Australian Christian Lobby

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Australian Christian Lobby
AustralianChristianLobbyLogo2011a.jpg
Founded 1995
Registration no. 40 075 120 517[1] (ABN)
Location
Area served
Australia
Key people
Chairman, Jim Wallace AM
Managing director, Lyle Shelton
Chairman Emeritus, Tony McLellan
Slogan Voice for values
Website www.acl.org.au

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is a prominent conservative Christian advocacy organisation, based in Canberra.[2][3][4][5][6][7] It is similar to the Christian right lobby groups found in the United States.[8]

As at 2017 it is conducting a high-profile campaign to support the retention of the legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman[9][10] and has sought to exempt debate on this topic from hate speech laws.[11][12]

LGBT rights advocate Carl Katter has said that the aim of the group is to "facilitate and perpetuate hate".[13] Others have said it operates from a Christian dominionist[14] and reconstructionist[15] theology. ACL rejects those labels.[16][17]

Structure[edit]

The ACL is registered as a public company, limited by guarantee[18] and files political expenditure returns with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).[19] Funding comes mostly from individuals but names are not disclosed by the organisation.[20] It has no political affiliation and makes no statements regarding faith.[20] Eternity House, the Deakin ACT headquarters of ACL is registered as a separate not-for-profit entity.[21]

Lobbying strategies[edit]

ACL activities include:

  • national, pre-election "Make it Count" events and other conferences/forums where Australian political leaders address individuals and groups sharing common views with the ACL
  • state-based, "Make it Count" events have been held in NSW,[30] Victoria,[31] Queensland,[32] Western Australia,[33][34] Tasmania,[35] Northern Territory[36] and the Australian Capital Territory.[37] These events are often webcast to a wider audience. For both federal and state elections, the ACL holds "Meet Your Candidate" forums, primarily in marginal seats, to give voters an opportunity to meet and question the people who are seeking their vote.[32]
  • written and oral representations to federal and state/territory parliaments and their agencies[38]
  • distribution of Viewpoint to Australian parliamentarians[39]
  • release of media releases.[40]
ACL managing director
Lyle Shelton

History[edit]

The Australian Christian Coalition (ACC) was founded in 1995 by John Gagliardi,[8] a lay leader of a large Pentecostal church in Brisbane. Gagliardi had held journalistic positions as editor of the Townsville Bulletin and as a presenter for Channel 10 news.[41] Co-founders include John McNicoll, a retired Baptist minister turned lobbyist in Canberra, and John Miller, a Baptist who held lay leadership positions within his Canberra church.[42]

The organisation changed its name to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) in March 2001.[1]

In September 2012 Prime Minister Julia Gillard cancelled a speech to the ACL's annual conference after the organisation's managing director Jim Wallace argued that the health effects of homosexuality on individuals were worse than smoking.[43]

The Australian Christian Lobby is threatening to take the unprecedented step of campaigning against a Coalition government, warning Liberal MPs that it could direct members to support minor right-wing parties if they don't follow their policy of a People's Vote.[44]

Attacks[edit]

In October 2014, ACL held a conference at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra which was followed by complaints to the hotel and a social media campaign directed against it. In response the hotel issued a statement saying they, "don't discriminate against guests who want to conduct lawful business at Hyatt hotels".[45] This subsequently, "attracted considerable community support for the commercial rights of the Hyatt and threatened the free-speech credentials of the marriage-equality lobby".[46] In September 2016, a meeting at a Sydney hotel, planned by ACL to discuss same-sex marriage issues, had to be cancelled due to "threats of violence" to staff and guests. The 100 participants subsequently met at another venue.[47][48]

In December 2016, a van containing four 9 kg propane-gas bottles was set on fire beside the ACL building, which caused $100,000 damage[49] to ACL's empty offices. Police who interviewed the man said, in December, that the incident was not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated.[50][51] In February 2017, the investigation into the bombing was reported as "active", but "frozen" due to the driver's medical condition.[52] Documents tended by the police to the ACT Magistrate's Court, in August 2017, said the accused, Jayden Duong, disliked the ACL and would have been, "happy to see it destroyed". He was also a former competitor in Mr Gay Asian Pacific.[49] Previously he had undertaken internet searches on topics including, "Australian Christian Lobby", "countries with same sex marriage" and "pressure cooker bomb".[53][54] In a submission as part of this trial, Duong's lawyers stated that his mental state at the time of the incident had been a significant factor which influenced his behaviour.[55] Duong died on 24 September 2017.[56] During a Senate Estimates hearing in October 2017, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin stated that the AFP and Director of Public Prosecutions believed that Duong's actions were not politically or religiously motivated and his main motivation had been to commit suicide.[57] Assistant Commissioner Justine Saunders, the Chief Police Officer for the ACT, also stated that Duong had selected the ACL's car park to set off the explosion as it was isolated.[58]

