that was tartly refused.

If you’re indigenous, or have friends who are, you may wish to think twice before sharing your money with Gloria Jeans, a company with such close ties to Hillsong church.

Why I boycott Gloria Jeans Coffee – and you should too

So, just to recap: the Australian Christian Lobby, Hillsong Church, the Salvation Army and possibly Kenneth Copeland Ministries are four organisations you may inadvertently be supporting when you buy coffee from Gloria Jeans.

There is also, of course, the matter of their past involvement with the abusive Mercy Ministries, the deceptive practices of director, Peter Irvine, and the company allegedly ripping off a small joint-venture partner for millions of dollars. It’s not a business I’d care to have anything to do with – either as a franchisee, a staff member or a customer.

I’ve boycotted Gloria Jeans since my friend, Sean Wright (aka Sean the Blogonaut) alerted me to Gloria Jeans’ connection with Mercy Ministries and Hillsong. Reading Tanya Levin’s People in Glasshouses: an Insider’s Story of Life In and Out of Hillsong strengthened my resolve never to darken their doorstop. Admittedly, the fact that their coffee is over-cooked and tastes like dishwater made the decision considerably easier.

While there is something clearly rotten at the head of this company, I do understand that the franchisees, management and staff are not necessarily guilty of Irvine’s and Saleh’s bigotry, bastardry and poor judgement. So while I am calling for a boycott of Gloria Jeans, I am also calling for the people who actually run the stores to take a stand. Reclaim some decency for this company and demand that no more money be spent on religious ventures like Hillsong, Mercy Ministries, the Salvation Army or the Australian Christian Lobby.

If Irvine and Saleh want to make donations from their own personal wealth, that is their business. But while their company, Gloria Jeans Coffee is supporting homophobia, it reflects on everyone who works in that business.

Chrys Stevenson

* Please read this term inclusively as meaning, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, gay, intersex and queer.

*According to Suicide Prevention Australia, “38% of gay people have experienced discrimination. 50% have experienced verbal abuse. And shockingly, 74% of this abuse happened at school. Around 30% of Australian gay teenagers will attempt suicide. In Australia, on average over 200 young people will suicide this year. Around 30% of Australia’s gay teenagers will attempt suicide. Gay teens are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.” If that doesn’t make Gloria Jeans coffee taste undrinkable, I don’t know what will.

*The truth, according to reputable academic data (see, for example, Jenny, C et al in Pediatrics, 1994), is that homosexual men (men who have sex with men) are less likely than heterosexual men to sexually abuse children. Sexual abuse by lesbians is almost unheard of. Men who have sex with boys may be heterosexual (and the abuse of boys opportunistic rather than signifying a sexual ‘preference’) or, often, they are sexually immature ‘hebephiles’ who are not sexually attracted to either adult males or women – only to children. The abuse of a boy by an adult male may be described as ‘homosexual molestation’ in some church reports, but, as experts at the University of California Davis attest, this does not mean that the adult involved was a homosexual. The distinction is important and accepted by all but fundamentalists with a bigoted barrow to push. As Father Edward L Beck, a Catholic priest notes:

“To link homosexuality and pedophilia (or ephebophilia) is obviously erroneous, uninformed and irresponsible. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation. Pedophilia and ephebophilia are sexual disorders that afflict both heterosexuals and homosexuals, and mostly heterosexuals.”

Want to do more than just boycott?

Join the Boycott Gloria Jeans Facebook group

Ask your local Gloria Jeans franchiser if they are aware that profits from the company support a homophobic agenda (but do be polite, please!). There’s a Store Locator on the Gloria Jeans website.

Let your friends and social networking contacts know that Gloria Jeans supports homophobic organisations and suggest they may want to purchase their coffee elsewhere.

Do you own a coffee shop or a coffee franchise? Why not seize a great marketing opportunity, donate to Australian Marriage Equality and advertise yourself as a supporter. Consider this – when the Australian Christian Lobby started complaining about Sunrise on Seven’s support for the “I Do” same-sex marriage campaign, GetUp called for signatures from those who thought it was a great initiative. The initial target was 5,000 signatures. So far, over 41,000 people have signed.

Gloria Jeans responds to boycott

… (and I respond to Gloria Jeans)

Gloria Jeans has, today, responded to the boycott of their organisation, going viral on the internet. You can read it here on Same Same.

Gloria Jeans Coffees now confirms that in the 2010-2011 tax year it donated $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby.

“This was a once off donation during the time of the election… in support of the prime ministerial debate only,” says a spokesperson for the coffee chain today.

“What’s more, it is important to reiterate that we are not religiously affiliated or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences, including Hillsong,” Gloria Jeans adds.

From the comments so far, it appears the gay community isn’t buying it, and nor am I.  I do accept without question that the franchisees, management and staff of Gloria Jeans may well ’embrace diversity’ but the fact remains that a considerable sum of money from the organisation has gone to the Australian Christian Lobby – the leading anti-gay group in the country.  Further, this is not just a ‘one off’. Gloria Jeans does supply fund-raising support to Hillsong and, in the past, its stores enthusiastically promoted and fund-raised for an organisation responsible for the religious abuse of vulnerable girls.

It will take a great deal more from Gloria Jeans for me to change my view. I would expect an undertaking that the organisation will, in future, refrain from any kind of support (financial or in kind) of any religiously linked organisation and, as a token of their commitment to equality and diversity, a contribution of $30,000 to Australian Marriage Equality or a similar LGBT organisation.

You can see my considered response here:  An Open Letter to Gloria Jeans – not buying the ‘spin’ guys

And follow-up post with more ‘hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar’ revelations here:  Oh, Gloria Jeans! You’ve done it again!