The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) wants anti-discrimination laws changed to allow for free speech during the same sex marriage debate. They are pushing the federal government to “override” anti-discrimination laws during the upcoming plebiscite campaign. The temporary change is being sought to ensure the “no” camp can speak freely during the debate to legalise same-sex marriage. ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said his organisation was very concerned about fairness during the campaign as state anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold”. Pointing to the case in Tasmania where the Catholic Church has faced questions from the state’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner over a “Don’t mess with marriage” booklet, Mr Shelton warned those who argued against same-sex marriage would be faced with the “constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action”.

As well as federal laws, all states and territories have anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality. For example, in NSW, there are laws against “any public act that could incite or encourage hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule”, however the specifics of laws vary between jurisdictions. The Turnbull government has been consulting with the “yes” and “no” camps on how the plebiscite will work, and Mr Shelton said the ACL had pressed for “some sort of … setting aside of these anti-discrimination laws”. Mr Shelton stressed that those in the “no” camp were not seeking to say anything bigoted, but to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The Law Council of Australia said any exemptions to discriminatory behaviour when it came to marriage equality “should be construed as narrowly as is absolutely necessary”. “People cannot use their religious beliefs as an excuse for unlawful discrimination in business and the same principle would apply to public political campaigns,” president-elect Fiona McLeod said. Australian Marriage Equality said it was concerned the plebiscite was being used “as an excuse to suspend laws that protect vulnerable Australians”. “It’s impractical and unnecessary to suspend anti-discrimination laws in every state and territory,” national director Rodney Croome said. Mr Croome said the “yes” and “no” camps should work out an agreement between themselves on how the debate should be conducted.

“Both sides should be mature enough to sit down and agree on the framework for a free and respectful debate, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission or some other impartial body,” he said. Concerns over free speech in the plebiscite debate come as questions are asked over what, if any, public funding should be given to the opposing sides. Mr Shelton said he wanted to ensure funding was equal for both sides and that international funds were prohibited. While some within the “yes” camp are against any public funding for either side – as they believe taxpayers’ money should not be used for arguments that are potentially hurtful to gay people – Mr Croome said funding should be equal and “kept to the bare minimum”.

He said federal funds should be “directed instead to counselling for those people whose mental health will suffer from attacks on their basic rights”. Last week in Senate estimates, he said there had been a “great deal of stakeholder consultation” on the plebiscite and that he would take a submission to cabinet “in coming months”. Senator Brandis added the submission would also make a recommendation on public funding of the “yes” and “no” cases. There is no date set yet for the plebiscite, which is due after the federal election.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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The widespread availability of pornography to children and young teenagers is a public health crisis in the making, a national seminar held in Sydney has been told. The head of the Australian Childhood Foundation, Dr Joe Tucci, told the Porn Harms Kids seminar that the widespread availability of pornography online was shaping children’s behaviour. “Research has shown over 90 per cent of boys under the age of 16 have visited a pornography site online, with around 60 per cent of girls doing the same,” Dr Tucci said. He said a public health crisis was emerging, with online pornography so widely available that it was “impossible for children not to see it”. “You only have to put innocent words like ‘love’ into Google and it takes you three or four results to get to a porn site,” Dr Tucci told the seminar.

“We will see a lot more adults emerging with sexually offending behaviour and sexually harmful behaviour towards others. “I think the community would be shocked by the kinds of consequences we are seeing in a small group of children being exposed to this kind of pornography. This is a public health crisis. Like smoking or other public health issues, this will have long-term consequences.” Dr Tucci said health authorities had seen an increase in the number of children engaging in problem sexual behaviour with other children. Attendee Tim Gordon, 23, from Melbourne, said he was addicted to pornography from the age of 11 to 13. “For me personally porn made it pretty difficult to see women as anything other than sex objects,” Mr Gordon said.

We are seeing that some women especially young ones, are being coerced into sexual acts that might not be appealing to them. “To a certain extent, no matter how much you try and tell yourself that they’re intelligent, complex people, your mind just doesn’t let you when you’re in that space; porn has a way of just dominating your mind.”  Coralie Alison from anti-pornography group Collective Shout agreed that early exposure to pornography online was affecting the way some young men treated women. ‘There’s so much shame and guilt, so it’s hidden’ Mr Gordon said this was the first time he had spoken about his addiction publicly, and that the problem was still hidden in society.

“What frustrates me is that it is not something that is talked about. You have guys, friends of mine, who are struggling with it, but they just don’t feel at liberty to talk about it with anyone, and that is really what allows it to thrive,” he said. “There is so much shame and guilt associated with it. So it is very common . for young guys and girls who are struggling with porn to just keep it to themselves.” Dr Tucci said the exposure was too much, too soon for children. “We have dropped children into an adult world where the concepts that they are faced with are too complex for them to understand and process properly,” he said. Ms Alison said more education was needed, and while some schools were teaching about the negative impacts of viewing sexually explicit material at too young an age, a national approach was needed.