Several people[who?] having an affiliation with ACL have had their employers targeted and have been attacked through social media. Those employers have included an accountancy firm,[59] a technology company,[60] an IT firm[61] and a university.[62] In March 2017, ACL was granted permission by The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to keep their board members' names secret on the grounds of "public safety", following abuse and threats.[63] In March 2017 the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies and Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher criticised the attacks by social media users directed against members of the ACL.[64]

On 9 May 2017 ACL hosted a seminar in Melbourne entitled Is Safe Schools safe?, with the speakers, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Western Sydney, John Whitehall[65] and Dr Elisabeth Taylor from ACL. About 30 people, several of whom had their faces covered with bandanas, blocked the entrance to the seminar stopping the majority of the attendees from entering.[66][67]

During the campaigning associated with the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, the ACL received threats and suspicious packages were sent to their office which necessitated the evacuation of 30 staff at the Canberra mail-centre. The Lobby's offices were also egged, and received letters containing glitter.[68][69][70]

Staff[edit]

Year Name Period Time in office
1995 John Gagliardi 1995 – 2000 5 years
2000 Jim Wallace 2000 – 2013 13 years
2013 Lyle Shelton 2013 – present 4 years, 12 months and 10 days

Jim Wallace was the managing director of ACL from 2000 to 2013.[71][72] Lyle Shelton is ACL's managing director.[73] The company has a self-appointed board of management – board members are invited to join by existing board members.[74] Board members are not elected by members.[15] The organisation's biggest expense is paying staff.

Constituency and influence[edit]

One of the main criticisms of the ACL is that it overstates the constituency it represents.[15] Jim Wallace, one time managing director of the ACL, confirmed that the organisation represents its supporters only but stated that they also contact a group of representative theologians representing a number of denominations.[74][who?]

Whilst its claimed constituency is unproven, John Warhurst, emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University said that ACL has been successful in establishing itself "in the top echelon of lobbying groups",[46] has the "professional knowledge to run modern election campaigns"[75] and "will not go away"[76] Warhurst notes that ACL as an evangelical lobby group is more politically influential than the Family First party.[77]

Academic assessments of the ACL's influence differ. Professor Marion Maddox, of Macquarie University said in 2016 that ACL has achieved, "remarkable influence with political leaders on both sides."[78] In contrast, Geoffrey Robinson, a senior lecturer at Deakin University, stated in 2015 that the ACL's influence had been decreasing since 2013 and the organisation had become only influential on the conservative side of politics.[79]

Former Attorney-General Robert McClelland said in a speech to the ACL's 2012 conference that those protesting against the organisation would not have recognised that it had supported amendments to 84 pieces of Commonwealth legislation that removed discrimination against same-sex couples.[80] In contrast, in 2012 the leader of the Australian Greens Christine Milne stated that the ACL's "whole focus is to attack the gay community" and as it is a private company with no affiliated churches, it was not suitable for the prime minister to attend its events.[43]

Some Christian leaders have stated the ACL's campaigning against gay rights does not represent the stance of all Christians, and several Christian Churches have stated they are frustrated and concerned about the ACL's actions on the issue.[81][82] In 2013 Professor Rodney Smith from Sydney University stated that while the ACL was supported by senior members of the Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic churches, many other members of the churches do not agree with the Lobby's positions.[83]

In 2016 the Australian Sex Party called for the ACL to be de-registered as a charity on the grounds that its main focus is political campaigning against same-sex marriage.[21]

The ACL has been described as extremist, influenced by Christian dominionism and reconstructionism.[15][14] This is denied by the ACL.[16][17] John Warhurst, emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University has said that ACL is, one of the most important conservative Christian organisations being, "active and innovative in professional lobbying over the past decade or more."[2]

Ancillary organisations[edit]

ACL has established the 'Lachlan Macquarie Institute',[84] as a training organisation for public policy influencers.[62]

ACL provided the seed-funding for, and works with, the Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA). The HRLA focuses on, what it sees as, freedoms neglected by the Australian Human Rights Commission, such as: 'freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of association'.[85]

