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ACL's Lyle Shelton on the Political Spot about Make it Count 2013 Election Panel webcast
· July 30, 2013 10:00 AM
Lyle Shelton is the ACL's Managing Director. In this interview with the ACL's Katherine Spackman he talks about the upcoming Make it Count 2013 Election Panel webcast ACL is organising in the lead up to the federal election. Audio
ACL's Managing Director Lyle Shelton says a Christian constitutency does exist
· May 30, 2013 10:00 AM
Last week an opinion piece was published in ABC Religion and Ethics by Steph Judd titled
What Christian constituency? Which burnt bridges? Kevin Rudd, the ACL and same-sex marriage
. ACL's Managing Director Lyle Shelton responded with an opinion piece published called
A Christian constituency does exist, and it should have a voice
A copy of his piece is republished below.
In the mid-1990s, when I was a journalist working for Rural Press Limited, I was posted to the company's Canberra bureau in Parliament House for six weeks to fill in for a colleague. I was intrigued at the influence various constituencies had over politics and the media.
My job was to write syndicated articles for the company's rural weeklies reporting on decisions from Canberra impacting the nation's famers. All manner of rural industry lobbyists walked the corridors and had open access to ministers and backbenchers alike.
At the time, rural industry was in decline as farms were being aggregated and families were leaving the land in droves. There were less than 100,000 broadacre farmers in Australia and these were represented by bodies such as the wool, beef and grains councils. Like all media boxes in the gallery, ours was stuffed with releases from a cacophony of organisations seeking influence. None were from Christian groups.
Something was wrong, I thought to myself. If farmers with their dwindling numbers could influence the democratic processes so effectively, why couldn't Christians? Sure, farmers were important to the economy, but their voting numbers were small and they tended not to live in marginal seats. I knew there were far more than 100,000 Christians in Australia, yet at the time there was no organised advocacy group working in the media or with politics putting their point of view to government. Even if only a fraction of the 19% of Australians who attend church once per month supported a Christian voice into public policy, they would still represent one of the largest constituencies walking the halls of power.
Fast-forward to the early-2000s, when Brigadier Jim Wallace, a former commander of the elite SAS and Army's Mechanised Brigade, came on the scene. He retired after a prestigious 32-year military career to take on Australian Christian Lobby. A leader and strategist, Jim gave Christians a rational voice into government.
Over the next 13 years, Jim raised up a formidable team of professional lobbyists working into State and Federal Parliaments. Like other "industry lobbyists," Jim maintained a high media profile, as did his various state directors. For the first time, grassroots Christians holding to orthodox Christian teaching were organised enough to influence public policy in a non-partisan manner through the democratic process.
While we assert that a Christian constituency exists, we have never tried to definitively quantify it. Yes, 19% of Christians attend church once per month. It is these committed Christians who populate the pews and tend to hold to orthodox Christian teachings on justice, marriage, human life, family and the importance of helping the poor - a broad range of policy areas that ACL has always sought to influence.
The relentless push by activists to redefine marriage has caused us to divert precious time and resource to upholding marriage over the past two years, but as important as it is, this issue has never been ACL's sole focus. For us the bigger picture is seeing both sides of politics persuaded to consider policy influenced by the Judeo-Christian ethic that until recently made the West the place that everyone wanted to imitate and still where most want to live.
This is our objective: to see an Australia that is a more just, moral and compassionate society. This can't be achieved by any presumed propriety religious position or argument, but if the ideas have merit, are for the common good and Christians can persuade governments through the democratic processes, why shouldn't they mobilise a constituency to this end?
The University of Sydney's Rodney Smith has said that he researched electorates that ACL had "targeted" and found no difference from the national swing. But unfortunately, he assumes a coincidence of method with other political players that we have long resisted. Until now, we have never even considered targeting electorates (although we are considering it for the upcoming election).
We hold "Meet Your Candidate" forums in some electorates, but this hardly constitutes "targeting electorates." It is a service to the Christian constituency so they have an opportunity to know the people they are being asked to vote for and what motivates them. Surely something any devotee of democracy would applaud.
While ACL cannot accurately say how big the Christian constituency is, others have passed comment on Christians' influence on elections. Writing in the Weekend Australian in 2008, Christopher Pearson referenced the former Labor Senator John Black's organisation, Australian Development Strategies, and its analysis of the 2007 "Rudd-slide" election:
"The most surprising of his findings is that the religious affiliation of swinging voters played a more decisive role in determining the outcome than any other single factor. It will have a markedly restraining influence on government policy."
This brings me to Kevin Rudd and his unfortunate capitulation on marriage this week. After years of being one of the strongest advocates for marriage, he suddenly changed his principles citing bizarre theological interpretations not supported by any of Australia's major Christian denominations, all of whom oppose redefining marriage.
In her article, Steph Judd suggested that I sledged Rudd and that this lacked Christian grace. Politics is a tough game, even for Christian lobbyists. We strive for grace and maybe I could have been more gracious. However, I felt it was also important that a clear message was sent that we could no longer justify and defend Kevin Rudd to the constituency.
