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  #11  
Old 13th April 2016, 10:15 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

I'll just leave this here.

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Australian Christian Lobby is not nearly as influential as some suggest, Stephanie Judd writes


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The Australian Christian Lobby has a valid place in public discourse, but its influence in Australian politics is not nearly as dramatic as some make it out to be, writes Stephanie Judd.

Whenever the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) bursts onto the media cycle, as they've done again recently in the wake of the decision to review the Safe Schools program, almost immediately the question arises: who does it speak for?

Whether political adversaries trying to undercut its influence, those standing in solidarity with ACL managing director Lyle Shelton for weathering the contempt of the Q&A audience, or disgruntled Christians feeling misrepresented, in answering this question there is often more assumption than research.

Having spent a year researching the role of the ACL in shaping public policy, I thought I'd weigh in with some of my thesis findings.

Exaggerated influence of ACL

The ACL is not as influential as the Twittersphere would suggest.

Yes, they're relatively noisy and yes, the media often gives them a platform out of a sense of fascinated outrage, but the occasions on which they have changed political outcomes are very few indeed.

Even when a policy outcome aligns with what they were lobbying for, it is difficult to think of a circumstance in which often the MPs would not have done it anyway. (A possible exception might be the failure of the Charter of Rights in 2010, and possibly the Syrian refugee intake.)

I'd hazard a guess that if the ACL did alert Senator Cory Bernardi or MP George Christensen to Safe Schools materials, Senator Bernardi and Mr Christensen spoke out against the program not because they had been persuaded by the ACL or were receptive to their power, but because they had pre-existing sympathies and views about public morality that the ACL knew would be enlivened by an awareness about the materials.

There really hasn't been a rise of an American-style hegemonic religious right in Australian politics, meaning that while the ACL's influence is real, it is not nearly as dramatic as some make it out to be.

Asymmetrical representation

Influence in lobbying is dependent on two things: the relationships you have with individual parliamentarians, and the size and strength of the constituency you (purport to) represent.

The ACL has a valid place in public discourse, but that place isn't always representative.

In understanding why many people — Christian and otherwise — claim the ACL isn't representative of most Christians, there are two things I think are worth paying attention to.

And those two things are embodied in the very person Christians say they're on about: Jesus Christ.

"The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth," John 1 says.

1. Full of grace

The main reason I hear from Christians about why they do not relate to the voice of the ACL, and why they distance themselves from them, comes down to tone.

This is firstly a matter of emphasis. By that, I mean the ACL has a tendency to focus on issues of public morality, rather than issues of compassion and justice.

This chart reflects the content of the ACL's National Media Releases from 2014 until now.





There are reasons for this asymmetry. However, a friend working in LGBTI advocacy told me last week that it is very difficult to not feel that the ACL actively dislikes the LGBTI community. I can understand why.

It's also a matter of the language used to frame the discussion.

I believe the tenor of some of the ACL's contributions have displayed an absence of grace. For example, by not publicly acknowledging the good that the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) is attempting to pursue through Safe Schools, the ACL has effectively demonised the organisation as some kind of sinister covert operative.

But in fact, the members I have met are gorgeous people who are trying to redress the devastating rates of self-harm, suicide, depression and bullying experienced by LGBTI kids.

If you feel some Safe Schools content isn't age-appropriate, then isn't dialoguing with them for modifications to the program a better and more gracious approach than pitting yourself against them by calling for their wholesale defunding?

In the absence of a satisfactory alternative that addresses the problem that Safe Schools was created to fix, the ACL's statements are going to continue to be received as harsh and unconstructive.

2. Full of truth

When purporting to speak the truth, it is crucial to make sure you are, in fact, speaking the truth.

Rather than appealing to a gut reaction of discomfort in relation to the Safe Schools material, it would be more effective for the ACL to substantiate their position with the evidence of educational experts.

Objecting to material based on it "just being wrong" and the fruit of gender ideology doesn't have real currency in the complex terrain of something like the bullying of gender diverse people.

Certainly, the ACL has been citing the studies of the Karolinska Institutet and Johns Hopkins University in relation to the impact of sex-reassignment surgery on mental health.

But I believe being full of truth means going that extra step further and seeking out the opinions of professional child psychologists and sex educators.

Otherwise the ACL's objections seem to be simply appealing to a vague sense of disgust, which just reinforces the misunderstanding, isolation and rejection which creates the vulnerability to self-harm in the first place.

I don't pretend to know how to navigate this space well.

