Contributed by Joe Montero
At last Saturday’s (17 November 2017) national conference of the Australian Christian Lobby in Sydney, Senator Cory Bernardi told the delegates that the campaign against same-sex marriage in Australia was an “extraordinary success,” despite losing the national postal survey.
These were not the words of a deluded and frustrated individual. They were calculated and had a specific purpose. They were concerned with what to do in the period after the overwhelming victory of the Yes vote.
For Bernardi and those who agreed with him, the Conference was an occasion to get on with the next phase of bringing a collective view of the world that would propel Australia into the Middle Ages, where religion and politics were intertwined and any deviation from the prescribed format would not be tolerated.
The Senator had left the Liberal Party earlier this year, because in his view it had moved away from from conservative principle. He went on to form the Australian Conservative Party. The title is inaccurate because the Bernardi view of the world has nothing to do with conservatism and a lot more to do with with the reactionary radicalism that he shares with others in the Australian Christian Lobby and outside it. The difference is important. The radicals do not seek to keep the status quo, but to change it in their own direction.
The Australian Christian Lobby claims to represent Christianity in Australia. It does nothing of the sort. A significant of its leadership and support comes form a section of the Pentecostal tradition. Hillsong is intimately connected and jointly sponsored the Coalition for Marriage. There are business money links. There are links to the Sydney based traditionalist leadership of the Methodist and Catholic churches. There is also a close connection with similarly minded factions in the Liberal and National parties.
The model and inspiration for the Australian Christian Lobby is what is often called the American Christian Right, which emerged in opposition to the ending of segregation and the schools and bussing in black children.
The other founder is former Townsville Bulletin editor John Gagliardi. This suggests a high level link with the Murdoch media empire.
Is it merely coincidence that the message put out by the Australian Christian Lobby is indistinguishable form that put out leading Murdoch scribes, including Andrew Bolt?
Another leading light of the Australian Christian Lobby is its chair, retired SAS brigadier Jim Wallace, who in 2013 publicly revealed a blatantly anti-homosexual position.
Bernardi’s words were a call to arms. Part of the purpose was to intensify a campaign to add onto a change in the Marriage Act, provisions that would allow exemptions. At the same time there is no reliance on this working and the new strategy centres on preventing the application of change by other means. A big part of this is to dovetail into either bringing an end to the Antidiscrimination Act or rendering it unworkable.
It does not stop here. The campaigns against marriage equality and the Anti discrimination Act are stepping stones in a bigger war seen as the defence of Christian civilisation. The means to do this is to wage a war to impose a specific version of Christianity on Australia’s political institutions.
The present vehicle is to be to re brand the campaign as a human rights issue.
This is best summed up by the Lobby’s leading public spokesperson Lyle Sheldon, former minister, journalist and failed National Party candidate. He has warned that the overwhelming Yes vote has opened the door to “totalitarianism,” meaning that those who supported his side of the argument, have now been made a minority subject to, “bullying” and “victimisation”. He argues that Christians have been silenced by “political correctness,” and that Australian Christian Lobby represents the “silent majority”.
On one level this is bizarre. The evidence found by a range of media investigation organisations conclusively proves that the No campaign received much more media attention than the opposition, up to five times more during the early days of the campaign. Sheldon personally got up to three times more attention than other representatives of the No campaign.
Further evidence shows that the frequency of abuse has been much higher in the No campaign and the claim to represent the silent majority is countered by the result of the ballot.
That the claims made are not backed by evidence is not the point. What is important from the position of Sheldon, Bernardi and company is that they can form the bed on which their human rights campaign can be launched; to convince supporters that they are the victims and raise enough anger to ensure they keep on as the foot soldiers for the bigger political cause.
The Australian Christian Lobby has from its inception, argued that notonly a denial of religious freedom, but also a block to its activity.
The mind set given further illustration by another Murdoch supporting journalist Miranda Devine (The Daily Telegraph 13 August 2017), who extended the familiar language and relentless attack on any other point of view as bullying by the political correctness brigade.