Author Archives: thatsmyphilosophy

Why being ‘cheeky’ crosses the line – #MeToo

In a speech presented at The Hollywood Reporter’s 2018 Women in Entertainment gala this week, Australian comedian, Hannah Gadsby, argued that, when it comes to sexual harassment, men – even self-defined ‘good men’ – should not get to define the position of the line that separates harmless human interaction between the sexes and sexual harassment.

The speech resonated widely with women, but I have seen numerous men criticising the speech for being ‘man-hating’ and for advocating a line that will proscribe even the most trivial flirtatious interactions between men and women.

Entertainment reporter, Peter Ford, for example, tweeted that Gadsby’s speech was ‘just sexist mumbo jumbo’.  

“I’m going right off her,” he said.

In an article titled, “Hannah Gadsby, I draw the line at women like you”, Jack Delaney sneers that Gadsby is trying to create a “radical feminist utopia”.

My take on Gadsby’s speech is that she was simply pointing out that men, lacking the lifetime experience of being female, struggle to understand how behaviour they consider to be   ‘acceptable’ can be considered, by many or most women, to be ‘crossing the line’.

They don’t understand how a man who truly believes he is a ‘good bloke’ because he has ‘never crossed the line’ may be viewed completely differently by the women he interacts with. Actions he deems to be ‘well within the line’ may seem, to women (within the context of their lifetimes’ experiences), to be creepy, intimidating, invasive, scary, manipulative, disrespectful and psychologically harmful. 

As I see it, men tend to look at their interactions with women in isolation, while women experience these interactions in the context of decades of micro-aggressions which often begin in childhood; think of ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’. 

Women quickly learn that minor aggressions are often the pre-cursors to even worse verbal and/or physical assaults. If you’re an abused child, your father doesn’t need to actually hit you with his belt to have you cowering in the corner as he slowly removes it from his pants. If your husband is physically violent, it’s hardly comforting that he’s put his fist through the wall and not into your face. You know what’s likely to come next.

Perhaps it’s easier to understand if we imagine an alternative universe, in which a man experiences a minor, affectionate gesture in the context of his lifetime’s experience of interactions with women.

Meet ‘Geoff’.

Geoff is a talented and reliable salesman, accustomed to drawing a modest income.  Until recently, Geoff’s income serviced a sizeable mortgage and monthly car repayments and helped support his wife (whose home-based business is not yet in profit), two school-age children, an elderly mother who lives with them, and a family pet. But Geoff has been out of work for some months now, their savings are dwindling, and he is in desperate need of a job.

This morning, his wife, Sue, sees him to the door on his way to a promising interview.

Before he leaves, Sue pinches Geoff’s cheek affectionately. 

“Go get ‘em tiger”, she says. It’s a loving and intimate gesture that Geoff enjoys.

Geoff boards a crowded bus to the city but, as he walks towards the rear of the vehicle, a random hand reaches out and lightly pinches his cheek. 

This isn’t the same as being pinched by your wife. While it’s not painful, it hits him like a physical assault, and makes him feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

This is not an isolated incident. In fact, Geoff’s cheeks are regularly pinched by women as he walks through crowded places. Geoff stopped going to nightclubs years ago because of the constant pinching – hands coming at him out of the dark like stinging mosquitoes. It made him feel like prey.

His female friends and co-workers don’t understand why it bothers him.

“It’s just harmless fun!” they say soothingly, “You should be flattered. I wish someone would pinch my cheeks!”

Even when Geoff is just walking along the street, minding his own business, women hang out of approaching cars and scream, “Great cheeks! Let us have a squeeze, love, eh?” then zoom past in a hale of cackles. They don’t think they’ve crossed a line. They’re just being nice, showing appreciation for a great set of cheeks. They assume Geoff will bask in the warm glow of their uninvited attention all day. He doesn’t. He finds it confronting and  dehumanising. It makes him feel vulnerable because there’s nothing he can do to stop it – it’s a hit and run attack.

As Geoff disembarks from the bus, a disembodied female voice behind him cat-calls, “Nice set of cheeks, babe.”

He feels embarrassed but he tries to pull himself together. He has to be calm for his interview.

“Well, Geoff,” says the female recruiter, “You seem well qualified but, what sets you apart from the other candidates, is that we’re looking for someone who’ll get on well with our mainly female clientele. With cheeks like yours, they won’t be able to say “no” to you!”

Geoff blushes deeply and shuffles uncomfortably in his chair. But, he really needs this job, so he laughs nervously and accepts the offer to start work the next day.

About a week into the job, (during which several female clients have leaned forward to pinch his cheeks as he closed the deal), Geoff delivers his first sales report to his female manager. 

“Great job, Geoff!” she says, rising from her desk to pinch his cheek playfully, “If you go on like this you’ll be looking at a pay rise and a promotion”, she says, jiggling his cheek between her fingers.

Following such glowing praise, Geoff thinks it might be a safe time to nip this ‘cheek pinching’ thing in the bud. It’s only mildly annoying at this point, but he worries that if he doesn’t ask to be treated professionally, management won’t view him that way.

“Thanks, Jan, I really appreciate it and I love the job. But,” he says hesitantly, “look …  I don’t want to make a big thing of this, and … well … perhaps I’m being silly, but I’m a married man and I’m really not comfortable with you – or anyone but my wife – pinching my cheeks. Can we just keep it professional?”

Jan is shocked and then angry. 

“Really? Seriously? Isn’t that a bit precious? Geez, you’d think I’d raped you. I haven’t done anything wrong. It was a pinch on the cheek, for Chrissake. Look, you’ve made a good start in the job, but if you’re going to have a melt-down every time someone brushes past you, you’re not going to go far or last long in this company. If you want that promotion you’re going to have to be a lot more friendly. Do you get my meaning?”

Geoff is rattled. He blames himself. Maybe he did over-react. Maybe he’s over-sensitive because of things that happened in the past. He remembers when he was at primary school – pre-teen. His step-mother started pinching his cheeks, and then his bum, and then … well, much, much more. When he complained to his father, his step-mother accused him of making things up, “You lying little shit! All I did was pinch your cheeks. I was just being affectionate! What’s wrong with that?”

His father believed his new wife and berated Geoff for ‘causing trouble’.

At high school and at university, Geoff was repeatedly the target of women wanting to pinch his cheeks – and more. They never seemed to think his permission was necessary – in fact, they almost universally assumed he should enjoy the attention. When he rejected their advances they either became angry or mocked him for being ‘sexless’ or ‘gay’.

But, Geoff reasons, that was all a long time ago. He gives himself a pep-talk. “You’re grown-up now. You can say ‘no’. You DID say ‘no’.”

He feels quite proud of himself, but he also feels nervous and insecure – unsafe, disrespected and objectified. But, then again, he can’t just quit. Jobs are hard to get and he really needs this job. 

From then on, anytime the boss passes Geoff in the hallway or runs into him in the printing room she pinches his cheek lightly and says, “There, that’s not too bad, is it? Go on! You like it! You’re just playing hard-to-get!”

Geoff doesn’t like it. Not at all. In fact, the stress is making him physically ill and he is suffering panic attacks. But he needs this job and he needs the promotion.

One day, in the printing room, Geoff’s boss backs him into a corner, puts one hand on the wall over his shoulder, pinches his cheek, then cups his balls in her hand and shoves her tongue down his throat. He is so shocked, he freezes. He feels himself morph into that vulnerable little boy whose step-mother abused him. 

But summoning all his strength, he steps away and says in a hushed but determined voice, “Don’t you EVER do that again! Don’t you EVER touch me!”

His boss arches an eyebrow and says calmly, “If you don’t want your cheeks pinched you shouldn’t flaunt them like that. I’m only human. I just can’t help myself. You should be flattered!”

Still, Geoff takes a stand. He reports the incident to Human Resources and they take it up with his boss.

At mediation she says, “This is ridiculous. All I’ve ever done is pinch his cheek occasionally. He’s over-sensitive. It’s just harmless fun. It’s an affectionate gesture for God’s sake. I haven’t crossed any line.”

When Geoff insists she did more than pinch his cheek – that she assaulted him – the mediator shrugs and says, “Look, mate it’s your word against hers, and she’s worth a lot more to the company than you are. If she assaulted you, why didn’t you call out? My office is close by, I would have heard you. She couldn’t have pinched you very hard – you don’t have any bruises.  It just sounds like an office romance gone bad, to me. I suggest you just chill out a bit and try not to antagonise her.”

Geoff can’t afford to quit. His family depends on his income. He thinks if he just tries to do his job and stay out of the boss’s way, everything will be OK. 

He is passed over for the promotion when it comes up, and his sales territory is gradually whittled away until it becomes impossible for him to meet his targets. Soon, he is told he just isn’t performing well enough and is given notice.

Without the income from his job, Geoff loses his house. The stress causes his marriage to break down. His mother has to go into residential care. He loses custody of his children. He suffers depression and PTSD and he isn’t able to work again. 

Trying to do something productive with his time, Geoff starts volunteering at a community radio station. But, one day, a female announcer who’s been increasingly friendly towards him, approaches him in the tea room and pinches his cheek, playfully.

Incensed, Geoff angrily slams her hand away from his face and shouts in her face, “Keep your fucking hands OFF me!”

“What????” she says, genuinely taken aback. “I didn’t do anything wrong! Hey, I’m a nice person. I was just being nice – friendly. I didn’t hurt you, I haven’t sexually abused you. I barely touched you! I haven’t crossed a line. Hey! I’m the good guy here! Wow! Talk about an over-reaction!”

“You DID cross a line,” says Geoff, shaking. “You crossed MY line. You don’t get to draw my line. I do.”

“Well,” she retorts as she sashays out the door, “Now, you’re just being hysterical.”

Chrys Stevenson

Atheist Safehouse an Atheist Cockfest

Late last night, a Facebook post from my friend, Australian author Margaret Morgan, grabbed my attention.

The image was so startlingly sexist and tone-deaf in the age of #metoo I could scarcely believe it.

Atheist Safehouse? The image shows eight rather intimidating angry men apparently ‘guarding’ this closed group of 42,114 members from unwanted intruders. 

And, last night, the unwanted intruder was me.

Eight men! Where were the atheist women? Was this some kind of “Playboy Atheist” men-only club where women serve only as brainless bunnies to bolster the egos of a group of Godless incels? Or was this simply an aberration that could be easily and elegantly fixed by the admins with an ‘Oops! Yes, we screwed up. We’re fixing it now”.

Not a bloody chance!

