SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE REACHES ANOTHER CRITICAL TURNING POINT
A new push for same-sex marriage has apparently secured the numbers in federal parliament to legislate the reform within weeks, as Liberal MPs break ranks to abandon Malcolm Turnbull’s election pledge of a “people’s vote” to decide the issue. A furious clash threatens to overshadow the Prime Minister’s agenda next week, as reform advocates demand a conscience vote on marriage law, sparking retaliation from conservatives who want the government to make another attempt to set up the plebiscite. With five lower-house Liberal MPs publicly backing the case for change, the House of Representatives has a slim majority in favour of overhauling the Marriage Act, as government backbenchers discuss a private member’s bill to bring the issue to a head.
The public calls for reform are part of a concerted attempt to convince Coalition MPs to abandon the plebiscite as official policy, accept a conscience vote and put the divisive issue behind them before the end of the year. In a test of Mr Turnbull’s authority, more Liberal MPs are speaking out against the plebiscite and signalling they are willing to cross the floor against the government if necessary to legislate marriage equality. Liberal backbenchers Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson, Jason Wood and Trent Zimmerman have indicated support for marriage reform as their Senate colleague Dean Smith drafts a private member’s bill likely to gain support from Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers. “In our party, backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor; in the Labor Party, you get expelled for doing that,” Mr Turnbull said.
Turnbull went on “It’s always been a fundamental principle in the Liberal Party, and indeed the National Party. So it’s a very different culture to the authoritarian and centrally controlled culture of the Labor Party.” Mr Turnbull is expected to argue against a conscience vote when the issue comes to the Coalition party room next week, with some of his colleagues confident the mood among Liberals and Nationals will be to stick with the plebiscite. A decision in the party room to reject a free vote on marriage would effectively challenge the renegade MPs to cross the floor against official government policy and against the government’s control of the business of the parliament. Liberal and Nationals MPs have lined up to condemn talk of government backbenchers crossing the floor to give Labor support in suspending standing orders and forcing a conscience vote on same-sex marriage.
Senior conservative parliamentarians Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz, Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan and Victorian MP Kevin Andrews, who all oppose same-sex marriage, warned the government’s authority would be undermined if MPs crossed the floor. Liberal MP Craig Kelly warned against giving up on the election promise of a plebiscite while fellow NSW Liberal David Coleman disagreed with the MPs pushing for a conscience vote. Senator O’Sullivan, who last month championed a motion at the Liberal National Party annual convention for a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage, said it could prove disastrous for any hope of the government being re-elected. “Trevor won’t be the only one paying the price for the manoeuvre,” he said.
Second-term Liberal MP Luke Howarth, who holds the marginal seat of Petrie on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, said he was “personally agnostic” about same-sex marriage and wanted to be guided by the “will of the Australian people”. The Liberal MP for the seat of Wright, Scott Buchholz, said Mr Evans had underestimated the opposition to same-sex marriage outside Brisbane. None of the reform advocates have said they will side against the government in one key step, a suspension of standing orders to force a debate on the marriage reform bill, but they have expressed frustration with the Coalition ban on a free vote. Their support would be enough to secure at least 76 of the 150 votes in the House of Representatives for changes to the Marriage Act, even if some socially conservative Labor MPs voted against change or abstained.
The lower house has 69 Labor MPs and four crossbenchers who favour change (Adam Bandt, Cathy McGowan, Rebekha Sharkie and Andrew Wilkie) and at least five Liberals in favour. Senator Smith said the rejection of the plebiscite in the Senate in November made it clear the “people’s vote” would not succeed and the government needed to find another way to decide the matter. “Every ounce of my being says the evidence is becoming crystal clear on that,” he said. “If you take the John Howard way, the Howard approach to political management, you would take the path of a conscience vote.” If the party room insists on the plebiscite, the MPs who want same-sex marriage would have to convince the selection of bills committee, chaired by Speaker Tony Smith, to allow the reform bill to go to a vote.