But I do think the reason the ACL is often palmed off by Christians as not being representative of them is because they often do not sound like the Jesus they follow: the God who sought us out when we were far away, who came to us — full of grace and truth.

Stephanie Judd works as a commercial lawyer in Sydney and attends St Barnabas Anglican Church in Broadway.
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  #12  
Old 13th April 2016, 10:39 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

And just BTW:
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And scant to do with some other petition presented in the Federal Parliament overriding this or that, or even whether we ought to be for or against the program. Our concern resides solely with whether the claims or assertions made by you are able to withstand scrutiny. In my opinion they do not.
Who exactly is "we" and "our" in this sentence? Who do you think you are speaking on behalf of here?
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Old 14th April 2016, 11:24 AM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

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The “nefarious ACL wants to do nefarious things”, you say.
That's me you're quoting there, not Logic Please.

I am intrigued by your line of thought. You seem not to have problems with people (ie the ACL, Wendy Francis, and their followers) acting from somewhere between reckless ignorance to sheer malice to harm LGBTIQ people.

Your posts are also very long. I know that you've been asked to provide backing for your various assertions, but could I just query one overarching matter about your views which might help us to understand them. Do you think that the ACL, Wendy Francis and their followers are not bigoted? do you think that the harms that they do to LGBTIQ people are not of concern or, indeed, not harms?
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  #14  
Old 14th April 2016, 01:33 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

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There are reasons for this asymmetry. However, a friend working in LGBTI advocacy told me last week that it is very difficult to not feel that the ACL actively dislikes the LGBTI community. I can understand why.
They will claim they hate the sin and not the sinner. For LGBTI people though there is little difference as the 'sin' is an integral part of their identity. An analogy would be if a racist claims that they hate black skin not black people.

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  #15  
Old 14th April 2016, 01:47 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

Just to add in my own opinions on the matter of calling out the bigotry of the ACL.

There are two questions. First, are the ACL bigots? Secondly, is it name-calling, that is, inappropriate, to describe them as such?

Consider this case.

In relation to the first question. Am I bald? I have no hair on the top of my head, and that's what being bald is. Therefore, I am bald. In relation to the second question, is in inappropriate to call me bald? It depends on the context. My baldness does not hurt anyone, so it is not relevant to point it out as a general matter; but sometimes it is relevant, for example, my partner reminding me that I need a hat if I am going into the sun, or indeed when meeting someone I haven't met before I'll say "I'm the bald guy in a suit and with glasses".

Now, is the ACL a bigoted organisation, and is it OK to call them on it?

The narrow definition of a "bigot" is to differ , to the point of intolerance, with views on matters such as religion, politics, race or sexuality. I am not sure this is entirely useful. On this view, most of us, I think, are pretty bigoted against religious or political extremist terrorism. I think the meaning which better reflects usage is that it is such intolerance with no sound basis.

The ACL is, of course, bigoted on both counts (in case anyone wants to argue that I can only assert the ACL is bigoted on the narrower definition. The effect of the narrower definition is that the ACL is not just bigoted in a general sense that we are all bigots, but really, really, bigoted). The ACL is entirely unable to come up with any good reasons for its homophobia, and what 'reasons' it does come up with reflect either deep stupidity, lack of care in relation to facts, or some combination of both.

Now, is it reasonable to call them out on their bigotry. Unlike my baldness, which affects no-one as I wander down the street(*), bigotry such as that displayed by the ACL causes definite and real harm to LGBTIQ people. that's worth calling out, in my book.


(*) According to the Abrahamic god, the appropriate thing to happen to people, even (or especially?) children, who use "baldy" as a pejorative, is to be torn apart by bears. I think this is excessive, but, then, that's my ungodly athiesticy ethics to think that death by bear is a bad thing, not the ethics of the ever-loving god.
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Last edited by wearestardust; 14th April 2016 at 03:14 PM.
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  #16  
Old 14th April 2016, 03:20 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

Article by Hugh Harris (Rationalist Society of Australia) on the Drum, good read.

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Whether it's pressuring Telstra over same-sex marriage or receiving tax breaks, organised religion has enjoyed a fair amount of power. Polling suggests that could be about to change, writes Hugh Harris.

News that Telstra has apparently bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church and backed away from public support for marriage equality comes at a time many Australians are reconsidering the role of religion in our society.

Telstra and other corporations had lent their logos to a full page ad run by Marriage Equality Australia in May last year.