For the past twelve months I’ve been working, behind the scenes, at the coal face of the #metoo movement, documenting cases of domestic violence ending in death and looking at incidents and the consequences of trolling and cyber-bullying. I’ve come to understand that, as long as women are not represented and treated equally in society, their physical safety, mental health and financial security will be severely compromised. In short, casual sexism like this normalises the inequality of women. This has  serious consequences; the worst of which are poverty, gender violence and death. 

The equal representation of women in public and private spaces matters. It matters because saving women’s lives and maximising their wellbeing requires a tectonic cultural shift in our society that starts with recognising women’s contributions. It is, frankly, inconceivable that a group which prides itself on intellect and reason would choose a composite photo showing eight men – mostly white – to represent its mixed-gendered membership of 42,114 members.

I joined the group last night in order to comment. Naively, I thought it would be a simple matter of drawing the issue to the attention of the admins and getting the photo changed. 

“Why are there no women in the profile picture for this group?”, I wrote. “You do know there are atheist women, right?”

It immediately became apparent this was not a new issue for Atheist Safehouse. It also became clear the admins weren’t likely to take the elegant “Oops … we’re sorry!” option.

“Here we go again,” wrote a male member of the group. “Could not agree more, but have seen what moderators do about this.”

“O goodie, this again … ” groaned another, less supportive, man.

A female member said tentatively, “I did ask myself the same question.”

Emboldened, another woman chimed in, “Please put Tracie Harris and Annie Laurie Gaylor. Thanks.”

Others suggested Madalyn Murray O’Hair – but it took a few goes to get the name and the spelling right.

My friend, Australian atheist and intellect, Cushla Geary, confirmed what I was beginning to suspect:

“It’s one of the reasons I seldom contribute here – because the debates all too often echo the masthead.”

One male member said one might just as well argue there are no animals represented in the photo because ‘animals are atheist as well’ right? He went on to explain the image wasn’t sexist because the people represented in the photo had just been picked ‘randomly’. 

Soon an admin appeared – a female:

“Please read the pinned post at the top of the page, there’s a section that says the debate on this topic is currently closed, due to lack of consensus.”

(I imagine the big, brave male admins ducking for cover in the cyber-trenches while they sent out the female foot-soldiers to throw grenades at the tiresome feminazi interloper.)

Lack of consensus? About what? Atheist Safehouse is a group of 42,114 atheists and it’s 2018 for Chrissakes! We’re in the midst of fourth wave feminism and the #metoo movement – focusing on combating sexual harassment, assault and misogyny.  Yet, in a group of people who pride themselves on their intelligence and rationality , there’s a lack of consensus over whether an image that depicts eight blokes and no women sufficiently and fairly represents the atheist movement? 

A male ally raised a pertinent question:

“How do you get ‘consensus’ when you regard the topic as ‘closed’, I wonder.”

I agreed, remarking that, surely, the idea that men and women were equal, and should be represented equally, was uncontentious. 

At which point some genius suggested there should be a poll. Yes. Seriously. A fucking POLL!

It was suggested the matter should be put to a vote. Apparently, in this group, women’s equality is not a ‘given’, it is a privilege which can only be bestowed if the ‘consensus’ or ‘majority vote’ deems us worthy of inclusion.

“This is the most regularly asked question on the page,” said a jaded male member of the group, “and I guarantee you’ll be disappointed and dissatisfied with the vast majority of the answers. The powers that be have decreed that the subject is not up for discussion and a large portion of the group agree, so I’m afraid that’s how it’s going to stay.”

Naively, it occurred to me this group simply didn’t realise there were female atheist leaders. “Where is Polly Toynbee, Greta Christina, Karen Stollznow, Ophelia Benson, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Susan Blackmore, Sumitra Padmanabhan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Susan Jacobs, Margaret Downey, Ariane Sherine, Debbie Goddard and more?” I wrote.

But the admins were unmoved. Another female admin chimed in: 

“Chrys Stevenson, please go read the rules of the group and it will be explained as well as what is appropriate topics we allow. You are new but this topic has been hashed and rehashed. The banner stays as it is. Turning off comments for this post.”


Consider the gravity of this in today’s cultural climate:

The female admins of a group of 42,114 free thinkers shut down a discussion on whether women should be represented equally on their masthead.Not only that,they shut it down because people kept complaining and, instead of changing the damn photo, they preferred to just prohibit people from talking about it!

As a result of this ‘discussion’ I was quickly expelled from the group, as was my friend, Cushla, who stepped up to defend my position. Before I was banned – as I knew I would be –  I made it known I had taken screenshots of the conversation and would bring the matter to public attention. That post was deleted too.

There was a time when I would have kept these kinds of disputes ‘in house’.  I kept shtum for years over various atrocities within organised atheism for fear of bringing a movement I believed in into disrepute. But the atheist movement’s shameful stance on feminism is now well known. If organised atheism is seen as disreputable it is the fault of the misogynists, not those of us who call it out.  The men (and women) who prop up the mean-spirited, myopic misogyny of groups like Atheist Safehouse are solely responsible for the crumbling edifice of a movement which once had promise, but is now rotting from both the head and its core. 

If an atheist group of 42,114  (42,112 members now Cushla and I have been booted) cannot take the simple step of removing a single photo and replacing it with a more representative image, what hope is there that atheism can be rescued from the grip of the immature, socially inept, MRA man-babies who seem to have colonised the movement.

New Atheism is supposed to be about freeing the world from the irrational beliefs that hold back human progress. One of those irrational beliefs is that women are less deserving of equality, recognition and respect than men. And yet, in one of the largest atheist groups on Facebook, you cannot even discuss this issue – it is verboten. And 41,112 atheists choose to belong to such a group!

Tell me again how New Atheism is going to make the world a better place?

Chrys Stevenson

If you were gay, that’d be OK …


“At times, just as a junkie needs a fix, I’d find myself in the desperate position of craving sexual contact with a man. Any momentary enjoyment, though, was quickly replaced with feelings of disgust, self-loathing and repentance. The battle to resist was torturous, the aftermath depressing, but no one could know about the battle inside me. I was the pastor, the one who should have it all together.” – Anthony Venn-Brown, “A Life of Unlearning: a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith”)

When you have a reputation for opposing the religious right, people tell you things.

Sometimes, I’ll get a tip about something that can be verified and written about. Mostly, the more delicious the gossip, the less likely it is to be true – or, at least, unlikely to be provable. Much of what I hear behind the scenes I write off as improbable, or wishful thinking. And so, it goes no further.

I relish gossip as much as the next person. But, I don’t publish scuttlebutt because I believe that even those we disagree with most vehemently don’t deserve to have untrue (or at least unproven) allegations thrown at them.

Regular readers will know I often warn, “Do not become the monster you are fighting”.

No matter how dreadfully our opposition acts, – no matter how they lie and cheat and dissemble – we must not sink to their level. As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high”.

But, recently, a rumour has come to my attention which I cannot prove; and yet I cannot let go of it. I’ve thought long and hard about the ethics of writing about it and my motives for doing so. Ultimately, I hope that in writing this article I can head off a disaster at the pass and encourage someone to take their destiny into their own hands. My chances of succeeding are small – and may even be misdirected –  but perhaps this article will speak to more than one person and do some good. I hope so.

“I’m getting some information from a very good source,” came the message, “X isn’t as ‘faithful’ as they could be.”

What followed was a salacious allegation that a prominent supporter of the “No” campaign has been sighted behaving ‘recklessly’ in a manner starkly in contrast to his publicly stated views on homosexuality.

“Do you have evidence about ‘X” being gay?”

“No. But he’s been seen and he’s being watched.”

Despite this information coming from a usually trustworthy source, my inclination was to dismiss it as wishful thinking. There is a great temptation to believe what you’d like to be true. A revelation like this about a high profile supporter could bring the whole “No” campaign house of outrageous propaganda crashing to the floor. But, obtaining evidence would be a grubby business. Publicly ‘outing’ someone – even someone who has done tremendous harm – presents a huge ethical dilemma.

Nevertheless, the information niggled at me, so I contacted someone who knows ‘X’ and people in his circle.

Is it possible, I asked, that ‘X’ is gay?

I honestly expected to be told, “No way! Absolutely not!”

Instead, the response was, “Yes, that’s probably true.”

My contact says they know of at least one homosexual ‘incident’ involving ‘X’ and ventured that such ‘incidents’ don’t tend to be isolated. To protect the other party, my contact is unwilling to provide more information, and I respect that completely.

Now, I feel a little like a cartoon character who’s been thrown a bomb with a fast burning fuse and can’t work out what to do with it.

I’ve pondered on this for a few weeks now. And, to be fair, I must disclose that I contacted another person who knew ‘X” many years ago. They said they had no inkling then that ‘X’ might be ‘that way inclined’ and thought it was possible, but unlikely.

I could keep digging. But, to what purpose?

On the one hand, it would be a fine thing to expose a  “No” campaigner as a hypocrite and a fraud and wreak untold damage to their grubby and dishonest campaign .

On the other hand, I can’t help but have sympathy for someone who has been made to feel their natural sexual inclination is something to be hidden, denied and fought at all costs.

I may hate the harm ‘X’ is causing others, but I cannot ignore the harm they are doing to themselves and, undoubtedly, those close to them.

It the rumour is true, it is not surprising ‘X’ is becoming more reckless at a time of high stress. If it is true, ‘X’ must be going through a desperately sad period of internal torment.

The tragedy is that, if it is true, he is channelling his own self-loathing into a campaign that redirects that hate on to adults and children who do not deserve to be shamed and vilified.

I need to make this clear –  I do not know for sure if this rumour is true. My sources are good, but there is certainly no evidence I can present, and no first-hand witnesses have come forward.

It’s not surprising. The circles in which ‘X’ mixes have a long held ‘conspiracy of silence’ surrounding those who battle ‘the demons of homosexuality’. If a person is valuable to the cause, it’s better to blame Satan and keep the occasional transgression ‘hush hush’. Better  to deal with these things ‘in house’.

And yet, the conspiracy of silence is notoriously bad at keeping a lid on the homosexual proclivities of anti-gay activists and politicians.  Indeed, high profile fundamentalist Christian lobbyists and politicians seem to be particularly prone to being outed in the most humiliating ways.

  • You may remember Baptist Minister, and founder of the Family Research Council, George Rekers, was exposed disembarking from a flight with a travelling companion he’d found at According to Rekers, the ‘boy’ was engaged to ‘carry luggage’, although his CV at pointed to his “smooth, sweet, tight ass” and “perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut)”. He was, he said,  “up for anything” – including ‘carrying luggage’ it seems.
  • Republican anti-gay campaigner, Steve Wiles, was ‘outed’ as having been a drag queen in a ‘past life’.
  • Pastor Ted Haggard was outed by the sex worker he’d been seeing in a ‘professonal capacity’ for three years.
  • Republican Bob Allen was an avid anti-LGBTIQ campaigner, but came unstuck when he offered an undercover male police officer $20 for a blow job.