“It is not just up to parents, it not just up to teachers and it is not just up to government,” she said. “It will take a multi-pronged approach to find a solution. We need to have the conversation about what to do next.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Alpha Australia’s vision, in line with that of Alpha International, is the evangelisation of the nations and the transformation of society.  Alpha Australia is seeking to give each of the 13,000 churches in Australia the opportunity to run Alpha as a means of outreach and evangelisation.  By 2023 they are aiming at reaching 1 million Alpha stories (individuals who have attended Alpha). To achieve this, their goal is to have 4,000 churches actively running Alpha by 2020.

Towards this end they are seeking to run a National campaign that will have 1000 registered Alpha courses starting immediately after Easter 2016 in targeted capital cities and selected regional centres. These courses will be run to encourage the unchurched to engage with the course according to the basic Alpha principles of “no pressure, no charge, no follow up and eat, watch and chat. Alpha will provide Churches with a technology platform that will allow them hassle-free access to resources for training, running & promoting their Alpha course, and to register their course for the campaign. They will also partner with Christian Media Association and participating media outlets to provide resources and inspiration for people to explore faith through spiritual conversations & trying Alpha over Easter.

Alpha have church engagement staff in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth to assist Churches who want to run an Alpha course. For further information go to  Training sessions in major cities are being held throughout March and online training is also available. All videos and promotional resources are available to be downloaded free of charge from the Alpha website. During the Easter National campaign outdoor banners are being made available to churches through Koorong. One and two weeks prior to Easter radio stations will invite people to chat about the big questions of life. Listeners will be encouraged to find an Alpha course near them by clicking on the radio station’s website, entering their postcode, and registering their interest in attending an Alpha “introduction night”.

Please pray:

* for Churches to register courses starting after Easter
* for Churches to understand the importance of training their teams so their Alpha course will be more effective
* for Churches to find the people they need to be included in their Alpha teams
* for Radio station announcers to have divine inspiration in their conversations on air about questions of faith and life with listeners
* for Hearts to be open to respond to the invitation by a friend or through a radio station to attend an Alpha ‘introduction night’
* that God will continue to provide all the resources Alpha Australia needs so they can continue to provide free downloadable evangelism resources and training to Australian churches

For further information contact:
Philippa Fielding
Church Relationship Development Manager and Prayer Director
Mobile: 0425 734 754

Source: Alpha Australia

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The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed calls by Queensland LNP shadow education minister Tim Mander for an urgent review of Safe Schools and its Minus 18-endorsed material and is calling on other states to also investigate the age-inappropriate program. Mr Mander issued a statement expressing concern that the program purports to be an anti-bullying program but has been hijacked by activists. He has requested the State’s education minister Kate Jones to hold a review into the program, which provides sexually explicit and age-inappropriate material to children as young as 11. Australian Christian Lobby spokesperson Wendy Francis said it was disappointing that Ms Jones has rejected a review and defends the program.

“Ms Jones has not addressed the fundamental concerns that exist around the program content, particularly in light of the age groups which it targets. Is it reasonable for 11-year-olds to be role playing in class where they are imagining that they are 16 and in a same-sex relationship?” Ms Francis said no one wanted bullying in schools and no one would have an issue with Safe Schools if it really was an anti-bullying program. “Ms Jones has missed the point. No one is saying that bullying is okay, but providing instructions for girls on chest-binding and boys on genital tucking or having boys in girls’ toilets has nothing to do with a bullying program. There are already many good bullying programs in place that deal with bullying in all its forms.”

Following the Federal Government’s decision to conduct an inquiry into the program, Ms Francis said pressure was also mounting on other state parliaments to do likewise as new evidence emerged of what was contained in Safe Schools. She said she expected other state politicians to also take this up with their colleagues. “We call every State Parliament to hold an urgent review into Safe Schools and to remove this harmful material immediately,” Ms Francis said. “A thorough investigation must be undertaken to see how this has slipped into our school system.”

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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World Day of Prayer ecumenical services will be held worldwide on Friday 4th March. The service this year has been prepared by the women of Cuba with the theme , Jesus said to them “Receive children. Receive me.” Offerings taken during the services will go towards the Bible Society in Cuba to assist in eradicating Bible poverty and supporting the unprecedented growth of Christianity in Cuba. All men and women of faith are invited to attend a service in their area and pray for tolerance and acceptance of Christian Churches in Cuba. Location and times of services are listed on the website

Source: World Day of Prayer Australia

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