If Mr Turnbull and cabinet insist the private member’s bill should not come to a vote, the reform advocates would have to cross the floor in the lower house to secure at least 76 votes to suspend standing orders and bring on the vote. Senator Smith is yet to release his draft bill, which is still being finalised with his colleagues, but said he would not do so this week. Mr Evans said a conscience vote was the “quickest and most likely course” to get change, while Mr Entsch said there would “most probably” have to be a free vote because the plebiscite had been discredited by conservative MPs who said they would vote for traditional marriage even if the “people’s vote” backed change. Mr Zimmerman said last year he was willing to cross the floor on the issue while Mr Wood said he would vote in favour of change if it became an issue of conscience.
Mr Wilson said he had “discharged his responsibility” in voting for the plebiscite but that a different way had to be found. Conservatives criticised Mr Wilson for suggesting a single vote in the Senate was enough to “discharge” an obligation on an election pledge, when the government only succeeded in restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission after several attempts. “We’ve been strict in not making this a problem for Malcolm but that’s not being reciprocated,” said one MP who supports traditional marriage.
Christian leaders have issued a call for urgent prayer as the marriage debate enters yet another crucial phase next week when Parliament resumes from its winter recess. The call to prayer is directed at keeping the Governments current policy of a plebiscite in place so that the decision on same-sex marriage is available for all Australian’s to participate in. Proponents of same-sex marriage believe they have the numbers on the floor of Parliament to legislate same-sex marriage into being, hence their desire to overturn Government policy of holding a plebiscite. As well as the rebels in the Liberal Party in the lower house, the Labor Party, Greens, Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch are standing in the way of approving a plebiscite in the Senate. Nearly 50,000 people have signed the petition calling on the Senate to hear the people and let Australians vote on marriage.
This petition will be presented to the Senate after Federal parliament resumes on Tuesday 8 August. It is when Parliament resumes that a plot to legalise same-sex Marriage in Australia, will occur as recently happened in Germany. The Australian Prayer Network joins with many other Christian leaders, ministries and organisations in asking for daily prayer into this situation. The following prayer points are given to aid in focusing that prayer.
* that efforts by Liberal MPs to have the Government overturn its election commitment to give all Australians a say, via a plebiscite, in the decision as to whether same-sex marriage should be legalised in Australia, will fail.
* that the Holy Spirit would place a Godly fear into the hearts of all Liberal Party members in their party-room discussions, and upon all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate as debates occur on this issue, which will sway the hearts and minds of those members still wavering, to hold firm against any move which may result in the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
* declaring the sovereignty and dominion of Christ over our nation, our laws and our parliaments. Declare too that the power of God is greater than the power of our Federal Parliament and asking Him to intervene and have His way on this issue.
Source: Compiled by APN from information provided by various sources
Professed non-Christian journalist Andrew Bolt has issued what many would call a “prophetic call” to the Christians of Australia to “open your eyes and see what is happening around you and prepare for persecution” in what he calls “the dark days ahead”. He calls for strong leaders to arise to lead the Church through difficult times that are approaching. In an article written in the Herald Sun in Victoria, Bolt addresses the Christian community by saying that “whilst I am not a Christian I stand amazed that Christian bishops and ministers are not warning you of what is already breaking over your heads.” In the article he goes on to say how mad it is that Queensland’s Education Department can warn schools against letting students speak about Jesus in the playground.”
The department has put out reports telling state schools “to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in religious instruction are evangelising to students who do not participate”. It gives examples of what students must not say in the playground, such as “knowing about Jesus is a very important thing”, or “God, please help us to use our knowledge to help others”. Nor may students hand out Christmas cards or decorations. Bolt asks “What do these bureaucrats fear from children inspired by Christ? Is it that stuff about loving your neighbour? Or that instruction to respect the dignity of every human life that makes Christians the enemy of totalitarians?” But this ban on playground talk of Jesus is only the most shocking salvo of the new war on Christians.
