Everyone should be concerned over the growing discrimination, persecution and vilification of Christians which is occurring in Australia. Not only is the government failing to protect the human rights of Christians, but often it seems to be enabling discrimination and persecution through legislation and comments made by parliamentarians.
I believe we desperately need religious freedom provisions in the Australian Constitution to ensure that Christians are free to live out their beliefs safely and legally. The denial of religious freedom has always been a hallmark of totalitarian regimes; such oppression is becoming common in many countries now under the guise of anti discrimination laws. This has no place in a free country.
Allow me to document this controversial assertion.
As predicted, the debate regarding the redefinition of marriage has, as some predicted, unleashed a tide of hatred and bigotry. However, overwhelmingly, this has been squarely aimed at Christians. Listed below are numerous occasions where Christians have been the target of unwarranted discrimination, persecution and vilification. Hardly any of those people who vilified, harassed and assaulted Christians experienced any detrimental legal or social consequences for it. Most of them remain in positions of authority and influence.
- The opposition leader, Mr Bill Shorten, described traditional marriage supporters (most of whom are Christians) as ‘haters coming out from under a rock’.
- Two commercial television stations and SBS banned an advertisement backing traditional marriage.
- A printer in Victoria, McPherson’s, refused to print a book arguing against same sex marriage.
- A meeting at the Mercure Hotel of four Christian groups had to be cancelled due to physical threats by gay activists.
- Greens MP Adam Bandt described three politicians opposing gay marriage as ‘bigots scraping the bottom of the barrel’.
- Bernard Keane, political editor of Crikey, Called Lyle Shelton, of Australian Christian Lobby, ‘a nauseating piece of filth’, ‘a creep’, ‘a fact free hypocrite’ who was ‘obsessed with sex”.
- Fairfax columnist John Birmingham described opponents of same sex marriage as ‘weirdos’, ‘a sweating pig circus of morons and bigots’, wanting to ‘mangulate their hate boners in the marriage equality plebiscite’.
- A group of protesters vandalized Senator Cori Bernardi’s office and even menaced his childrens’ school.
- UNSW lecturer in art and design, Simon Hunt, alias ‘Pauline Pantsdown’ organized a hate campaign to sabotage a Christian event at a Baptist Church in East Melbourne registering 54000 fake attendees using obscene, blasphemous and insulting language.
- Professor Kuruvilla George, after signing a letter opposing same sex marriage, backed by significant evidence, ended up resigning from the equal opportunity board amid controversy over his views
- Coopers Brewery was the subject of a boycott because it supported the Bible society and its beer was being consumed in an advertisement depicting Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie respectfully debating same sex marriage.
- Margaret Court was vilified and harassed for expressing opposition to same sex marriage. Violent protesters disrupted a Liberal party function because she was a guest, spraying attendees with glitter and confetti. Even Margaret Court’s nephew, who runs the Margaret Court Academy, and the children attending the academy, have been targeted for abuse.
- The Tasmanian anti discrimination Commission ruled that the Catholic church had a case to answer for distributing a booklet presenting the church’s teaching on same sex marriage.
- The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission is now investigating Pastor Campbell Markham for his comments on same sex marriage.
- Christian Charities were permitted to keep their board members’ names secret because of harassment of board members by same sex marriage advocates.
The abuse has intensified exponentially in recent weeks.
- A mother who produced a video exposing what was taught to her children in ’Safe Schools’ but remaining anonymous for fear of violence, was ‘outed’ by Jo Hirst, who wrote material used in the program.
- Darebin Council in Melbourne has stated they will allow ‘yes’ campaigners to use council facilities for free but barred ‘no’ campaigners. Council plans to issue a warning to churches not to campaign against same sex marriage.
- A man was banned from Facebook for encouraging voters to register so they could vote ‘no’.
- Australia Post has been pressured by gay activists and postal unions to block letters supporting the ‘no’ campaign.
- The headquarters of the Australian Christian Lobby was egged
- A group from the advertising industry has pledged not to work on the ‘No’ campaign
- The airing of the first advertisement for the ‘no’ campaign resulted in false accusations that the advertisement was untrue, falsely being denounced as ‘rubbish’ by opposition leader Bill Shorten, and ‘patently ridiculous’ by Education Minister Simon Birmingham, both of whom, as defenders of the program, must have known what was in it. The women in the advertisement were ridiculed on ‘the Project’
- They were threatened with death and Dr Pansy Lai was subjected to a petition demanding that her registration be reviewed
- One of the mothers, Heidi McIvor, has had threats of ‘burning her church’
- The women have been subject to media attacks, social media harassment, and having their names posted all over Facebook, and Dr Lai was threatened with violent protests at her surgery.
- Packages containing white powder were sent to the Australian Christian Lobby
- A seminar In Brisbane on the Safe School issue had to be cancelled because ‘yes’ protestors blocked the entrance to the building. Though the media falsely reported it as a ‘clash between rival groups’ the only violence was perpetrated by the ‘yes’ protesters, one of whom falsely alleged that cars had driven into the protesters
- Activist Benjamin Law mused online about raping anti SSM parliamentarians.
- Vote No campaigners at the University of Sydney were shouted down, violently attacked and had their tables overturned and the food they were offering thrown at them
- A small business owner, Madlin Sims, sacked a contractor for posting ‘It’s OK to vote no’ on her Facebook page
- A skywriter who was contracted to write ‘vote no’ in skywriting has been targeted for abuse, and the crowdfunding raised to pay for it has been withheld unless the person commissioning it reveals their name and address, despite not being legally required to do so.