The Archdiocese of Sydney wrote to these corporations "with grave concern" about the marriage equality campaign, highlighting how the Catholic Church is "a significant user of goods and services from many corporations".

Telstra quietly capitulated, saying it has "no further plans to figure prominently in the wider public debate". According to the Australian, a "person familiar with the company's decision" said Telstra did not want to "risk its commercial relationship with the church".

Using its buying power to effectively threaten a boycott is a high handed and cynical move on the part of the Church. Perhaps this sort of behaviour helps us to understand why antipathy towards organised religion seems to be increasing in Australia.

Nearly two in three Australians think tax breaks for advancing religion should go, according to two recent surveys.

According to a new poll by Ipsos, 64 per cent of Australians favour scrapping tax free status for churches and basic religious groups. Less than 20 per cent said tax breaks should remain, and 16.5 per cent were unsure.

More than half (55.1 per cent) of those surveyed disagreed that advancing religion is of public benefit. Only 20.7 per cent said they agreed, with a further 24.2 per cent saying advancing religion may be of public benefit.

The results provide a stunning correlation with last week's Essential Report, where 64 per cent of those surveyed disapprove of the tax free status of religious groups. Significantly, 39 per cent "strongly disapprove". Disapproval was consistent across all major parties, with the Liberal/National Party voters recording 63 per cent, and those aged 55 years and over at 73 per cent.

Public opinion has undergone a seismic shift. Rather than ask why remove tax free status, Australians are now asking, "Why not?" The thought that only one in five Australians think advancing religion is beneficial to the public must be deeply troubling for religious advocates.

Given these results, the upcoming Census may reflect a tipping point in attitudes to religion in Australia. In the 2011 Census "no religion" recorded 22.3 per cent, up from 18.7 per cent in 2006, and 15.1 per cent in 2001. But if two thirds of Australians want to scrap the tax free status of religion, then the numbers of nonbelievers could well be much higher.

In this context the influence of the "religious right" in Australian politics appears disproportionate. Influential groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), who are said to have remarkable influence over political leaders, ensure conservative Christian beliefs are never far from centre stage. But while their megaphone booms, public hostility increases. The inordinate amplification of fundamentalist Christian arguments doesn't necessarily mean these views are widely held, or are influencing public opinion in the way intended.

It's significant that other polls show a public embrace of some of the progressive causes that are trenchantly opposed by the Church, including marriage equality (supported by 64 per cent of Australians). In addition, 70 per cent support voluntary euthanasia and 80 per cent support a woman's right to choose abortion, despite it still being technically illegal in QLD and NSW.

Given this, the assertions of raw political power, such as that seen by the Catholic Church and Telstra, could well backfire and fuel resentment against the favourable tax treatment of religion.

Research done for Senator David Leyonhjelm shows the government could save $350 million by getting rid of taxpayer support for religions organisations. Given our country's revenue problem, one would have thought the solution obtains with considerable consequence.

It might be that public opinion is becoming polarised by the tone of recent debate surrounding issues such as same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools Program. But if antipathy to religion and its special treatment continues to grow, the pressure on governments to respond accordingly will eventually become irresistible. The disparity between pro-Christian government policies and secular public attitudes cannot be ignored forever.
The Church and its weakening grip over Telstra and taxes

The survey results are highly encouraging.
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Old 14th April 2016, 04:28 PM
M.Shiels M.Shiels is offline
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

I appreciated Stephanie Judd’s article, wolty, thoughtful and well-balanced.


I regret I’m unable to offer an intelligent reply to your last entry, robertkd. Its non sequitur nature bewildered. It also smacks of some blatant exercise in ad hominem at any cost, one not so different in fact from the kind I’ve experienced in Christian forums.


I doubt that you really expect response to your latest bit of bluster, Logic please. For what it’s worth, I’m only here to take part in friendly discussion and no wish to report anyone for anything whatsoever. Where my use of ‘we’ and ‘our’ is concerned, feel free to interpret as you see fit.


I’m surprise that you deem my posts ‘very long’, wearestardust – I surely must do better.

I indeed have reservations in respect of the ACL and, as a confirmed atheist and to varying degree, with most religious organizations. I’m not sufficiently acquainted to judge whether the ACL acts “from somewhere between reckless ignorance to sheer malice”. But, don’t tell us – show us!?

Subjective phrases like ’religious bigots’ are hardly conducive to constructive dialogue, and simply a part of the semantic games that people play, the particular choice of words mere reflection of which side of the fence one happens sit. As far as I can tell, the ACL strives to justify its views, however bizarrely or inadequately.