If you are a self-loathing gay man and you put yourself into the public spotlight as an anti-gay activist, you are playing a high stakes game. The odds of ‘winning’ are against you. People are watching. People are chattering behind the scenes. People know your secrets. Someday, someone will break the silence and you will be publicly humiliated – not because you are gay (there is nothing humiliating about being gay!), but because you are a liar and hypocrite.

Yet, there are evangelists who have come out with dignity, maintained the love of their families, the respect of their communities, and even made a good living out of preaching love and inclusion instead of hate and fear. There are many LGBTIQ people and clergy who have found ways of reconciling their sexuality and their faith. Indeed, they say being true to themselves has enriched their faith and affirmed their family values.

Reverend Mel White, formerly a ghost writer for televangelists Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham, came out publicly in 1994 with his book Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. As a closeted gay man, White says he felt “condemned by God and alienated from his family and closest friends”.

After coming out White was inundated by thousands of letters from people saying, “No-one has ever said to me before, you can be gay and Christian.”

Let me say that now to ‘X’. You can be gay, a Christian, and hold a respected position in the mainstream community. Others have done it. You can too.

As a child, White was taught that a man who lies down with another man is an ‘abomination’.

He didn’t see himself as ‘gay’, he saw himself as ‘a heterosexual with a ‘problem’’.

It’s a common story, but, try as he might (and he tried everything) , White’s ‘problem’ didn’t go away; even with a happy marriage, children and stellar career.

The inner torment made him suicidal. “I was slashing at wrists with bent coat hangers”, he says in an interview with 60 Minutes.

Now, White says, “Thank God I can say at last who I really am. I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation.”

Mel White talks about the horrifying cost of the Christian right’s hardline stance on homosexuality. He speaks of young Christians, rejected by their families, churches and Christian communities, killing themselves at alarming rates, because they believe they can never be ‘redeemed’. Or, doing as White did in his early years, they act out recklessly and promiscuously followed by periods of deep self-loathing.

“The closet is a place of death for gay people,” warns White, “Coming out is a place of life, even if it costs you.”

Now, White feels compelled to speak out against those in the church who condemn homosexuality:

“I have to do everything in my power to stop them. Because, for their own soul’s sake, they’re doing terrible damage. And if I’m to be a responsible Christian brother, I need to say to them, ‘Look what you’re doing! You’re doing wrong!’

And one day, I really believe that God is going to say. ‘… guys, don’t you know what you did to my gay and lesbian children?’

And that they’re going to suffer for it!”

In Australia, Anthony Venn-Brown’s story is similar. He, too, was married with children with a thriving ministry.

Venn-Brown fought against his homosexuality while building a wildly successful career as an evangelist.

Coming out was painful and difficult, but he did it on his own terms, and has been rewarded with widespread acceptance and respect.

As a former evangelist, Venn-Brown has carved out an alternative career as a ‘gay ambassador’. Now he says:

“I know who I am and what I’ve done. Most of my life was spent pleasing others by saying and doing the things they wanted, but I was living a lie. Finally being honest with myself cost me everything I held dear: my marriage, family career, business and friends. Facing the truth meant I would hurt people I loved the most and become an object of embarrassment, ridicule and shame.”

But, in his book, A Life of Unlearning: A Preacher’s Struggle with Homosexuality, Church and Faith, Venn-Brown speaks of:

“The wonderful place of integrity, peace and resolution I now live in …”

As much as I may abhor the actions of “No” campaigners and their leadership, I cannot demonise and dehumanise them as they seek to humiliate the LGBTIQ community. Many are victims of early indoctrination. Others found much needed solace and healing from a church which tells them they are ‘special’ and ‘chosen of God’. Sadly, some churches do this by defining the ‘chosen’ against a demonised ‘other’. Love and healing is for those who pay their tithes.

Our opponents – even the malicious, lying, hateful ones –  are humans. It’s important to remember that.

Whether or not the rumours about ‘X’ are true, it is inevitable that some of those who so ardently oppose marriage equality are simultaneously struggling with their own sexual identity. That is not to say every homophobe is a self-loathing gay;  simply that history shows there’s a fair chance there are some in that cohort.

I cannot wish that any LGBTIQ person should be publicly outed, ridiculed and shamed. But, I can say with certainty that, if ‘X’ is gay, that is what will happen;  if not now, at some point.

The centre will not, and cannot, hold.

If the rumours are true, if ‘X’ is wise, he will follow  the lead of those who have controlled their own destinies; he will bite the bullet and out himself with as much dignity as he can muster. There lies the path to peace, salvation, and self-respect and an end to a life of endless torment and self-blame.

If there is an ‘X’  (or a ‘Y’ or a ‘Z’) supporter of the “No” campaign reading this, I hate everything you stand for, but I do care for the human being beneath that carefully constructed facade you present to the world.

LGBTIQ people throughout the world are suffering as a result of the actions and propaganda of people like you. The idea that you may be one of the people you vilify  is difficult for both of us to reconcile.

Come out!  Do it of your own accord. Don’t wait to be exposed. Be the master of your own destiny, don’t let some tabloid newspaper take control.

Come out. You will find a community of people ready and willing to assist, support and sustain you and, in doing so, you will find not only the respect you have struggled to obtain your whole life, but the self-respect you will never find while you deny who you really are.

Don’t be the man you’re expected to be. Be the man you’re meant to be. You.

And, if you do it, you may be very surprised to see who your friends are.

Chrys Stevenson

Forget the Lobbyists – What do Ordinary People think about Marriage Equality?

We’re hearing a lot from church leaders and religious lobbyists in the debate over marriage equality and the forthcoming postal survey.

We’re also hearing a lot from marriage equality advocacy groups, LGBTIQ lobbyists and we left-wing, bleeding-heart, ’social justice warriors’.

But, what do normal, average Aussies, think of this whole thing? How are people in conservative, LNP voting parts of the country feeling about the debate?

On Facebook this morning, my  local Sunshine Coast Community Board provided a valuable insight. It should give comfort to all the LGBTIQ people who are really struggling with a barrage of hateful fear mongering. And, perhaps, it might give pause to conservative politicians, most of whom who seem to be completely out of step with their constituents’ views on this issue.

In a discussion on marriage equality which drew well over 500 posts in just a few hours, I calculated that, roughly, 95% were in strongly in favour of marriage equality.

I wasn’t the only one to comment on the strong turnout for the “Yes” vote:

TR:  Well by the look of comments the vote yes will be a landslide. What a stupid waste of tax payers money. Just make it legal already. 122 million to find out what we all already know. It’s a resounding yes to marriage equality.

SSE:  … this does make me feel happy! Just on this thread alone majority want a yes

I’d like to share the original post and responses, below.

William H:  For all those who do not understand.

There is no reason to say YES to SSM marriage. Don’t let them take away what Marriage is, being a union between a woman and man, leave that alone and protect that for our future generations. Equality I agree with, as in equal rights, and that can be simply fixed without destroying what marriage within our society means.

How to fix the problem, it is actually very simple, in the marriage act, married couples do get treated differently to same sex partnerships, all that needs to be done, is fix it with in the act, to protect Same Sex Partnerships, let them celebrate and recognise that celebration as same sex unions even supply a certificate to legalise it, Same Sex Partnership are already being registered and recognised by the birth & death and marriage department. Its only the section of the law that needs to be and simply fixed. We do not have to give away what marriage means to many others. Equal right can be achieved without destroying marriage. 😉  – William H

Please share, to educate others.

The responses came thick and fast!

JG: Oh William. This is just the chuckle I needed over my morning coffee.

RS:  You are a bad human

LL: if you dont like gay marriage William, don’t marry someone who’s gay. It really is as simple as that!!!!!!

MH:  Everyone has a right to marry the person they love. I will be voting for a change.

SS:  Why not worry about righting all the wrongs in your own life and strive towards being a better person before dictating how others should live .

AS:  The ignorance and fear mongering is disgraceful! Love is love, you cannot accept this then please do not reproduce

KF:  It must feel lonely being left behind in a world which is moving towards love and acceptance. Please don’t breed mate.

NH: For me, marriage is two consenting adults who wish to spend the rest of their lives in a loving relationship.. sex of the couple doesn’t come into it. Just two committed people who love one another…

EK:  Whilst I understand your comment, do not agree with it in any way. I think the meaning of marriage has changed over time and is no longer viewed with religious context to many. It is important to realise that with our ever changing and developing world theories and meanings change over time – and marriage is something that has changed. I recently married my husband , and for us getting married was a way of “sealing” our love and commitment to each other. Everyone has the right to love and be with whoever they want, to be treated and viewed with equality.

DB:  Gee thanks William for letting us know our rights. And speaking of rights, everybody should be equal under the law and you can’t help who you love.  Marriage is a legal contract and same sex people want the same benefits of law as straight people, and who are you or anybody else to deny them that

BC:  Not hard to see who he votes for, just look at his page…a Hanson supporter through and through…homophobic and xenophobic…

CR:  Who cares if you are black, white, male or female? If you love something or someone one, what is wrong with that? Love is what this world needs. Not ignorance or hate, and i am not saying yr comment is hate fueled, but an ignorant one.

LIH:  Mmm I understand that you have an opinion and that’s all good and well but how does it affect you what other people do and most heterosexual married couples divorce anyway so why can’t people just be with who they love and be recognised for it

JS:  So you have actually argued for marriage equality. Interesting. No one is asking YOU to change what marriage means to you are they now, just to provide equal rights to all couples.

SSE:  Not even gonna argue. But a big old YES here!!!

CH:  Are you kidding me ? No reason? How about my cousins deserve to marry the woman she fell in love with as much as I deserve to marry the man I fell in love with.

KB: We shouldn’t even have to vote. Wasting tax payers money on something that should be a given. Same sex marriages shouldn’t have even had to go through all this to be allowed. It’s the narrow minded ass’s like urself that needs to be educated. Look at the divorce rate?!?!?! All the married same sex marriages I know of are lasting longer than what most marriages last here. 100% yes for me !!!!!!

RS:  Dont agree with same sex marriage? Dont get married to someone the same sex as you! Problem solved. Not your business who loves who and how they wish to show that love.

AK: How does voting yes affect you in any negative way, if you don’t want to marry a gay person, don’t!  Don’t stop others from marrying who they want cause you’re scared of something you don’t understand

CR:  Marriage is the legal union of two people as partners in a personal relationship. That’s it! Not between a man and a woman. Between two people!  We have been socialised & conditioned (some would say brainwashed) to believe that it should only be between a man & a woman but it is not so. Maybe gays being married will actually restore marriage not destroy it, because there are plenty of heterosexuals who don’t seem to have any respect for marriage!

