Churches who campaigned for ‘no’ must apologise to gay community


Dr Keith Mascord/Pahichan – As the final flurry of votes is counted in the postal survey, it’s time to reflect a little on the experience of the last few months. As a deeply committed older Christian, I’ve been dismayed by the contributions of Australian churches to the acrimonious and damaging debate which has been imposed upon us, and particularly by those who have joined the Coalition for Marriage.

I’ve been dismayed, first, because Australian churches have been callous and un-Christ-like in their support for an extended public campaign, which they surely knew was certain to cause widespread distress and suffering to some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens. Even a small amount of research would have revealed already high levels of suicide, self-harm and mental health vulnerability among those whose lives, relationships, identity, and worth would become the subject of public debate.

But instead of taking heed of this research, instead of gently seeking the counsel of LGBTI-plus Australians, churches involved in the Coalition for Marriage pushed ahead regardless. They wagered on the lives of people the church should have been protecting, when it was already a sure bet that their actions would embolden Australia’s bigots and hateful homophobes, which they have.

I’ve been dismayed, second, by the essentially dishonest, fear-driven and fear-creating nature of the campaign churches have signed up to, and put big money towards. The Coalition for Marriage campaign is pervasively dishonest. It is dishonest in not being upfront about the foundational reason conservative Christians are implacably opposed to marriage equality, and that is their belief that any and all sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage are immoral and defective.

The campaign is dishonest in trying to scare people into thinking that society will unravel if marriage is extended to include LGBTI-plus Australians. Scare-mongering, by its very nature, is dishonest, because it plays to people’s fears, and doesn’t require evidence. It is often best without evidence, except for cherry-picked and easily discredited examples from overseas, which, even when proved accurate, mostly amount to fundamentalist Christians resisting scientific and societal consensus, doggedly insisting on their right to discriminate and exclude.

The Coalition for Marriage’s “no” campaign has been dishonest in arguing that children will become the innocent victims of a “yes” outcome. The strategy is dishonest because all available evidence suggests that children brought up by same-sex couples do equally well as those brought up by opposite sex couples, with ideological talk about the need for gender complementarity failing the test of peer-reviewed scientific research. Not only do children do well, even now, they are sure to do even better when their parents are given the societal honour and recognition of marriage.

I am dismayed, third, because those churches who have joined the Coalition for Marriage appear oblivious to how morally compromised they have become. They are morally compromised for claiming that they alone speak for God, especially when church history is littered with examples of similar bogus claims, about the age and shape of the earth, about slavery, interracial marriage and women’s rights.

A train vandalised in Sydney with "vote no" graffiti.A train vandalised in Sydney with “vote no” graffiti. Photo: Imgur/ecarter6

Is there some light in this dark account? There is. Even among those who voted “no” in the postal survey, there has been widespread disappointment with how the “no” campaign has been waged, and with the out-of-touch leadership of their churches. An Australian Christians for Marriage Equality campaign has been waged, not quite so loudly or well-funded, but with wonderful support. A new grass-roots movement called Equal Voices has drawn Christians from around the nation to encourage straight allies to support their even braver LGBTI-plus fellow Christians, one of whom, a young daughter of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, penned these words of defiance:

“We are not the monsters you make us out to be, however much you may shout it from street corners. We aren’t deviant or degenerate. We aren’t child abusers. We don’t need to be healed or brutally driven into an image of cisgender heterosexuality. What we need is for you to listen to our voices and see us for who we are. We are every sexuality, romantic orientation and gender under the sun. We have intersex variations. And, above all of this, we are human.”
The postal survey has caused widespread distress.The postal survey has caused widespread distress. Photo: AAP

The best thing to have emerged from this awful process is that Christians have come to realise, as never before, how urgent is our need to say sorry, and to embark on what will be a long and painful process of reconciliation. To that end, all Christians are invited to add their names to a National Apology to LGBTI-plus fellow Australians, which includes a commitment to reconciliation.

Reverend Dr Keith Mascord, freelance Anglican priest, author of Faith without Fear: risky choices facing contemporary Christians.

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