Cancelled: ACL gets banned from WA venues

Fresh from barnstorming across Queensland, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) “The Truth of It LIVE” speaking tour has found it difficult to book venues in Western Australia.

“ACL Draws a Crowd” is how Christian leader Karl Faase described the Queensland tour of packed venues for Eternity.

ACL Managing Director Martyn Iles told his Facebook followers: “Sadly, the Albany Entertainment Centre have cancelled us.”

“We are in the process of finding an alternative venue for The Truth of It LIVE.”

The ACL has been “cancelled” or “de-platformed” because of their views. Importantly, the Albany Entertainment Centre is a WA State Government facility. Iles describes the Government’s response: “Asked why, we were told it’s because our views are not the WA State Government’s views.”

“So, apparently the WA Government won’t allow venues to host people who disagree with them …”

“We asked for a copy of the policy on which they relied to make the decision. They said it was an ‘internal working document.’ When pressed, the Minister’s office sent us a copy of a short ‘policy’ which consisted mostly of anti-ACL talking points … the tracking information showed it was last edited on the very day it was sent to us. I wonder why.”

It’s not just one venue. The ACL has been denied the use of the Perth Concert Hall, which is run by the Perth Theatre Trust – the same group that operates the Albany Entertainment Centre.

Iles raises the question of whether this is legal under the WA anti-discrimination law. The State’s Equal Opportunity Act 1984 aims to protect against “discrimination on the ground of religious or political conviction”. This includes making “facilities available”. (There are exemptions for religious bodies in this section of the act so that, for example, churches do not have to hire their buildings out.)

The Equal Opportunity Act “binds the Crown”, which means the State Government is required to follow it.

Iles suggest supporters in WA should contact the Minister for the Arts, David Templeman MLA.

Christian bodies have been denied permission to use state-owned facilities before – perhaps the best known recent case is Franklin Graham whose eight city tour of the UK was abandoned last year after eight venues refused to book him.

Update: Out in Perth, the state’s LGBTIQA website, provides additional information. 6PR “host Gareth Parker shared that the Perth Theatre Trust had changed their policy on 15th March 2021 and it now said ‘The Perth Theatre Trust will not enter into an agreement to hire a venue where the content of the event does not represent the views of the Western Australian government or the vast majority of Western Australians.’

“Later in the day Culture and the Arts Minister David Templeman, who is responsible for the Perth Theatre Trust, said the decision was made by the Trust without his involvement.

“’The Perth Theatre Trust has made the decision to deny a booking request in line with its venue hire policy,’ he told The West Australian. ‘This decision was made independent of the Minister, as is appropriate.’

“The Perth Theatre Trust said it was “currently considering the specific matters raised by the Australian Christian Lobby’.

“Abetz said it appeared that the PTT had adjusted their policy after his group queried why their booking had been knocked back.  Alongside the Albany Entertainment Centre, they had also been refused a booking by the Perth Concert Hall and Kalgoorlie venue.”

Editor’s Comment: Most Christians will be very concerned about the free speech implications of the WA Government’s actions. The ACL speaks for a sizable number of Christians; on some issues, such as abortion, for an overwhelming majority of us.

Whether or not one agrees with everything the ACL does or says, de-platforming this organisation is a blow against free speech. Should it be a group of atheists, or members of another religion, Eternity believes they should also be able to hire community facilities. If a large body like ACL is denied access, what hope do minority religions have if they express views of which the Governmnet does not approve?

We don’t know exactly which of the ACL’s views the WA Government objects to. It could be religious or political, or most likely a mixture. Disagreeing with a group’s views whether political or religious is no ground for the state to discriminate.

Free speech and freedom of association are core principles that safeguard freedom of religion. The ACL ban should concern all of us.

“First they came for the ACL”…

John Sandeman