I’ll be saying YES!  Have a great day! 😊

JP:  What I don’t understand is how anybody can think it affects them, apart from same sex couples wanting to get married. Does not affect anybody else.

AW:  Marriage is not “our right” being man and woman. It should be the right of ANY two people who love each other and want to commit for life to each other…… I see far more same sex relationships working well them male and female ones…. go figure, we could all learn something from gay couples

When William H was accused of being discriminatory here was the response: 

CH:  Technically it is just a different opinion to yours. That doesn’t make it discriminatory.

ZF:  C, it’s not an opinion on whether or not he likes chocolate cake. It’s an opinion that encourages removing equal opportunity to people based on their sexual orientation, so yeah it is discriminatory.

And, of course, there were some comments on the ‘religious view’:

SB:  I had a Christian ceremony 11 years ago and when same sex couples can finally have the same right to that as me, it won’t change a thing.

NB:  Marriage is more than a union between a man and a woman, with it comes legal rights and having the wedding (one of the best days of my life and I’m sure I am not alone there). How can you call it equal rights when I can get married with no questions asked, have our day and have the legal rights that come along with it, yet there are so many others that can’t? That’s not equal rights.

MR:  ‘Marriage is a union between a man and a woman’ is a very religious way of looking at things, which is fine if you still believe in myths, fairytales and imaginary friends, fortunately it’s 2017, and religion doesn’t rule supreme anymore, time to move on and change your views to something more reasonable like – marriage is a union between two people who love each other.

CW: It really saddens me that all of these people who are preaching ‘love’, have so much hate in their heart for anyone who differs in opinion to their own

EW: Who are you to say who can or cannot make a commitment for life to another person. You are not God to order who people can love. Marriage isn’t just to provide future generations. It means that the person you are married to is your ‘next of kin’ your legal partner, your ‘other half”. Allowing everyone to choose who they love to be that ‘other half’ has nothing to do with future generations. A legal marriage makes it binding and an inseparable bond. How does it affect YOU personally William? I am heterosexual and been married for 52 years . I would never deny anyone the joy and security of a true binding love partnership. Most of my gay and lesbian friends have also been in loving partnerships for numerous years but want the security of it being legal. Some are rearing incredible children and again want the security of knowing that child will be secure and safe with the other parent should anything happen to the adoptive one.

BB: Also…the countries that force under aged girls into marriage! Is that protecting the “santity of marriage” ? As for religion !!!! how much horror has that caused in the world!!! Let’s change the world to a more happy place, especially by letting ppl who love each other be married

JL:  You know for a group of people that are supposed to love everyone the religious folk in this world cause more hate and trouble than anyone else -.-

Sunshine Coasters had a very clear idea of what is threatening the ‘sanctity’ of marriage – and it isn’t allowing to loving, consenting adults of the same sex to marry each other.

RC:  It’s very sad that people still want to treat someone that’s different to them as second class citizens. You should be ashamed of your bigotry and get educated on equal rights and who really has been destroying the meaning of marriage!

KD:  The real destroyers of the sanctity of marriage are abuse, cheating, disrespect, lack of communication, addiction and divorce. Why not focus on stopping these ‘sins’ and let people have the choice to marry who they love. I’ll be voting YES to equality

FMac: I think you need to look more closely at what actually destroys marriage: infidelity, stress, money, having kids, alcohol or drug abuse, contempt, lack of respect, not putting in the effort, choosing the wrong person, changing, growing, having married too young or for wrong reasons, getting married on tv, treating marriage as a stepping stone, marrying someone 50 years older than you then they die – none of these reasons are exclusive to the heterosexual community. So your logic is flawed. Allow people who love each other to have the same equal rights, including marriage. It’s none of your business anyway

DB:  What marriage means William? Like the many women who are abused or murdered by their husbands. Or those many who are having affairs. Then the fifty odd percent who get divorced.  Marriage is a legal contract between two people, not some fantasy land.

ECS:  You can marry your uncle, Aunty, and first cousins as long as they are the opposite sex, you can get married and divorced as many times as you like, you can marry someone of the opposite sex and abuse them to the point of death….but marriage equality is what is going to destroy ‘what marriage means’???

I don’t know about you, but MY marriage, is not defined by any other marriage, it belongs to my husband and I, it has nothing to do with anyone else, so I don’t understand why people think marriage equality will have any bearing on their own existing or future marriage?

NJ:  how is it that marriage is sacred between a woman a man but the actual respect and sanctity of marriage itself is disrespected and taken for granted by heterosexual marriages?! I believe every couple has a right to be married especially those that keep fighting to be able to have the right to be married. Those couples will actually respect marriage and it’s sanctity. go back to the middle ages

MM:  What about divorce, infidelity and that ridiculous show Married at First sight? None of those ruin the sanctity of marriage? You dear sir are a homophobic bigot who needs to keep your uneducated rants to yourself.

The next three posters summed it up nicely:

CMc: I’ve only got three words to say about the theory about homosexuality ruining the sanctity of marriage: “Ashley Martin website” .

RJ:  38 million people registered on an infidelity website, but yea it’s the gays ruining the “sanctity” of marriage

KMc:  Sorry same sex couples want to ruin the sanctity of your fourth marriage …

Some equated the discrimination with racism (although it seems the original poster is also racist):

LG:  This is like saying that African American people should have stayed sitting in the back of the bus and in the “coloured” section in cafes because at least they got to ride the bus and go to the cafe… how do you not see how that is not equality??? Being recognised legally but not being allowed a union of marriage like others is not equal.

SMCG spoke for all the families out there who just want to celebrate and honour the relationship between their loved ones and their partners – gay or straight …

I’m so excited that my daughter Haylee and Elle are getting married in three weeks.. I’ve never seen a couple so happy and in love… And I can’t wait for them to have children together and I becoming a grandparent again.. just my opinion

Or, as MW said: 

Who gives a fuck. Just let everyone get married and be done with.

And a post from KS summed it all up very nicely:

Uh, the only reason I would share this is to talk about how much I disagree with this view. There IS a reason to say yes, so that they can proudly declare their loved one as their husband and wife. That title signals so much, it does not have to be between man and woman. It should be between two people that love and adore each other. End of story.

Yep, KS. Love is love. End of story.

Chrys Stevenson


If you’d like to have some simple arguments to use against the fear-mongering and misinformation being disseminated by the “No” campaign, please take a look at Doug Pollard’s post here.

Doug’s provided a downloadable flyer which you can use for noticeboards, neighbourhood leaflet drops, or just to pass on to your friends and relatives who are ‘on the fence’.

Vote “Yes” everyone! It matters.

The Swastika-Shaped Mote in the ACL’s Eye – Melbourne’s Homophobic Poster

“Homosexual partners who lack conjugality [the joining of complementary sex organs by persons properly disposed to do so] cannot raise children as competently as heterosexual partners who possess conjugality.

… you probably all know this, this is bedrock Catholic teaching on this topic …

As a recent Catholic teaching document on this topic expresses, quote, ‘The absence of sexual complementarity in homosexual unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children such that,’ quote,  ‘allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children.’

…. Now I could be accused of hate speech in lots of settings just for reading that but here, that should be kinda background knowledge to what I’m going to cover.’

Fr. D. Paul Sullins: Gay Parenting and the Conjugal Ideal: Implications for Research – Franciscan University of Steubenville, 21 December 2013, quoting from Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect, Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Titular Archbishop of Sila, Secretary. 

This week, in the heat of the debate about the marriage equality ‘plebiscite’, a vile poster appeared on the streets of Melbourne. The poster took its inspiration from a ‘study’ by D. Paul Sullins:

The study cited on the poster is: D. Paul Sullins, “Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with Same-Sex Parents,” Depression Research and Treatment, vol. 2016, Article ID 2410392, 8 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/2410392.

Last night, Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby appeared on The Project on Network Ten. Asked about the poster, Shelton said:

“I don’t know who put that poster up. I can’t imagine anyone from our side would do that. … I know the people on our side of the debate and we’re not like that and nor would we be like that.”

Instead, Shelton suggested, the poster may have been put up by those involved in the “Yes” campaign, as a means of proving our point that a public referendum would lead to hate speech.

“[The poster] may have even come from people wanting to prove the sort of point you’re making,” Shelton told The Project host, Waleed Aly.

But, Mr Shelton misspoke; not to say, lied. Lyle Shelton’s people ARE like that. Exactly like that.

As I have shown above, Father Sullins, the ‘academic’ who provided the propaganda for this poster has publicly acknowledged his view on homosexual parenting amounts to hate speech. And Lyle Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby website promoted exactly the same study cited on that hateful poster just last year:


Make no mistake. The ‘findings’ of this piece of trash research are complete and utter fiction.

Not disclosed on the ACL website or on the hate-poster is that D. Paul Sullins is a married Catholic priest from the Catholic University of America. He is “the Director of the Summer Institute of Catholic Social Thought; a longtime board member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists; a Fellow of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute; the Ignatius Loyola Fellow for Catholic Identity at the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education; Associate Pastor of the Church of Saint Mark the Evangelist, Hyattsville, Maryland; and (not least) a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.”

Father Sullins works at the Catholic University of America. A pontifical university founded by the US Catholic Bishops. For the past 17 years, the CUA has been under censure from the American Association of University Professors for failing to honour the AAUP’s Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

In 2013, the CUA severed links with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) because of that organisation’s well-considered, evidence-based policy in favor of legalized abortion.

The CUA does not engage in a robust search for truth. Instead, as a college endorsed by the conservative Catholic Cardinal Newman Society, it conforms to the society’s aims to support education that is:

‘faithful to the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church; producing and disseminating research and publications on developments and best practices in Catholic education; and keeping Catholic leaders and families informed.’

In accordance with that aim, the Cardinal Newman Society demands that:

“Priority is … given to those means which will facilitate the integration of human and professional education with religious values in the light of Catholic doctrine, in order to unite intellectual learning with the religious dimension of life.”

The aim is not to participate in honest and open research in order to uncover the truth. Rather, it is to create documents which will pass as ‘research’ but are actually propaganda designed to rationalise Catholic ideology in a secular world.

Fr D Paul Sullins and the university he works for do not approach the subject of marriage equality and same-sex parenting from a neutral stance. Both are openly homophobic. An LGBT group within the CUA, CUAllies has repeatedly had its application to be an official student club denied on the basis that “officially recognizing the group would be supporting advocacy work against the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

A former student described the university’s attitude towards LGBTIQ students as ‘hostile’.

