The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes news that a complaint against Hobart’s Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has been dropped today by the complainant, Greens candidate Martine Delaney.
However, Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it was a travesty of justice that Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner believed the Archbishop had a case to answer simply for distributing the Catholic Church marriage booklet “Don’t Mess with Marriage.”
“What Archbishop Porteous did was completely reasonable and he should have the right to express a point of view on marriage,” Mr Shelton said.
“This was an example of where State-based Human Rights Commissions are often being 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 have watched the case of Archbishop Julian Porteous and they are being 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.”