The debate regarding the ‘safe schools’ program is another debate which has resulted in the vilification of Christians, and many false accusations against them which also go legally unchallenged.
- ACT Christian Democratic Party members had their anti ‘safe schools’ posters torn up, burnt and defaced with ‘All bigots must die’. One of the perpetrators, Michael Dencio, posted his action on social media but does not seem to have been charged.
- Christians objecting to the program have been blamed for an increase in suicides among gay youth.
- A 15 year old Christian girl had to change schools after being ostracized, and hearing other students say ‘I hate Christians’. Her family is struggling financially with the cost.
- Tracie Aylmer, of The Australian Independent Media Network described Sophie York, of the Marriage Alliance as a ‘crackpot who wants to put those being bullied at risk’.
Christians have also been targeted by government legislation restricting their freedom of speech and conscience in the regard to abortion.
- Victorian law denies Christian health professionals the right to refuse to participate in performing or arranging abortions. Dr Mark Hobart was investigated by the Medical Board of Victoria for refusing a sex selection abortion at 19 weeks gestation.
- Tasmania has enacted similar legislation.
- Christians protesting against abortion face restrictions and exclusion zones in both Tasmania and Victoria.
- Christians appear to be virtually the only group subject to such infringements of their civil liberties.
The media has been involved in portraying Christians in a negative way, inconsistent with the facts. The tactic of systematically portraying a group in a falsely negative light, was a tactic used by Adolf Hitler, who used both documentary and films to incite hatred against Jews.
- The ABC falsely portrayed evangelical Christians as the most likely domestic violence perpetrators, though in fact they are the least likely. None of the other, higher incidence groups were targeted.
- SBS are currently screening “The Handmaid’s Tale” which depicts a Christian run dystopia which bears no resemblance to real Christian belief or practice.
- The ABC on its Q&A program pitted Fred Nile against five panelists who were hostile to his position, along with a generally hostile audience.
- When MP George Christensen quoted from the work of Garry Dowsett, there was a storm of media protest about George Christensen, but no outrage at the clear advocacy of pedophilia in Mr Dowsett’s writings.
Christians have also been subject to physical violence.
- Sutherland Shire Council deputy mayor has been approached on four occasions by Christians who have been physically assaulted and abused on trains by Arabic speaking gangs for wearing a cross. Worse still, one of the victims reported uniformed transport officers watching the attack without taking action.
- The headquarters of the Australian Christian Lobby was car bombed by a gay activist.
Sadly Australian governments and Anti discrimination Boards and Commissions have been among the worst offenders in discriminating against and persecuting Christians. This has occurred firstly by the enactment of laws that deny Christians the religious freedom enshrined in the UN declaration of Human Rights, and secondly by acting contrary to laws that should support religious freedom. Anti discrimination laws appear to confer on some people rights not available to others. Christians appear to be uniquely vulnerable, both in lacking robust legal rights to freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and, where the laws appear to grant some of these rights, those charged with enforcing the law often refuse to do so.
- The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board accepted multiple complaints from one serial activist against Bernard Gaynor, despite the fact that Bernard Gaynor is a resident of QLD, where the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board does not have jurisdiction. The complaints have been uncritically accepted, including complaints that are clearly vexatious. The Board did not comply with its own rules for the investigation of complaints, and ignored the vicious harassment, threats and vilification perpetrated by the complainant. In a process, which is in itself a punishment, Mr Gaynor, who has not been found guilty of anything, has incurred $200,000 defending himself.
- When Garry Burns, the complainant, offered Mr Gaynor’s address to the Islamic Council with an accusation that he was inciting hatred against Muslims, it resulted in Mr Gaynor having to move for the safety of his family, but the NSW and QLD police refused to take any action despite a clear breach of the law.
- QLD police arrested street preachers on the Gold Coast despite the preachers having all the required permits. This occurred on more than one occasion
- A similar event occurred in Nambour
- The QLD Government has instructed principals to take action against Christian students who talk about Jesus or give out Christmas cards
- A South Australian council is considering banning groups which ‘are not gay and lesbian friendly’ from receiving Council grants
- The Victorian Government attempted to restrict the ability of religious organizations to employ only people who share their beliefs.
- The Australian Defense Forces drummed Bernard Gaynor out of the army for objecting to uniformed defense personnel marching in a political march, which has a record of insulting and vilifying Christians and which is characterized by public obscenity- the Gay MardiGras.
If LGBT people were treated as Christians are the outrage would be deafening. Christians are persecuted in over 100 countries of the world. They are discriminated against, robbed, fined, sacked, driven from their homes, imprisoned, raped, tortured and murdered. A Christian dies for their faith every 6 minutes. It is sad to know that our brothers and sisters are suffering so much, and to see our own country, knowing this, embrace the same hatred. Before deciding that Christians do not deserve protection because they challenge some of the ‘sacred cows’ of our culture, it would be wise to remember that no country which persecutes Christians for any length of time remains a good place for anyone else to live.
Every country which has legalized gay marriage has seen persecution and marginalization of Christians increase dramatically. Without robust religious freedom protections, this will certainly happen in Australia if gay marriage is legalized. Please act to protect freedom of speech, religion and conscience, without which no freedom is possible.
Dr Margaret Colwell is a doctor practicing in Sydney.