Credible academic journals no longer publish Father Sullins’ work. Instead, he has to pay to have his work published in ‘open access’ online journals with dubious peer review processes.

Sullins work is discredited by his peers. In a brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Obergefell et al v Ohio Department of Health, the following organisations spoke out against the inadequacy of Sullins’ research on homosexual parenting:

The American Psychological Association,

Kentucky Psychological Association,

Ohio Psychological Association,

American Psychiatric Association,

American Academy of Pediatrics,

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy,

Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy,

National Association of Social Workers,

National Association of Social Workers Tennessee Chapter,

National Association of Social Workers Michigan Chapter,

NationalAssociation of Social Workers Kentucky Chapter,

National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter,

American Psychoanalytic Association,

American Academy of Family Physicians,

and American Medical Association

They said, in part: “Recently published papers by Donald Paul Sullins … have similar methodological flaws.”

No less than three articles on same-sex parenting by Sullins are critiqued by America’s leading mental health, social work and medical bodies:

“Sullins fails to adequately take into account children’s histories of family disruption; he combines all children residing with same-sex couples into a single heterogeneous category, while creating more differentiated categories of children of opposite-sex couples (children residing with married versus single or divorced parents); he fails to acknowledge known coding errors in the NHIS data set, which resulted in the misclassification of many heterosexual partners as same-sex couples; and – in one paper – he attempts to correlate a largely heritable condition (ADHD) with variables related to children’s upbringing. In addition to these problems, none of the journals in which Sullins’ papers were published are indexed in major, reputable social science databases.”

His many detractors point out that Sullins’ academic peers, after decades of research, concluded in 2004 that:

(a) “there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: Lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children” and (b) “research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.”

They continue:

“The APA has continued to monitor the state of the scientific research and confirmed that this conclusion continues to be accurate.

Similarly, the AAP has concluded that “[t]here is extensive research documenting that there is no causal relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and children’s emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral development. Many studies attest to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic supports.”

Of the journals that have published Sullins’ shoddy research, his peers say:

“the review process used by these journals appears to have been perfunctory and conducted by reviewers without relevant expertise or any familiarity with the NHIS. Even a cursory examination of the reviews, which are posted on each journal’s web site, reveals that they raised few substantive concerns at all.”

Even the shonky pay-to-publish journal that published Sullins work has since tried to distance itself from the fallout, adding a disclaimer to the article:

“In June 2016, several readers raised concerns about this article. At that time, we evaluated the article’s peer review process and brought several concerns to the handling editor’s attention. These included: the study’s small sample of same-sex parents, the lack of discussion of other influences such as family breakup on the wellbeing of the children included in the study, the implied causation in the title ‘Invisible Victims,’ and the potential conflict of interest implied by the author’s position as a Catholic priest.”

All of this information is readily available on the internet. It took me a morning to research it. And yet, with all of the financial resources of the Australian Christian Lobby, they clearly never bothered to employ a researcher to fact-check the data they put up on their website.

Why? Because like the Catholic University of America and Father Sullins, their aim is not to disseminate the truth, but to create propaganda – no matter how much harm it does to members of the LGBTIQ community.

There are many legitimate, mainstream peer-reviewed studies from credible academic journals which show exactly the opposite to the filth disseminated by Sullins. But the Australian Christian Lobby rejects those mainstream studies because they do not mesh with their ideological bias against homosexual parenting. The Australian Christian Lobby has no interest in the truth; only in shoring up their own harmful, hateful, outdated and disproven ideas.

Father Sullins’ study is indefensible. It is not research; it is ideological, religious propaganda. Yet, the Australian Christian Lobby was not content just to promote that propaganda uncritically. When it surfaced on Melbourne’s streets as a hate-speech poster, Lyle Shelton accused supporters of marriage equality for disseminating it in order to make his side look bad – because his side wouldn’t put out material like that.

That, of course, as I have shown, is an outright lie.

The origins of the poster have been traced to a neo-Nazi organisation, called Iron March. The poster was designed by someone using the name “Regnum Dei” – literally “Kingdom of God”. Again, there are far more ideological links between that name and the ACL than between those of us campaigning for marriage equality.

“I got some new hate facts here, fresh off the press.

“Should I be putting “” on these? I’ve been debating the idea since the first one I made. On one hand, these aren’t explicitly fascist, on the other, it might attract fagbashers to this site,”

… says Regnum Dei above a graphic showing the same poster which appeared in Melbourne.

Interesting, that just like Father Sullins (and potentially the ACL), “Regnum Dei” is also fully aware he is disseminating hate-speech.

“Hey Jereb,” he says, elsewhere on the site, “I’m Regnum Dei (aka Regnum KAY KAY KAY). I’m here in NW Florida, and I want to start the Pensacola Division. I’m a high speed low drag 250 lbs, as per ROF regulations, and I have a T H I C C SHEWOLF QT GF that will redpill more STRONG INDEPENDENT WAMEN to our cause, which is SEXY.

… National Socialism? Fascism? More FACism amirite? That is NOT what our BASED MASON founding fathers wanted! Getting married through the Church? Naw, christ don’t know SHIT about my ETHNOSTATE, I’m getting married through ROF. Practicing sexual self restraint for spiritual health and not contributing to the impurity of my Kinsmen’s future wives? Naw, as stated by #5 of the Codes of RoF, recreational sex is fine so long as you use contraceptives (wouldn’t want any reponsibilty for may actions, let alone children, that is what KIKES want), and don’t worry, my T H I C C SHEWOLF QT GF uses contraceptives when out “recruiting” 😉

I’m ready for all out war, with all my TACTICAL BLACK 5.11 gear, which really blends into all the black trees, black dirt, black foliage, and black sand that makes up the Floridian biome and terrain.”

This is the kind of thinker Lyle Shelton and the Australian Christian Lobby align themselves with when they disseminate D Paul Sullins’ hate speech on their website. This is the kind of person who agrees with their perverse, extremist views on same-sex parenting.

And while suggesting links between an American neo-Nazi member of the Ku Klux Klan, a Catholic priest and the Australian Christian Lobby may seem to be drawing a ‘long bow’,   it is not as long as the link Lyle Shelton tried to draw between the hate-speech poster and those of us who advocate for marriage equality.

The Catholic Church has shameful historical links with fascism. Their ideologies and modus operandi mesh well. Throughout modern history, the Catholic Church has supported fascist regimes. It is almost needless to say, also, that the Catholic Church’s fears about ‘violence to children’ did not extend to protecting the many thousands of children under their care who were sexually and physically brutalised by their own nuns and priests. Nor that barely a whimper has been heard from the Australian Christian Lobby on this topic, other than to blame homosexuals.

But, what is less well known is that Mr Shelton’s own family and the Australian Christian Lobby are closely connected with fascism and right-wing extremism.

The Australian Christian Lobby evolved out of a religious cult called the Logos Foundation. Logos continues to this day, according to some, in the Toowoomba City Church, which operates under the auspices of Shelton’s father,  Ian Shelton,  in Toowoomba.  Lyle Shelton was raised within the Logos cult and his father was a cult leader along with Logos founder, Howard Carter. When Logos fell apart, Ian Shelton ‘regrouped’ with the formation of his Toowoomba City Church, and what had been ‘Logos’ reformed as the Network for Christian Values – later to evolve into the Australian Christian Lobby.*

It has a fascinating history, retrievable for those of us who like to trawl through internet archives and obscure books.

According to David Greason (in Faces of Hate, Cunene et al, 1997), the Australian Christian Lobby’s predecessor, the Logos Foundation,  and the fascist, ultra-nationalist, League of Rights worked in alliance during the 1980s. The League of Rights was described by the Federal Government’s National Inquiry into Racist Violence as “undoubtedly the most influential and effective as well as the best organised and most substantially financed racist organisation in Australia.”

In 1994, Derek Brown, previously the national co-ordinator of the Logos Foundation, was the director of the Network for Christian Values, later to rebadge as the Australian Christian Lobby (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, December 12, 1994).

During its heyday, Logos, had close links with both Ruis John Rushdoony’s theocratic Chalcedon Foundation and Australia’s extreme-right wing, anti-semitic League of Rights (Canberra Times, August 1994).

Today, the Chalcedon Foundation is listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, principally because of its support for the death penalty for homosexuality (Schlatter, Southern Poverty Law Centre, 2010). That is not to say the Australian Christian Lobby holds that view today, but its dubious history certainly traces back to an organisation with close links to those who did.

There is a strong history of homophobia running through the history of Logos, the NCV and the ACL. For example, during  the campaign to decriminalise homosexual sex in Queensland, the Logos Foundation (with Lyle Shelton’s father as one of its leaders) campaigned against any change to the law, branding homosexuality as ‘unnatural, unhygienic and unproductive’ (Clive Moore, Sunshine and Rainbows, 2001; Courier Mail, 7 November 1989).

Toowoomba Uniting Minister Rev. Ray Lindenmayer commented at that time on Logos leader, Howard Carter’s “extreme social, political and religious views” and how “his organisation [LOGOS] exploits people’s anxieties and insecurities to push their far right-wing agenda” (Greg Spearritt, Sea of Faith, August 2013).

The links between Logos, the Network for Christian Values (later the Australian Christian Lobby) and the fascist League of Rights are too numerous to ignore.

ACL founder, John McNicoll was a contributor to the League of Rights’ journal, “The Strategy”, although he later sought to distance himself and the Network for Christian Values (later the ACL) from the organisation and claimed NCV director, Derek Brown, had since resiled from Logos’ anti-semitic views (Canberra Times, September 1994).

Jeremy Lee was the Queensland and northern NSW director of the League of Rights and acted as the ‘defacto deputy’ to the League’s founder, Eric Butler. Lee was also a founder of the Logos Foundation.

After the Logos foundation was dissolved in the wake of founder, Howard Carter’s, sexual indiscretions it was reborn as Shelton’s Toowoomba City Church, an entity which continues to operate today.

Shelton’s son, Lyle, worked in his father’s church as a youth pastor for a time and is now the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby. Lyle Shelton maintains ties with his father’s church and preached there as recently as August 2015. In his sermon, Shelton describes himself as “very much a product of this church” and says he wouldn’t be doing what he is doing in Canberra today if it were not for the vision of his father’s church. Far from advising the congregation from toning down their extremist views, he advises, “Don’t settle for comfortable church existence – stay on the edge.”

“The edge”?  Considering the history of the ACL and the Toowoomba City Church and Lyle Shelton’s upbringing in a fascist-linked cult, one might wonder whether that’s a thinly veiled exhortation to religious and/or political extremism.

