Security guards will be on duty at a church meeting on Saturday, due to a perceived threat against it from leaders of the LGBTI community.
Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton will address the meeting and the security measures have been prompted by a negative online campaign organised by Simon Hunt, a lecturer in Art and Design at the University of NSW and a prominent advocate for LGBTI views and issues.
“We are determined to not let this sort of intimidation shut us down,” Shelton told Eternity about the campaign, which involved more than 54,000 fake registrations being submitted for the event at an East Melbourne Baptist church.
The fake RSVPs contained “the foulest, most degrading, most obscene written forms of communication I have seen in my life,” according to Shelton. Sexual acts, bestiality, Shelton being accused of pedophilia and Jesus being insulted and mocked were among the submissions Shelton read.
“I think this is something all Christians should be concerned about.” – Lyle Shelton
The submission of fake RSVPs was encouraged by Hunt, whose Facebook alter ego is Pauline Pantsdown, an alias Hunt invented when he ran an anti-racist campaign against the politician Pauline Hanson in the late 1990s.
“Be creative with your name, because it shows up as an RSVP on the ACL page,” Hunt posted on Monday.
“There is an obvious double standard – if a Muslim or LGBTI group was being attacked like this and having their events sabotaged, I think you would see a very different response from wide sections of the media, academia and others,” said Shelton. “But because it’s a Christian group, it would seem it’s a double standard and I think this is something all Christians should be concerned about.
“As Christian people, we have to got to start taking the political agenda behind the rainbow flag very seriously because it’s not neutral and it is seeking to create a regime that will limit freedom of speech – and limit the expression of the gospel itself.”
“Instead of trying to silence debate, I think they should be willing to engage in the discussion.” – Lyle Shelton
The ACL has hired security guards for the Saturday meeting because of several incidents which they believe to be threatening. For example, in December last year, a car exploded outside the ACL’s Canberra headquarters. The police subsequently announced that the driver of the van was not “politically, religiously or ideologically motivated,” but Shelton is seeking further information.
“Simon Hunt has aggressively pursued our meetings in the past and the sort of people he influences are not nice people,” said Shelton. On Pauline Pantsdown’s Facebook page, Hunt posted that “when I suggest people be ‘creative’ with their RSVP names, I am not responsible for how people interpret that.”
The ACL’s response to this week’s online campaign was also informed by what Shelton noted in submissions made by leaders of the LGBTI movement, in the recently released Report of the Senate Inquiry into the Commonwealth Government’s Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill. From that Senate Inquiry report, Mr Shelton concluded these leaders “don’t believe in freedom of religion”, which he feels has implications for free speech.
“They don’t want Christian people to be free to have a different view on marriage,” said Shelton. “What we are seeing from Mr Hunt is the logical expression of that view.
“Instead of trying to silence debate, I think they should be willing to engage in the discussion,” said Shelton about issues such as gender fluidity and the definition of marriage.More