SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE TURNS TO PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Managing Director Lyle Shelton has welcomed the raising of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion issues by the mainstream media. In recent weeks Editor-at-large for The Australian Newspaper Paul Kelly and a subsequent editorial in the same newspaper have published commentary pieces drawing attention to the consequences of legislating a new definition of marriage. Mr Shelton said “We have been concerned for many years about the intolerance of same-sex marriage lobbyists and some politicians who say there is no place in Australia for people who do not agree with a proposed new definition of marriage,” Mr Shelton said.
Mr Shelton said Kelly was right to say there was a “haze of misinformation and emotion” surrounding the debate. “It is admirable that supporters of same-sex marriage such as The Australian newspaper and human rights commissioner Tim Wilson acknowledge that current proposals to change marriage do not protect people who will never accept the state’s new definition. “What is becoming clear is that same-sex marriage ideology is incompatible with freedom. “All of the debate of the past five years has been about forcing people of conscience to bow to the new definition of marriage,” Mr Shelton said. “In America and Europe individuals who exercise their conscience and publicly manifest their belief in the timeless definition of marriage are routinely being hauled before courts and tribunals. Australians would not support same-sex marriage if they knew that this was a consequence.”
Mr Shelton said Kelly was right to observe that all of the current proposals to change the definition of marriage contained no protections for individuals’ freedom of conscience and inadequate protections for religious freedom. “Mr Kelly is right to observe that lack of protections for non-religious individuals and of religions amounted to ‘calculated intolerance’ by same-sex marriage lobbyists and their political supporters.” Mr Shelton renewed ACL’s calls for Australian Marriage Equality head Rodney Croome to stop reporting the Catholic Church to the Human Rights Commission for distributing material promoting the benefits of gender diverse marriage.
“I note that Mr Croome has rejected the idea of protections against legal action against individuals who did not agree with same-sex marriage. “Also, the New South Wales independent MP and former head of AME, Alex Greenwich, should cease his attacks on the protections for religious freedom in State anti-discrimination law,” Mr Shelton said. “There is a long way to go before thinking people could have confidence that the same-sex marriage political agenda does not reach far beyond the slogans of ‘equal love’ for two adults,” Mr Shelton said.
In the commentary pieces written by Mr Kelly and the editor of The Australian they make the point that the central issue in any Australian recognition of same-sex marriage remains almost invisible – whether the state’s re-definition of civil marriage will authorise an assault on churches, institutions and individuals who retain their belief in the traditional view of marriage. They go on “It seems to this point that none of the proposals for same-sex marriage or related policy prescriptions are satisfactory laws for passage by the Australian parliament. The real issue is conceptually simple – it is whether same-sex marriage will deny conscience rights to much of the population.
Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, has also weighed into the debate. “The primary problem is that people think of religious protection just in terms of a minister of religion solemnising a marriage,” Wilson said. “But this is a superficial analysis of the issue. The question of religious freedom has not been taken seriously. It is treated as an afterthought. We cannot allow a situation where the law is telling people they have to act against their conscience and beliefs. We cannot protect the rights of one group of people by denying the rights of another group.” If the Australian parliament intends to create a legal regime with this consequence then the law-makers must justify this to the people and explain how such -calculated intolerance leads to a better society.
Kelly correctly claims that the legalisation of same-sex marriage means the laws of the state and the laws of the church will be in conflict over the meaning of the most important institution in society. This conflict between the civil and religious meaning of marriage will probably be untenable and marked by litigation, attempts to use anti-discrimination law and entrenched bitterness. But an effort ought to be made to make it tenable on the basis of mutual tolerance. A legal brief put to the US Supreme Court on this issue offers the best statement we are likely to see on the method of reconciliation between these competing rights. “The proper response to the conflict between gay rights and religious liberty is to protect the liberty of both sides,” the brief argues.
“Both sexual and religious minorities make essentially parallel claims on the larger society, and the conduct that follows from each, are fundamental to human identity. Both same-sex couples and religious organisations and believers committed to traditional understandings of marriage, face hostile regulation that condemns their most cherished commitments as evil. There should be no doubt, however, about the bottom line: the Australian parliament should not legislate the right to same-sex marriage on the altar of denying institutions and individuals the right to their conscience.