Let me be clear, I am not saying the Australian Christian Lobby produced or put up the poster in Melbourne. What I am saying is that for Lyle Shelton to suggest supporters of marriage equality had any part in a ‘false flag’ campaign linked to neo-Nazi propaganda is disgraceful.

Shelton would do well to remember the Australian Christian Lobby, his family, and the Catholic ideology he disseminates have far more links with neo-Nazis and fascists than those of us campaigning for the simple right of two people who love each other to have the right to marry in a civil ceremony.

The Australian Christian Lobby evolved from a cult that was intimately linked, through ideology and personnel, with the racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, fascist, League of Rights. That is its history. If Lyle Shelton wants to draw links between marriage equality activists and neo-Nazi propaganda, he would do well review his own history and remove the rather large swastika-shaped mote from the ACL’s eye.

Chrys Stevenson

See also: The Christian Right’s Roots in Rural Queensland by Dr John Harrison, UQ.

* The Australian Christian Lobby was started in 1995 under the name of the Australian Christian Coalition, which was developed by two Network for Christian Values board members: former Townsville Bulletin editor John Gagliardi and Canberra-based Baptist minister John McNicoll. – 

The Narcissism of Margaret Court

“This isn’t about the Margaret Court Arena. This is about the truth,” Margaret Court told her congregation at Victory Life Church, this week.

It’s a point on which Mrs Court and I agree.

The whole kerfuffle about Margaret Court’s unpopular views on the LGBTIQ community and marriage equality has very little to do with her tennis achievements or the name of a tennis arena. It has everything to do with which side of the argument is telling the truth and which is spreading malicious and deceitful misinformation. In a nutshell, it’s about who is bullying who.

What is clear is that the “facts” are firmly on the side of the LGBTIQ community. They are the victims of Mrs Court’s campaign of false and misleading propaganda. And it’s not just the LGBTIQ community arguing that Court’s arguments are factually and theologically flawed.

Robyn J. Whittaker, Bromby lecturer in Biblical Studies at Trinity College, sets out a theological argument against Court’s simple-minded fundamentalism, here.

Similarly, Rev. Dr Keith Mascord, a long time priest of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, notes that Court’s views are not only out of step with the majority of Christians, but are factually unsustainable. He says:

“Conservative opponents of marriage equality express concern that the social fabric of our nation will be undermined, and that children especially will be hurt if we tamper with marriage. But the big problem is that these concerns are proving harder and harder to substantiate, with almost all the accumulating evidence suggesting that far from undermining society, marriage equality will strengthen the bonds and extend the reach of an institution with a proven track record of helping us all to flourish.”

We’ve heard a lot about narcissism in recent times. Inadvertently, President Donald Trump has brought much needed attention to this malignant personality trait. Coincidentally, I’ve had my own personal run-in with a narcissist. I know, first-hand, how their avaricious egos feed on attention (positive or negative). I know how they adorn themselves with lie upon lie until whatever was authentic, human and caring within them suffocates and dies. I know how they feign love and empathy, but have the capacity to feel neither. And, I know, when challenged, or caught out in a lie, how they puff out their chests, turn the argument around to make you the ‘bad guy’ and whine loudly about how they are the victim and you, the aggressor.

I understand, first-hand,  how destructive narcissism can be. Narcissists are ruthless. They are parasites, intent on self-aggrandisement and the preservation of their exoskeleton of falsehoods. They have nothing else. They are empty vessels.

Not all liars, of course, are narcissists. It’s one thing to base one’s entire existence on easily disproved falsehoods. But, to constantly seek public attention through the promotion of these lies and to reject out-of-hand the evidence that your lies are hurting – possibly even killing – people, reeks of a malignant form of pathological narcissism.

Is Margaret Court a malignant narcissist with delusions of grandeur? I’m not a psychologist, nor do I know her personally, so I can’t say. I can say her behaviour reminds me strongly of someone with this personality disorder.

As a tennis champion, Mrs Court attracted a great deal of attention and adulation. It’s quite clear part of the reason for her success was her single-minded focus on what was best for Margaret Court.

When other athletes boycotted South Africa because of their policy of apartheid, Mrs Court cheerfully played in a segregated tournament. She was unperturbed by the fact her doubles partner, Evonne Goolagong, was only spared discrimination because she was deemed to be an ‘honorary white’. Indeed, at the time, Mrs Court praised the South African government’s policy.

“South Africans have this thing better organised than any other country, particularly America. I love South Africa. I’ll go back there any time.”

Sensing, perhaps, that this quote may come back to haunt her, Mrs Court alluded to it in her 2016 autobiography:

“… when I accepted the invitation to play in the South African Championships I truly didn’t understand the fuss because I had not bothered to educate myself about the iniquities of apartheid.”

Despite hundreds of other leading sportspeople standing firmly against racism, Mrs Court was so focussed on what was best for her, it didn’t even occur to her to look into what the ‘fuss’ was all about. She didn’t bother to consider what it might mean for her young Aboriginal doubles partner. She gave no credence to any argument that might interfere with her own interests, ambitions and quest for attention. If it wasn’t in the best interests of Margaret Court, she simply didn’t want to hear it.

Importantly, that is exactly what she is doing in this current debate. The overwhelming majority of medical and mental health experts assert that homosexuality is a natural, unchosen and unchangeable expression of human sexuality. It is proven beyond any doubt that attempts at ‘gay conversion’ (as practiced in Mrs Court’s own church) are cruel, dangerous and often lead to self-harm and suicide. Psychologists agree the toxic culture created by those who suggest homosexuality (and gender dysphoria)  is perverted and unnatural causes untold psychological and physical harm to members of the LGBTIQ community, particularly teens. The evidence is overwhelming, indisputable and freely available. Yet, Mrs Court obstinately refuses to be ‘bothered’ to educate herself about the ‘iniquities’ of discrimination against LGBTIQ people.

Yes, she resiled from her former racist stance. But, only because racism is now so socially unacceptable it would irreparably taint her reputation were she to maintain her support for apartheid today. But, in the current climate, the LGBTIQ community are still a soft target. Tolerance for homophobic views is diminishing, but homophobia still carries some social currency.

“Margaret is entitled to her opinion!” we hear, from people who would never use the same defence against someone who suggested our schools should be segregated or that Aborigines should never have been given the vote.

Mrs Court could educate herself on LGBTIQ issues. There is no shortage of people who would help her. But she will not. Why? Because to do so would inflict a terminal wound to the persona she has carefully constructed to ensure continued global attention even as her sporting achievements fade from memory. Mrs Court’s lies are form an armour. They are her means of  self-preservation. Without them, she is merely a faded tennis star of no particular contemporary importance. She has never done anything notable but thwack a ball across a net. With those glory days long gone, the only currency she has left is controversy.

It’s interesting that, as Court’s sporting career faded, she took on the mantle of one chosen by God. What can be more satisfying to an ego, constantly in need of nourishment, than the belief you are in personal communication with, and an emissary of, an omnipotent deity!

But it was not sufficient for Mrs Court to simply become a member of a congregation, nor even to preach from the pulpit of a mainstream denomination. No. Mrs Court founded her own church; a church, in which, incredibly, the opinions of God mesh perfectly with Mrs Court herself! As a Pentecostal pastor, her congregation accepts her as God’s mouthpiece – infallible. It’s almost as if she were God incarnate.

I am not qualified to state that Mrs Court is a narcissist in the clinical sense. But, if one were a narcissist, having a whole congregation of co-dependants would be a very efficient means of ensuring a boundless well of narcissistic supply. (And, the fact their tithes and donations provide you with a very nice living couldn’t hurt, either.)

Mrs Court’s church is not one of those unassuming bodies which toils quietly but assiduously for good causes. Far from humble, Mrs Court’s Victory Life Centre aspires to TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION.

Despite protestations she doesn’t have a political bone in her body, Margaret Court’s personal church is aligned with the dominionist “7 Mountains movement”. This is why she calls Victory Life Centre a “church with a purpose”. The purpose is not to feed the poor, help the needy or comfort the infirm. The aim is firmly and undeniably political. The clearly stated goal of the 7 Mountains mandate is to build a literal army to take over all the governments of the world and install ‘prophets’ like Mrs Court as the new world leaders. Don’t believe me? This comes direct from the church’s website:

“Victory Life centre was founded in May 1995 by Rev Dr Margaret Court following a call from God to establish and Word of Faith/Pentecostal ministry in the Perth area. Our Vision is to Train an army of people who know Christ from within, to take this city and nation for Jesus. This has been the focus of the church since its inception and this has, in part, been accomplished through the establishing of Victory Life International Bible Training Centre and Margaret Court Community Outreach Centre.”

“… The driving force in [Margaret Court’s] call is … the desire to see God’s people equipped and trained to take back the seven mountains of society.”

What are these ‘7 mountains’? You can read about them here. Briefly, the 7 Mountains mandate states that until Godly government (i.e. theocracy) is installed in all the nations of the world, Jesus will not return. The 7 Mountains movement is intrinsically political, in that it seeks to infiltrate, influence and eventually take over the governments and public institutions of the world. Not exactly a humble ambition.

Of course this is a wacky idea and one that’s never likely to be achieved. That is not the point. Dominionists may never achieve their ultimate goal, but they can do a hell of a lot of collateral damage to real and innocent people in the attempt. The fact that Mrs Court’s church reflects the opinion of only a tiny minority of Christians is no more comforting than the knowledge that ISIS reflects the sentiments of only a tiny minority of Muslims.

And, it’s important to note that Mrs Court’s opinions on homosexuality do not reflect the views of Christians as a whole. Indeed, the majority of Australian Christians support marriage equality (an indisputable fact, disputed, nevertheless, by Mrs Court).

It is not necessary for Mrs Court to hurt the LGBTIQ community in order to be a Christian. But her fundamentalist stance is necessary to preserve her status as a Pentecostal pastor, a prophet of the New Apostolic Reformation  and the public notoriety her anti-social views afford her. Her homophobia is strategic and entirely self-serving.

The fact is, while Mrs Court may have to settle for negative attention from the wider populace these days, it is still attention, and it’s offset by the reverence she receives from within her own church. Accordingly, she is reassured she is still ‘important’, still ‘relevant’, still someone whose opinion matters on a global scale.

Margaret Court could have kept her protest letter to QANTAS private. As Russell Jackson pointed out in his Guardian article, she knows full-well what happens when she goes public with her views:  “It is undeniable I was – am – good copy,” Court has said.

Jackson claims Court’s  provocations are ‘calculated’. He notes she was well aware of what would follow her ‘open letter’ to QANTAS, having started a similar firestorm in 2011. As she said of that incident: “My statement was akin to pulling the pin on a hand grenade and throwing it into a crowded room.”