ACL was heavily criticised by some Coalition members for giving Kevin Rudd a platform along with John Howard at our 2007 Make it Count election webcast. ACL was also criticised by many sceptical Christians who could not reconcile Rudd's behaviour with his claims to be a Christian, yet we defended him publicly as recently as two weeks ago.
While none of us are perfect, ACL was certainly prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and to urge forgiveness for his occasional outbursts, and his commitment to marriage seemed genuine. However his capitulation this week against every clear Christian principle means we can no longer recommend him to Christians and we needed to say this. Rudd burned his bridges and his hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave his life for his biblical principles, would be turning in his grave.
Judd further claimed that "some cannot but help interpret the ACL's public statements as hateful." But, as always, no examples were given to substantiate this charge. It is disappointing for ACL to be accused of a "sledge" or of unsubstantiated "hateful" comment when we are routinely labelled "bigots" for expressing our view on marriage.
This week the bigotry card was played by none other than the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Senator Penny Wong. Senator Wong went on to say our views about the need for children, wherever possible, to have a mum and a dad have "no place in a modern Australia." No attempt was made to engage with our argument. Why bother when a slur of Christians will do because, to the shame of large sections of the media, it goes unchallenged. Fairness? Civil discourse? Free speech? It is sad to see our nation losing the capacity to reason from the top down.
Judd wrote, "The ACL has strong working relationships with most denominational leaders across the Christian spectrum, and on that basis it might be fair to claim that the ACL represents orthodox Christian beliefs." That is true but hardly supports the proposition of her article which questioned the existence of a Christian constituency.
While we have this strong working relationship, we are not a peak body for the church. How big is the Christian constituency? No one really knows. We have had over 100,000 Christians watching a single webcast with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, and have raised petitions of more than 100,000 supporting marriage. Not a bad effort when we are fastidious in ensuring the integrity of our petitions, even deleting double ups of email addresses, though we know there will be many occasions of people using a shared address.
I don't believe ACL has ever claimed it represents a constituency comprising 61% of the population, which is the Australian census figure of those who claim Christianity. We do from time to time point out the obvious and that is that a great many Australians resonate with Christian values and understand that our society was built on a Judeo-Christian ethic, something we are rapidly departing from without much thought for what might replace it.
Finally, Judd has claimed that ACL is more aligned to the Coalition than Labor. Sure, there are more Christians in the Coalition but there are many also in Labor. We even work with non-Christians in the Parliament as there are many people of good will who have similar values. ACL has always been non-party partisan and we have irked both sides.
Our relationship with the Coalition is testy over asylum seekers, gambling reform and internet filtering. But on other issues we share common ground fast being eroded in a Labor party widely identified as having lost its way and purpose, as indicated for our constituency by its broken promises on marriage, internet filtering of pornography and gambling.
Both sides are letting us down on the nation's promise to the world's poor to increase aid. And we make no apology for holding both to account on this and the wide range of issues of concern to Christians across the broad spectrum of justice and righteousness that we believe Christians want to see governments honour.
In this election we will do our best with limited resources to let Christians know how their MPs and Senators voted on marriage and where individual candidates stand.
If a shrinking farming constituency in all its diversity can organise its lobby, then why can't a much more substantial Christian constituency? There is a place for an organised Christian voice in the public square and a truly non-party partisan Christian lobby will never please both sides of politics at the same time.
As the voices opposed to Christianity and its values become more and more militant, the task of defending those values and even the very right to speak into the public debate from a Christian perspective become ever more difficult. But we commit ourselves to bringing Christian values into the public square whatever government is in power, trying always for the grace that Christ demands.
And we are forever grateful for the great majority of Christians who support us in that and extend to us the same grace and understanding.
Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.
ACL's Jim Wallace writes in The Australian about persecuted Christians in Syria
· May 29, 2013 10:00 AM
The Australian Christian Lobby's deputy chairman Jim Wallace had an opinion piece published in The Australian recently. A copy of the opinion piece is published below but can be read online
. An extended version of Mr Wallace's piece was also published in MercatorNet called
We cannon abandon Syrian Christians
West must act decisively to protect Syria's persecuted Christians
THE hardest test of foreign policy is not its intersections at the lofty geopolitical level but where it inevitably affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East.
As I visited the area recently to assess the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict, it quickly became evident that the West's policy there courts a disaster.
I was not surprised. While my experience was dated, I had lived in the Middle East and observed some of its most enduring conflicts. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to have taught us little.
Some level of confusion about Middle East politics is excusable for anyone.
Attempts to decipher it are always muddied by a bewildering array of sects and agendas in the context of alliances of convenience, even between sworn enemies.
But surely an alliance with al-Qa'ida is beyond the pale for any US government, even if its purpose is to counter Iran's influence.
The pictures of the American family devastated by the Boston bomb would be enough for me, but the US State Department certainly hasn't considered Syria's Christian minorities adequately.
There are reports of heartbreak as people who lived in harmony for decades are suddenly turned into bitter enemies by the radicalisation of previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the al-Qa'ida proxy Jabhat al-Nusra.
Syria has always been somewhat unusual in the Arab world for its secularism and religious freedom.
