17 February 2016

The Australian Christian Lobby stands by its call for anti-discrimination laws to be set aside during the marriage plebiscite debate, arguing that it was necessary to facilitate free speech.

Responding today to comments by Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said Anti-Discrimination laws were being used by activists to shut-out opposing views.

“None of our arguments vilify or hate and neither should they. The arguments are not the problem. The laws are the problem. In particular, the abuse of the laws and legal processes by activists,” Mr Shelton said.

“State-based Human Rights Commissions are often weaponised by activists against those with different views. A complaint does not even have to be legally defensible for process to start, for lawyers to be engaged, mediation to be required and for intimidation to be achieved. This is ripe for abuse by activists on legally spurious grounds.

“Being taken to law is extremely intimidating for laypeople who express reasonable views in debates. They are watching the case of Archbishop Julian Porteous, they have heard about others through church newsletters and community groups. They are silenced for fear of retribution. This is how misguided laws and legal processes are silencing the community.

Mr Shelton said it would not be an unprecedented move to temporarily set-aside the anti-discrimination laws.

“This is not a new idea. In the UK a speech protection exists in s29J of the Public Order Act 1986 which states in part, ‘any discussion or criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to marriage shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred’,” Mr Shelton said.

“This is a genuine need so that activists don’t abuse the law as Rodney Croome of Australian Marriage Equality did when he urged supporters to report Archbishop Porteous to the Human Rights Commission for completely benign and reasonable comments about marriage.

“When the law stops decent people from saying reasonable things, it is defective.”