But, she went right ahead; basking in the torrent of negative publicity that followed. Who, but a narcissist feeds on such negative attention?

And, in a response typical of a narcissist, when she received the onslaught of criticism she knowingly invited, she claimed it was she who was being bullied, she who was the victim of a campaign of lies, and she who was the sole bearer of ‘The Truth’.

Margaret Court ‘hasn’t bothered’ to educate herself about the iniquities of her position on homosexuality, gender dysphoria and marriage equality. She doesn’t care that attitudes like hers pollute the culture as surely as toxic chemicals poison our waterways. She is not the least bit concerned that her views fuel discrimination against members of the LGBTIQ community or that the result is alarmingly high levels of mental illness, addiction, self-harm and suicide – particularly amongst young, gay and transgender teens. None of this matters to Mrs Court as much as her own ego and desperate need for attention.

Margaret Court may or may not be a narcissist in the clinical sense. But her behaviour, her attitude, her choices, her hubristic refusal to educate herself and her cold-hearted lack of concern for the consequences of her actions,  are certainly self-serving and narcissistic.

It’s hard to know how one should feel about Margaret Court. It’s all terribly sad really. She is both a comic and pitiful figure, despite the harm she is causing. Whilst reeling from my own experience with a malignant narcissist with delusions of grandeur, I asked a mental health expert whether I should hate the narcissist or feel sorry for him.

“Both,” she advised, “do both.”

Chrys Stevenson

NSW Pollies ‘Keep the Faith’ on Abortion Bill

To cries of “shame” from the pubic gallery, the NSW parliament, this week, voted against a bill which sought to decriminalise abortion. The bill’s other reforms included a requirement for anti-abortion doctors to refer patients to doctors who are willing to help them and called for 150 metre safe-access zones around abortion clinics to protect women from ‘pro-life’ protestors.

As journalist, Tracey Spicer, reminded us on Twitter this afternoon:

“One-in-three Australian women will have an abortion during their lifetime. I did. We deserve better than to be treated as criminals.”

Spicer quoted from her recent memoir, The Good Girl Stripped Bare:

“The ability of women to control their bodies is critical to civil rights. If the government forces you to continue a pregnancy, what about using contraception or undergoing sterilisation? It’s a slippery slope. Bottom line? It’s my body, not yours.”

It beggars belief that Dr Mehreen Faruqi’s (Greens) sensible and humane bill was rejected by the NSW parliament. The views of those who voted against the bill are completely out of step with their constituents.

Polls and surveys undertaken over the last 30 years have consistently shown majority community support for abortion rights.

Importantly,  a 2010 study of practicing obstetricians and gynaecologists in Australia identified  “broad support among responding specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists and trainees for the availability of induced abortion in Australia”.

If politicians are elected to represent the views and interests of their constituents in consultation with experts in relevant fields, why was this bill defeated?

It seems clear there is some other agenda at play.

I looked at the list of politicians who voted against the bill.

I found five (21 percent) of the 24 politicians who opposed it have the dubious honour of being listed on the Australian Christian Values Institute’s  ‘Hall of Fame’: Robert Brown, David Clarke, Shoquette Moselmane, Fred Nile and Duncan Gay.

That was an incentive to explore the religious connection further.

My investigation found 66 percent (16) of the dissenting politicians seem to have some religious affiliation or belief.

I was unable to find no religious connections or convictions for only 7 of the 24 dissenters (29 percent).

Of those who opposed the bill:

  • 25 percent (6) were Catholic: Robert Borsak, David Clarke, Greg Donnelly, Greg Pearce, Ernest Wong and Catherine Cusack.

“My high school years were spent under the guiding influence of the Brothers and the devoted lay teachers at Christian Brothers College in Fremantle … [Pope John Paul II’s] tireless promotion of the innate dignity of the human person and life itself was, and will continue to be, an inspiring example for all of us.” – First Speech – Greg Donnelly (Labor)

David Clarke is a co-operator of the Opus Dei prelature of the Roman Catholic Church, and is considered to have conservative Christian views. His wife is a member of Opus Dei.” – Wikipedia

“Another layer of cultural influence was added by my parent’s choice of a Jesuit senior school in which the additional values of Catholic social justice, ethical thinking and deep respect for education featured prominently.” – First Speech – Ernest Wong (Labor)

29 percent (7) seem to identify with or have connections with various Protestant faiths:  Scott Farlow, Scot MacDonald, Shayne Mallard, Paul Green, Fred Nile, Natasha MacLaren-Jones, Bronnie Taylor

“I enter this place a Christian and wish to acknowledge in this Chamber Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, the King of Kings. I bring my Christian values to this place, as much as they are the values that define me.” – First Speech – Scott Farlow (Liberal)

Perhaps Farlow should be reminded of the disclaimer he made after making such a strong declaration of faith:  “I believe in Christian values and I seek to uphold them, I do not believe it is my place to legislate them … I do not believe the Bible, Torah, Quran or any religious text should be used as the yardstick for determining public policy.”

“I value our Judea [sic] Christian foundations.”  – First Speech – Scot MacDonald (Liberal)

“… over the years I have also worked constructively with Hillsong and the Salvation Army as an elected local councillor” – First Speech – Shayne Mallard (Liberal)

“… I must acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, who has led me to this place to serve the people of this great State … The Christian Democratic Party seeks to support and promote pro-Christian and pro-family policies for the benefit of all Australians, and to ensure that all legislation is brought into conformity with Christian principles …” – First Speech – Paul Green (Christian Democratic Party)

“My parents instilled in me the important values and beliefs of personal responsibility, Christianity … Being part of a very close-knit family myself, based on Christian values ….” – First Speech – Natasha MacLaren-Jones (Liberal)

Two (8 percent) are ‘Christian’ but I was unable to pinpoint a denomination: Lou Amato, Rick Colless.

“It is with a joyful heart that I thank God for granting me the privilege of serving as a member of the Legislative Council. I also ask God to continue to offer me guidance and wisdom so that I may discharge my duties with honesty and integrity. “ – First Speech – Lou Amato (Liberal)

In 2012 Rick Colless refused to vote in favour of a motion to urge the federal parliament to support same-sex marriage on the basis of his “Christian background”

One (4 percent) is Muslim: Shaoquette Moselmane.

I was unable to find any religious connections for Robert Brown, Ben Franklin, Duncan Gay, Trevor Khan, Niall Blair, Taylor Martin, Peter Phelps, or Sarah Mitchell (33 percent) – although that does not mean there are none.

“Given the overwhelming public and medical support for decriminalising abortion, Duncan Gay also seems to have ignored his own guidelines in voting against the bill:  ““My own overriding belief is that Government should reflect the views of the people whose franchise we all hold and most definitely not lead in the direction of our own philosophies. The lessons of history, of what happens when governments do not reflect the true feelings of the people, should be acknowledged.” – First Speech – Duncan Gay (Nationals)

Whether for religious or political reasons, none of these 24 politicians represented the views of the majority of NSW residents, nor the best interests of women. None of them acted in line with expert medical opinion.

As Catholic MLC Catherine Cusack said in her opening speech to Parliament:

“I close by drawing on the great example and words of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick on the occasion of her maiden speech some 25 years ago: It is my hope that I may give account of myself in this Parliament so that at the end I can say, in the words of St Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” – First Speech – Catherine Cusack (Liberal)

You certainly have, Ms Cusack. But, only in a theocracy is ‘keeping the faith’ of St Paul the role of a politician. Your job is not to ‘keep the faith’ but to represent the views of the people who elected you.

In this instance, neither you, nor your colleagues, have kept faith with the people you represent.

Chrys Stevenson

Hillsong Church vs a Woman of ‘Impeccable Character’

Tanya Levin – a woman of impeccable character

What kind of bastardry does it take to for a multi-million dollar enterprise (in league with the NSW Police) to pursue a criminal conviction against a single mother for two years over a minor infringement she had no clue she had committed?

What if that single mother’s career – her only source of income – depended on a clean record?

What if the woman’s only crime was standing in a non-ticketed area, on a public concourse, outside a publicly owned convention venue?

Petty? Nasty? A waste of police resources and precious court time? Lacking in common sense? Yes!  All of these things. But, what if it’s far worse than that?

What if the organisation intent on destroying the life, career and financial security, (not only of this woman, but her teenage son), was a church? Hillsong Church.

And what if this church, which put a woman through hell for two years for the crime of walking on a public footpath, was closely linked to the state’s commissioner of police? What if the commissioner of police was so closely allied to this church and its leadership, he actually attended the conference where she was arrested?

That’s the position my friend, writer and social worker, Tanya Levin, found herself in over the past two years.

When Hillsong held their annual convention at Olympic Park in Sydney in 2015, the television show, A Current Affair, asked her for an interview outside the convention venue.

Tanya grew up in Hillsong Church. In 2007, her memoir, People in Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story of a Life In and Out of Hillsong, was published to great acclaim and wide publicity. Tanya wrote the book critically, but with no malice. As she transitioned from teenager to adult, Tanya’s religious and political views changed and she became increasingly uneasy about the church’s values, priorities and wealth. But, her book (which I’ve read twice) was not a hatchet job. At worst, it was a fair and balanced account of her personal views on a very public and very wealthy organisation. As Hillsong sued neither Tanya nor the publisher, one can only assume any negative claims made in the book were truthful and not defamatory. Yet, hyper-sensitive to any kind of questioning or criticism, the church slapped Tanya with a life-time ban in 2005 for daring to disagree publicly with church leader, Bobbi Houston.

In her book, Tanya describes how she tried hard to do the right thing by Hillsong. She wrote twice to church leaders, Brian and Bobbi Houston, asking for an interview to get their side of the story, but she was refused. She genuinely didn’t want to be unfair. Tanya went back to the church to observe a service in case things had changed since she was a member of the congregation: the Houstons had her forcibly removed by security!

Eight years later, the Houstons’ wrath had clearly not cooled. As Tanya stood with the television crew, outside the convention venue, on a public concourse, they were approached by police and told they were ‘trespassing’. The claim was that Hillsong had rented both the stadium and the area surrounding it. Despite the concourse area being open to passing members of the public, as an outspoken critic of the church, ‘banned-for-life’ Tanya Levin was not welcome. Tanya and the ACA team complied and moved to another area. In fact, the police record states Tanya ran to comply with their request!

After the interview, Tanya inadvertently stepped back into a space designated as ‘private’ (although there was no barrier, marking or other indication to delineate it). Now, she was beckoned back well inside the ‘perimeter’ by a police officer. She was astonished to be told, as this was her second infringement, she was under arrest.

