The Salvation Army has lent its support to the Safe Schools Coalition, saying negative claims about the LGBTI anti-bullying program have no basis.
The Safe Schools program has come under sustained criticism in 2016 from anti-marriage equality groups, conservative media, and MPs.
Common false claims spread by these groups about the program include that it instructs young children on how to have gay sex and visit explicit websites and encourages children to become gay and transgender through social engineering.
On Tuesday, the Salvation Army's Victoria State Council (VSC) released a statement saying it believes such negative claims about the program are unfounded.
"None of the negative claims made about the program accurately reflect anything in the official materials reviewed," said VSC chair Geoff Webb.
The Salvation Army's social policy unit reviewed all Safe Schools material, including the independent review commissioned by the government earlier this year.
“Provided schools adhere to official teaching resources and the official guidelines, there should be no issues with Safe Schools,” Webb said. "We support the provision of safe learning environments for all students."
The statement also lends support to premier Daniel Andrews' plan to introduce the program to every high school in Victoria by the end of 2018.
Safe Schools' federal funding is due to run out mid-2017, but the Victorian and ACT governments have promised to continue running the program with state funding.
The Salvation Army is a somewhat unlikely champion of the program, given the group's history of anti-gay comments.
In 2012, Australian major Andrew Craibe was asked by LGBT radio station Joy 94.9 about part of the Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine that quoted Romans, saying gay people should be put to death.
He responded: "That's part of our belief system."
Asked "So we should die?" by the host, Craibe said: "We have an alignment to the scriptures, but that's our belief."
The Salvation Army later apologised for the remark.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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