ACL has established the 'Centre for Human Dignity'[86] to advocate for rights and freedoms, particularly for vulnerable children and to stand against all forms of sexual exploration.[87]

Focus of lobbying[edit]

Supports[edit]

ACL supports:

Opposes[edit]

ACL opposes:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  4. ^ Maddox, Marion (2014). "Right-wing Christian Intervention in a Naïve Polity". Political Theology. 15 (2): 132–150. doi:10.1179/1462317X13Z.00000000071. ISSN 1462-317X. 
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  10. ^ a b "Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry: Same sex entitlements, Chapter 3". 
  11. ^ "Override hate speech laws to allow marriage equality debate, urges Christian lobby". theguardian. 16 Feb 2016. 
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  68. ^ Graham, Chris (25 August 2017). "If You Mail The Australian Christian Lobby An Envelope Full Of Glitter, They'll Pay For the Stamp!". New Matilda. Retrieved 25 August 2017. 
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  70. ^ McDonough, Keely (25 August 2017). "Packages containing white powder were on way to Australian Christian Lobby". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 August 2017. 
  71. ^ Sandeman, John (29 April 2013). "Changing the guard at the Christian lobby". Eternity Newspaper. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  72. ^ Hatcher, Leigh (28 April 2013). "Jim and Lyle: Changing of the guard". Open House. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  73. ^ "Our staff". Archived from the original on 6 December 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
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  85. ^ Merritt, Chris (2 September 2017). "Human Rights Law Alliance formed to fight for essential freedoms". The Australian. Retrieved 21 November 2017. 
  86. ^ "Centre For Human Dignity - United Against Sexual Exploitation". Australian Christian Lobby. Retrieved 21 November 2017. 
  87. ^ "Centre for Human Dignity". Centre for Human Dignity. Retrieved 21 November 2017. 
  88. ^ a b "Marriage Amendment Act 2004". comlaw.gov.au. 
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  90. ^ Patrick Parkinson with Antoine Kazzi, (2011), For Kids' Sake: Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People, Vos Foundation, commissioned by the Australian Christian Lobby ISBN 978-1-74210-241-2
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  93. ^ Submission No. 67 from the Human Rights Law Alliance and Australian Christian Lobby to the Australian Senate Select Committee on The Exposure Draft Of The Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill.. Retrieved 17 September 2017 Under Recommendation 14 (page 12) they stated,
    Cause for concern already exists in the Labor party’s national platform as amended at the 2015 National Conference. The platform states that Labor will make it unlawful for certain discouragements of homosexual behaviour by parents in their children. Such action may be deemed "serious psychological abuse" and "domestic violence." (Resolution 202R, ALP National Conference 2015.)
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  125. ^ "Australian Christian Lobby urges Turnbull government to copy Donald Trump's foreign aid abortion ban". 
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  127. ^ Ogilvie, Felicity (22 November 2013). "Protests banned outside Tas abortion clinics". ABC News. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
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  135. ^ Amended in 2004 by the Howard Government, it reads, 'marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.'
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  137. ^ Support for the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, who was required to answer to an Anti-Discrimination Commission after distributing booklets supporting "traditional" marriage stating that those laws will have to change to allow people to freely express opposition to same-sex marriage in any future plebiscite whilst those advocating for same-sex marriage stating it is an unreasonable request.
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  142. ^ Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012–Submission 21, page 13, Australian Parliament House, retrieved 11 December 2012 
  143. ^ "Christian lobby group urges MPs to reject adoption bill". News Ltd. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 14 August 2015. Heterosexual couples who can provide a more complete family environment are already spending years on NSW waiting lists in the hope of adopting a child, with many missing out 
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  145. ^ Tomazin, Farrah (29 March 2015). "Christian group asks Victorian government for right to discriminate on gay adoption". The Age. Retrieved 14 August 2015. To ask for a religious exemption that would give faith-based organisations the right to choose couples in accordance with their ethos. The group has also called for parents whose children are being adopted to have the ability to choose a straight family. 
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  162. ^ "Inquiry into the Prostitution Act 1992" (PDF). ACT Legislative Assembly–Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety. February 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 April 2012. 
  163. ^ Gilmore, Jane (13 April 2016). "We need a less polarising debate about sex work laws". Daily Life. Retrieved 11 April 2017. 
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  165. ^ Johnson, Carol; Maddox, Marrion. "Talk of same-sex marriage impinging on religious freedom is misconceived: here's why". The Conversation. Retrieved 1 October 2017. 

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