As Tanya said to me privately, “I’m South African and terrified of the police. It’s weird. If a policeman tells me to move, I move!”

There is absolutely no way she would have trespassed intentionally. Anyone who knows Tanya knows that. The irony is that two people who know Tanya best – who have known her since childhood – are Hillsong’s leaders, Brian and Bobbi Houston.

The police record also notes, ominously, that Tanya was seen ‘speaking to children’. The truth is, after her interview, a 15 year old approached Tanya to ask why she’d been moved on by police. Natural curiosity. Tanya, politely, asked the young lady  if she enjoyed attending Hillsong. The girl replied “no”: she was forced to attend by her foster family. She said Brian Houston made disparaging remarks about people suffering from mental illness and it made her uncomfortable because she had ‘mental problems’. That was the extent of the conversation – entirely at the instigation of the young lady. God forbid she should grow up to voice any criticism of the Houstons or their church or she may find herself in the same position as Tanya!

Tanya was removed and interrogated before being allowed to leave. The people at A Current Affair wanted nothing to do with it and gave her no support – certainly, no financial support – to fight the charges.

Tanya was traumatised. And the trauma was dragged out for 2 years as she was forced to find the financial and emotional resources to fight a multi-million dollar organisation and the NSW police in court to prevent being branded a criminal.

At her first hearing, Tanya was found guilty and a criminal conviction was recorded.  It was devastating. The decision severely limited her ability to find a job in her chosen profession – as a social worker – or in any other profession for that matter. She was innocent, but did not have the financial resources to fight it. And yet, her only recourse was to appeal.

Tanya’s friends rallied and helped raise some funds for costs. Through her social network, an experienced solicitor and barrister with a distaste for religious bullies offered to represent her pro bono.

Last week, a magistrate decided, while there was no technical error in her previous conviction, Tanya’s ‘impeccable character’ and previously clean criminal record, together with the fact she could not, reasonably, have known she was committing a crime, warranted the conviction being overturned.

Tanya was deemed to be a person of ‘impeccable character’; it is a great deal more than can be said for the church which pursued Tanya out of fear, spite and raw hatred. Ironically, if Brian Houston had emulated the religious figure he exploits to fund his multi-million dollar empire, he would have stepped in to ask for the charges to be withdrawn. Instead, he did nothing. He certainly never stopped to ask himself, “What would Jesus do?”

And what of the police service which aided Hillsong in this ridiculous, costly and unfair persecution? One can only hope now-retired Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, a close friend of Brian Houston and his church,  was not involved in this tawdry and unjust witch hunt.  And what is the relationship between Hillsong and the NSW Police now Scipione is gone? If there is an  alliance between Hillsong and the NSW Police, it seems a hell of an unholy one, to me.

Chrys Stevenson


A note from Tanya


‘Attack’ Stuff-Up ‘Business as Usual’ for ACL

On Wednesday night there was an incident at the Australian Christian Lobby’s headquarters in Deakin, Canberra.

A van, filled with gas bottles, exploded outside the building that houses the ACL’s offices, blowing out the windows, causing damage to the front of the building and some furnishings within it.  The incident occurred late at night when the building was deserted.

Originally, the ACL’s managing director, Lyle Shelton tweeted:

“A vehicle has rammed our office in Canberra & exploded. All Staff are safe. I do not know the condition of the driver. Prayers appreciated.

Then, a little later:

“A closer view of the car bomb driven into the ACL office in Canberra tonight. Shocked that this could happen in Australia.”

“I’m sure it’s a message to intimidate us and cause us to be silent in the public square and that’s something we’re not prepared to do,” said Shelton in a newspaper interview.

“It’s more important than ever that we have our voice involved in the public discourse.”

Shelton went on to connect the ‘attack’ with ‘multiple threats’  the ACL had received in relation to its opposition to marriage equality and the Safe Schools anti-bullying program.

Shelton blamed left-wing politicians and activists for inciting the ‘attack’. Our sin? Accurately describing an organisation which dedicates  millions of dollars and the vast majority of its time towards attacking the LGBTIQ community as a ‘hate group’.

What has since transpired is that the ACL’s building was not “rammed”. The vehicle appears to have been parked neatly outside in a parking bay.

Nor was it ‘attacked’. After speaking to the driver and his family, Federal Police confirmed the incident was neither politically, religiously,  nor ideologically motivated.

It seems likely the driver’s only target was himself.

Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but, to me, it seemed ‘elementary’ that no self-respecting terrorist was likely to stage a suicide bombing in the dead of night at a deserted building. What would be the point in killing no-one but yourself? It’s a pity Lyle doesn’t even have the reasoning skills to work that out!

And, while we might recount plenty of stories about Christians persecuting, torturing and even murdering members of the LGBTIQ community, celebrating acts of violence against them, assassinating abortionistsblowing up abortion clinics , and even whole office buildings (not enough? see more here), there’s scant evidence the allegedly ‘pink jackbooted’ gays have ever retaliated with more than a glittery parade of semi-clad, spray-tanned hotties samba-dancing down Oxford Street.

There was simply no reason to believe the ACL had been ‘targeted’. Police certainly didn’t make that assertion. But Shelton, predictably, decided the ‘truth’ must be what suited his own carefully constructed persecution complex and this was the narrative he fed to the media.

Even when it became apparent Shelton’s take on the story had no basis in truth, he refused to retract and apologise. And apologies are due.

  • He pre-empted a police inquiry into a serious incident.
  • He made hurtful and damaging assumptions about the motives and character of a person who appears to have some serious mental health issues.
  • He undoubtedly caused additional pain and suffering to an already traumatised family.
  • He slurred members of the LGBTIQ community with his insinuations.
  • And, he blamed supporters of that community for inciting a crime which never occurred.

This, of course, is Shelton’s regular modus operandi and we should not be surprised.

Shelton and the Australian “Christian” Lobby routinely ignore experts and evidence in their assertion that marriage equality and same-sex parenting is harmful to children. It isn’t. 

They routinely rely on dodgy ‘studies’ using patently flawed methodology to prop up their arguments. Or, worse, they misrepresent the findings of legitimate studies or quote outdated studies – much to the horror of the authors.

They simply don’t care about ‘the truth’. They have a narrative in their head that serves their purpose and simply will not countenance any argument (no matter how sound) that contradicts their forgone conclusions.

In his disgusting performance today, Lyle Shelton has simply followed the Australian Christian Lobby’s tried and true formula.

  • Develop a narrative that suits your ideological stance
  • Show no regard for the damage that narrative may cause innocent people
  • Refuse to listen to counter-arguments and contrary evidence from experts and credible academic sources
  • Denigrate anyone who disagrees with your inventive narrative
  • And cast yourselves as ‘victims’ despite there being no evidence to substantiate this claim.

Lyle Shelton has, once again, proven he is unfit to lead a major lobby group, that the Australian “Christian” Lobby should not be taken seriously.

Jesus may well have been “the way, the truth, and the life”, but, in his name, the Australian Christian Lobby have perverted the cause to: “the misdirect, the mendacious and the death of reason”.

Chrys Stevenson

The Race to Irrelevancy – Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby

horse-raceIt is now clear the Australian public overwhelmingly opposes a plebiscite on marriage equality.  But, even if a plebiscite is held, we know most people will vote in favour of reform. Recent studies show  62 per cent of Australians and all but one electorate believe Australia should have marriage equality.

Despite the millions of dollars the Australian Christian Lobby has ploughed into demonising the LGBTIQ community, it has decisively lost the battle for Australian hearts and minds. As the debate has progressed, the Australian public has moved inexorably towards treating their fellow citizens as equal human beings. The fear-mongering fanaticism of Lyle Shelton’s fundamentalist lobby group (which wants the government to spend $200 million to amplify its message of homophobic hatred) has failed to gain traction.

While children live in poverty, while gay, trans and straight kids continue to face bullying in schools, while elderly people struggle to pay their bills, while the homeless inhabit our streets and parks, while every week a woman is being killed by an act of domestic violence, while Australians continue to die from preventable diseases, while medical research institutes cry out for better funding, while climate change threatens catastrophic environmental and human devastation, while low-income families and pensioners suffer because the government ‘cannot afford’ to fund dental care, while people with disabilities cry out for improved support and facilities, while Aboriginal disadvantage is entrenched by lack of medical and education services, while we keep refugees in disgusting conditions offshore because ‘we cannot afford to have them here’, and while farmers battle to save their farms, Mr Shelton and his merry bunch of “Christians” lobby the government to spend $200 million of tax-payers’ money to fight a battle against human love; a battle they know they cannot win.

The battle is clearly lost. But will Shelton concede gracefully and lobby for those funds to be redirected to any one of a million causes that would actually relieve human suffering? No.

And the reason is this. Despite its name, Shelton does not lead a Christian lobby group. He leads an anti-gay hate group. Opposing marriage equality is a crusade for Shelton whose homophobia was learned in the cult in which he was raised. One might even call it an obsession. Under Shelton, homophobia has become the Australian Christian Lobby’s raison d’être.


Yet, the group does not represent the majority of Australian Christians  (or those of other religions) who support same-sex marriage. The ACL represents only the fringe view of a rag-tag remnant group of a long-since-discredited 1980s cult.

Shelton’s intransigence on this issue will have no effect whatsoever on the inevitability of marriage equality. But, ironically, in flogging this particular, homophobic horse, he has guaranteed the inevitable demise of the Australian Christian Lobby.

The race is not yet finished, but the ACL has already lost. The Australian people want marriage equality and they will get it. What purpose then for the ACL? Shelton’s cultish views have no traction in modern Australia. By holding fast to the values of the not-quite-dead Logos Foundation, he has guaranteed the ACL’s inevitable decline into abject irrelevance.

Under Shelton’s Logos-inspired leadership, the Australian Christian Lobby has lost its fight against marriage equality. It has lost its fight for a plebiscite. It has lost the respect of Australia’s Christian community. Shelton has shown himself to be even more incompetent than his predecessor at prosecuting his indefensible case against love, justice and equality.

Shelton and his ilk have done more to bring Christianity into disrepute than almost any institution outside the Catholic Church and its shameful history of child rape. They are a joke to non-religious Australians and an embarrassment to their fellow Christians.

I doubt that Shelton has the nous, the management skills or the humanity to concede defeat. He’ll carry this tired old nag over the finish line until they both buckle under the weight of public opinion. And who will mourn the passing of the Australian Christian Lobby? No-one. Because, as a “Christian” organisation, Shelton’s tired old hobby-horse is an abject failure. Not one Australian life is better for it ever having existed – and a great many are considerably worse off.

It’s one hell of a legacy, Lyle.

Chrys Stevenson