My son happens to attend a participating school. When I read the words of Logic please (“Get lost, religious bigots. You want the names of the schools so you can target them some more? There's this thing called confidentiality and child protection...”), I thought I’d better check it out. It’s as simple as that.
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Old 14th April 2016, 05:59 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

Hey, M.Shiels, no comments on the content but consider using the quote function (button that looks like a speech box) when replying. Just helps others identity exactly what you are replying too.
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Old 14th April 2016, 07:03 PM
M.Shiels M.Shiels is offline
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

Point taken, WesternGeo, but please pardon me for not repeating all of your Hugh Harris piece.

Reading this article, and having a far higher figure in mind, I was amazed at the low amount actually saved:

“Research done for Senator David Leyonhjelm shows the government could save $350 million by getting rid of taxpayer support for religions organisations. Given our country's revenue problem, one would have thought the solution obtains with considerable consequence.”

Only to be even more amazed when I recalled that only a bit more than three months ago, Hugh, in another piece of his, intimated savings of up to $31 billion per annum:

“Faith groups avoid billions of dollars in tax. The Australian charity sector recorded a 2014 income of $104 billion, with 37.5 per cent of groups nominating the purpose of advancing religion. Basic religious charities aren’t even required to submit financial reports. No exact figures exist, but according to The Secular Party of Australia tax exemptions could cost taxpayers up to $31 billion per annum.”

(https://newmatilda.com/2016/01/05/no...r-unto-caesar/)


Presumably $31 billion obtains ten-fold the ‘considerable consequence’!

This figure is in fact also based on an eight-year-old submission (something Hugh might have seen fit to mention?):

“Combining the costs shown in Tables 2 and 3, it can be seen that our estimate of the total cost of concessions to religious organisations in Australia exceeds $31 billion. This is a gross figure and necessarily somewhat speculative. It may be discounted for bona fide charitable works and for expenditures that may otherwise be required. However it does not include items such as FBT and
GST where we are unable to source data on the value of concessions. The figure gives some idea of the magnitude of the cost of concessions which arise as a result of the continued adherence to the medieval “advancement of religion” doctrine.”

(http://www.taxreview.treasury.gov.au..._Australia.pdf)


The submission is well worth reading – a few of its choice words:

“The free exercise of religion does not imply that religion must be exercised at the expense of the taxpayer. In addition, the concept of freedom of religion does not require that the exercise of such freedom be the subject of tax concessions.

The extent of the current anomaly is not limited to this. Australia is one of only three countries in the world where even the commercial enterprises of religious organisations are granted tax concessions. One may wonder how such a situation could possibly have arisen.

People are perfectly entitled to engage in such activities if they wish, but there is surely no justification for what may be regarded as little more than superstition being defined as a charitable purpose for the public good.

Further estimates of income lost to state and local governments are given in Table 3. The information in these Tables suggests that religious organisations receive ample support via direct grants for many of their activities. We question whether local and state taxpayers should pay higher taxes and rates as a result of extending exemptions to organisations that are already subsidised through direct government expenditure.” Cheers.
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Old 14th April 2016, 07:12 PM
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Default Re: Strip the Australian Christian Lobby of it charitable status.

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I doubt that you really expect response to your latest bit of bluster, Logic please.
*tap-tap* Is this thing on...? *tap-tap*

Are you presuming to tell me what I do and don't expect, now? Because if that's your reading of the multiple formal requests I have posted, the demonstrated comprehension fails would explain a lot about your performance here. For absolute clarity:

Third request. All questions answered. All claims substantiated.
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For what it’s worth, I’m only here to take part in friendly discussion and no wish to report anyone for anything whatsoever.
So you are not prepared to back up your posted accusations about me, rkd or others, just to whine about them as an in-thread handwaving distraction?

Did I mention how massively hypocritical and inconsistent that *aspirational goal* looks, ensconced as it is in a post of multiple excuses and vain self-justifications to avoid actually discussing and answering questions?

Of course, you can easily prove me wrong. Address the questions.
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Where my use of ‘we’ and ‘our’ is concerned, feel free to interpret as you see fit.
*tap-tap* Is this thing on...? *tap-tap*

Exactly who do you think you are you speaking on behalf of, by using "we" and "our"? Please be specific.
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Last edited by Logic please; 14th April 2016 at 07:16 PM.
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