The article goes on “Last week, two Christian preachers were summoned to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for preaching their faith’s stand on traditional marriage and homosexuality. Hobart pastor Campbell Markham and street preacher David Gee, from Hobart’s Cornerstone Church, were denounced by an atheist offended by, among other things, Markham quoting a verse from the Bible. We’ve seen this before. Hobart’s Catholic Archbishop, Julian Porteous, was two years ago ordered by this tribunal to tell by what right he spoke against same-sex marriage. How cowed the churches have been before this looming persecution, now picking off vocal Christians, one by one. Just this year, Sydney University’s Student Union threatened to deregister the university’s Evangelical Union unless it stopped insisting members declare their faith in Christ.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage extremists bullied Coopers Brewery into taking down a video of a Christian MP Andrew Hastie debating same-sex marriage, and lobbied IBM, PwC and Sydney University to punish staff belonging to a Christian group opposed to gay marriage. Last week, 70 pro-Safe Schools activists picketed a church to abuse people at an Australian Christian Lobby meeting as “bigots”. Last year, an ACL meeting was cancelled after the hotel venue was bombarded with threats. The state-funded SBS joined in by banning an ad by Christians defending traditional marriage, yet ran one for an Ashley Madison dating service for adulterers. The Greens are the political wing of this attack on Christianity, and are demanding churches lose their legal freedom to hire only people who live by their faith. The media, too, often cheer this war, using as their excuse the sexual abuse of children by some priests and ministers decades ago.
Rarely do they admit the average gap between the alleged offences and the lodging of complaints is 33 years. That suggests the churches did crack down on paedophiles decades ago. But this vilification has had its effect. The Census shows the proportion of Australians calling themselves Christian has dropped from 74% in 1991 to 52% now. Last week the anti-Christian ABC launched yet another attack, smearing churches as the haven of wife-beaters. It led off with a ludicrously false claim: “The men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians who attend church sporadically.” A week after I proved this untrue, the ABC edited its reports to replace that false claim with another: “Overall, the international studies show that intimate partner violence is just as serious a problem in Christian communities, as it is in the general community.”
Wrong again. Professor Bradford Wilcox, author of the American study the ABC cited as proof, complained “the ABC’s story does not square with the evidence that churchgoing couples, in America at least, appear to be less likely to suffer domestic violence”. In fact, Christianity produce better citizens in many ways. Surveys show Christians are more inclined to volunteer, donate and keep families together. So what do the enemies of Christianity wish to achieve by smearing, silencing and destroying this civilising faith? What would they replace it with? With the atheism that preaches every man for himself? With Islam? Or with the green faith that has not inspired a single hospital, hospice, school, or even soup kitchen? Yet the persecution is starting. Are the churches ready?”
Queensland education officials have moved to ban references to Jesus in the primary school yard, with an “unofficial” policy that takes aim at young evangelists. Christian groups and free-speech advocates have expressed alarm at the recent edict from the Queensland Department of Education and Training contained within its latest review into religious instruction materials and warning that principals were expected to take action against students caught evangelising to their peers. “While not explicitly prohibited by the legislation, nor referenced in the Religious Instruction (RI) policy, the department expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to students who do not,” says the department’s report into the GodSpace religious instruction materials, released earlier this year.
“This could adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment” an Education official said. Departmental policy defines “evangelising” as “preaching or advocating a cause or religion with the object of making converts to Christianity”. Examples of evangelising cited in the review, as well as two earlier reviews into religious instruction providers, include sharing Christmas cards that refer to Jesus’s birth, creating Christmas tree decorations to give away and making beaded bracelets to give to friends “as a way of sharing the good news about Jesus”. The clampdown comes despite each of the reviews into the religion lessons aimed at four to 12-year-olds finding no “major inconsistencies” with state legislation or departmental policies, procedures or frameworks.
The reviews were announced last June by Education Minister Kate Jones in response to concerns some instructors had exposed children to inappropriate concepts. The department has promised greater oversight of the programs, which are not compulsory and require parents to provide consent. Several Christian education providers have raised concerns over the clampdown with both the department and Ms Jones, and sought to have the issue clarified. They believe there is no justification for stopping students who talk about Jesus or religion in the school yard. Neil Foster, who teaches religion and law at Newcastle University, described the development as “deeply concerning” and “possibly illegal”. “The fact is, there are administrative guidelines that go beyond what the law requires,” Associate Professor Foster said. “It’s really overreaching as far as bureaucratic orders go.”
Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Peter Kurti described the department’s moves as “a massive assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion” that could have unintended consequences. “I don’t think people are on the whole affronted by the handing out of Christmas cards,” he said. “And I don’t think that children have the maturity to comprehend let alone evangelise.” A spokesman for Ms Jones did not respond to requests for comment. The call to prevent children sharing their faith at Queensland schools is an example of out-of-control bureaucracy, according to Christian advocacy group FamilyVoice Australia. “It is grossly improper for unelected officials in the education department to make policy without parental consultation and government approval,” said FamilyVoice National Director Ashley Saunders. “This is out-of-control bureaucracy,” he said.
“It completely undermines the role of parents as fundamentally responsible for the education of children. “It is unacceptable for officials to ban discussion on the Christian values that most Australian parents and school curricula for the past 200 years recognise as the basic foundation of Western society. “Why the sudden attempt to silence this conversation? What is the department afraid of? “In preparing students for entrance into broader society, teachers should be helping them learn to share their views in an articulate and respectful fashion, not try to shut them up.”
As a result of the backlash against the new policy the Queensland Education Department has called an urgent meeting with the government’s religious instruction advisory group, as Christian groups demand the withdrawal of the unofficial policy. Education Minister Kate Jones continues to insist there has been no change to the state government’s religious instruction policy that children were free to talk about their faith and hand out Christmas cards, despite the recent release of the departmental document. The document was not provided to the Religious Instruction Quality Assurance Committee, which comprises representatives from a range of faiths and is responsible for advising the department on religious education, ahead of its publication. Ms Jones has acknowledged the departmental advice had caused “genuine confusion and concern”.
However, religious and charity lawyer Mark Fowler disputed the claim of no change to the religious instruction policy in state schooling. The section that has alarmed Christian groups states: “While not explicitly prohibited by the legislation, nor referenced in the Religious Instruction (RI) policy, the department expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to students who do not, given this could adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.” Examples of “evangelising”, according to the GodSpace review and two earlier reviews into other religious instruction materials, include handing out Christmas cards that mention Jesus’s birth, sharing poems or songs about Christianity or telling others outside the RI class about Jesus.
Mr Fowler said whether a departmental review document satisfied the technical definition of a policy statement was irrelevant. “The document amounts to a statement to the world at large, which includes principals, teachers, parents and children, of the department’s view of the law and how it will enforce that law,” he said. “Notwithstanding the minister’s comments, the reviews represent a radical change in the department’s approach to the place of religious faith within our schools.” The Australian Christian Lobby has joined calls for clarification. Its Queensland director, Wendy Francis, welcomed Ms Jones’s comments that children were free to speak about Jesus and to exchange Christmas cards, but noted that a directive advising principals to crack down on kids talking about Jesus had not been rescinded.
“It seems that bureaucrats have overreached, and I am glad the minister has recognised this,” Ms Francis said. “But parents, children and principals need clarity over the status of department reviews which take a hostile approach to Christianity.” Maroochydore MP Fiona Stanley has already been in contact with a family whose child was disciplined at school for talking in the schoolyard about content learned in RI class.
* giving thanks that the Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones is backpedalling fast as Christians and even atheists rise up against the blatant attempt to silence free speech and freedom of religion and belief in Queensland Schools.
* that this and other issues including the same-sex marriage debate will awaken the sleeping giant, otherwise known as the Church, in Australia, releasing an incredible spiritual force of Light to oppose the works of darkness and to undermine the secular, humanistic, Marxist strongholds that are being built in our Nation by those who oppose Christ.
* that this may be the turning point in destroying the spirit of apathy in our nation which has allowed those opposing Christianity to undermine so many of our national values and so much of our Christian heritage with barely a whimper of opposition.