Kelly is also correct when he asks what is the real ideology of the same-sex marriage campaign. “Is it merely to allow gays to marry? Or is its ultimate purpose to impose “marriage equality” across the entire society, civil and religious. Is “marriage equality”, as designed and evolving by its advocates, an ideology that can live with two different concepts of marriage, civil and religious?” The concern for Christians is not limited to whether pastors are made to perform wedding ceremonies against their conscience. There is a wide range of other issues to be considered. Must religious colleges provide married housing to same-sex couples? Must churches and synagogues employ spouses in same-sex marriages even though this flouts their religious teaching? Must religious social-service agencies place children for adoption with same-sex couples?
Will religious institutions be penalised by losing government contracts, tax exemptions and access to public facilities? Will religious institutions and schools be penalised if they teach their own beliefs about marriage, thereby contradicting the state’s view of marriage? Or will the state laws via anti-discrimination legislation be mobilised to force the state’s view on to religious institutions?Australian lawyer and priest Frank Brennan argues, that the upshot in the US will be “years of litigation” about the rights of religious bodies that is sure to be “nasty and hard fought”. The public grasp of this issue in Australia is far distant from the debate that is needed.
Wilson’s comments on this issue reveal that he knows this is not the way to proceed. It only guarantees institutional division and rancour. The core question remains: what is the real ideological objective of the same-sex marriage campaign? The issue needs serious attention if Australia is to avoid same-sex marriage laws that are shallow and problematic and would open the way for sectarian divisions and protracted, costly litigation. Australian Cardinal George Pell raised similar concerns at a church conference in Ireland recently, citing the closure of adoption agencies in England and Northern Ireland because they would not place children with same-sex couples.
The struggle to maintain religious freedom across the world, Pell said, would intensify following the Irish referendum and US Supreme Court decision backing same-sex marriage. The separation of church and state does not legitimise the right of governments to be anti-religious or to diminish or intimidate church communities. Such concerns have already emerged overseas, which partially influenced Austrian MPs to vote 110-26 against same-sex marriage last month. In the US, religious universities have been prosecuted for not providing married accommodation to same-sex couples. Christian and Jewish organisations have been challenged to employ same-sex spouses. In Europe, rabbis and bishops have been condemned for “hate speech” for stating their faith traditions.
Source: Compiled by APN from reports from various sources
A private members bill to legalise same sex marriage is expected to be presented to Federal Parliament in the week beginning Monday 10th August. In response to this expected move Christian ministries and organisations are combining to appeal to Christians across the nation to stand up to defend the faith and make a visible statement to our national leaders of our desire for the definition of marriage to remain as being between a man and a woman.
We are all an Adam or an Eve – will we “eat” from the metaphorical Tree of Life or from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? This is the question confronting every Australian in the week commencing Monday 10 August. The Tree of Life is uncompromisingly clear – it is obedience to the Word of God. God designed sex as a life giving blessing that is only safe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the temptation to approve and participate in activities outside the plan and provision of God. We need to understand that if we do not take a stand now then Satan will make it illegal in Australia to “discriminate” against evil. It will become “hate speech” to say anything against the demonic in the nation.
Christian ministries across the nation have instigated a campaign to Protect the Future by acting now!!They are encouraging as many Christians as will respond to say “Thank you with Flowers” to our PM and those Parliamentarians who are valiantly defending the existing Biblical Covenant of Marriage between a man and a woman. Remember how flowers changed the heart of the UK at the time of the death of Princess Di? Flowers are used to express thanks for life from the heart. This is why Christians are being asked to take steps today to set in place a carpet of flowers at Parliament House Canberra on Monday 10 August as a united expression of prayer and thanks to our Prime Minister and those supporting traditional marriage in Parliament.
YOU MUST ACT NOW to book the delivery of flowers on Monday 10 August to:
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
1 Parliament Drive
Canberra, ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6277-7111
(phone number is required by Interflora).
Suggested Message (in your own words) –
Dear Prime Minister, we are praying for you and all those standing firm to protect the existing law that defines marriage in Australia as between a man and a woman exclusively for life. These flowers are an expression of our thanks for the strong stand you are making for the highest good of our nation.