When I lived in Damascus for six months, Christian churches were easy to find and join. There was also a ready acceptance by Muslims and Druze, many of whom became good friends. And it seems this continued to be the case until the revolution two years ago. Then cries of "Alawites out" and "Christians to Lebanon" suddenly filled the air in crowds stirred up by extremists.
For Christians to be thrown out of Syria after more than 2000 years of history is too much for most. Despite the steady flow of refugees, most will stay. But the cost of staying is extreme.
Al-Nusra empties any area it captures of the "infidels". Occupants of centuries-old Christian quarters in the ancient cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs have been turned out of their homes with nothing. The aged are not spared and those refusing to leave are sometimes killed.
Also heartbreaking for these ancient communities is that their churches in the occupied parts of these cities have been destroyed and desecrated, at least one being used as a toilet by al-Nusra, as an illustration of its utter contempt for Christianity.
There are some Christians fighting with the Free Syrian Army. Although they were part of an initially secular opposition, their position becomes increasingly tenuous as al-Nusra's dominance of the opposition increases by the day.
As always in war, it is perhaps the women who suffer most.
Al-Nusra fighters see Christian women as little more than booty. One woman tearfully told of a friend considering suicide as she contemplated the possibility of rape, which two of her friends had suffered. As a Christian in an al-Nusra-held area, she knew she risked the same fate.
These are ancient Christian communities that look to Western governments not to abandon them by pursuing irrational policies, including a partnership with foreign jihadists allied to al-Qa'ida.
It is long past time for the West to make a stand in two other areas that are essential to combating Muslim extremism at home and abroad.
The first is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding the extremist al-Qa'ida fighters, must be told to back off.In addition we cannot accept that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for al-Qa'ida in Syria as part of a contingent of foreign fighters drawn from Western and Middle Eastern Islamic communities.
All Western countries must pass and enforce anti-mercenary laws that will forbid their nationals from fighting as mercenaries without losing their nationality.
We have an army to fight our wars and joining it should be the only way for an Australian to become a combatant.
The so-called Arab Spring was never going to be that for anyone but extremists across the Middle East. Unless the West reconsiders its support to an opposition dominated by al-Qa'ida, vulnerable Syrian Christians will face even worse persecution than that experienced by Egypt's Copts.
Jim Wallace is deputy chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby.
Employee wins right to wear cross at work
· January 16, 2013 11:00 AM
A British Airways employee, who was asked to remove her cross necklace at work, has won a discrimination case at the European Court of Human Rights against the company.
This demonstrates a great win for those who uphold religious freedom.
Read the ABC story
Shaping the nation: Ten words on how Christians can influence politics
· October 01, 2010 10:00 AM
Writing in the September issue of the
, Federal Opposition frontbencher Kevin Andrews (pictured) answers the question ‘What should Christians do to be heard in the public square?’
He makes 10 key points that are extremely relevant to any Christian looking to have an input into the policy directions of our nation.
Mr Andrews concludes: “Christians need to have a voice in the public square if Christian values are to be reflected in the policies of elected governments. This requires a clear vision, a plan of action, commitment, organisation, perseverance, and collaboration. It requires engagement with the political system.
"Most of all, it requires a belief that our way of life and our society has been enhanced by Christianity and will continue to be so in the future.”
to read the full article.
is published monthly. For more information about the magazine or to subscribe please go to
‘Make it Count Victoria’: Premier and Opposition Leader to address Christians
· September 23, 2010 10:00 AM
In what is believed to be a Victorian first, the leaders of the State’s two major political parties have both agreed to address Christians and answer questions from Christian leaders at the same event this Friday night.
In the lead up to the November 27 election, Premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu will speak to a wide range of Christian leaders at ‘Make it Count Victoria’, with their addresses and answers to questions to be filmed and made available online next month to Christians throughout the State.
The Victorian office of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is hosting the non-denominational event at Queen’s Hall, Parliament House, from 7.30 pm on Friday September 24.
ACL Victorian Director Rob Ward said the staging of the event follows on from the successful Federal ‘Make it Count’ events with major political leaders held in August 2007 and June 2010. Similar events have also been held prior to the Tasmanian, Northern Territory, West Australian and ACT elections.
Mr Ward said that ‘Make it Count Victoria’ will help the leaders of Victoria’s two main political parties to better understand some of the main issues which are of concern to the Christian constituency, as well as assisting Christians to make an informed vote at the upcoming election.
7.30 pm, Friday September 24
Queen’s Hall, Parliament House, Melbourne
Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979 or Rob Ward on 0408 348 352
ALL MEDIA ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND
TO REGISTER TO ATTEND PLEASE CONTACT GLYNIS QUINLAN
Majority of Christians opposed to WA euthanasia bill
· September 20, 2010 10:00 AM
The vast majority of Christians are opposed to euthanasia and would be deeply concerned about a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia which is set to be debated in the WA Parliament tomorrow, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.
ACL WA Director Michelle Pearse today urged WA parliamentarians to reject the euthanasia bill and said claims by the group ‘Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia’ that many Christians support euthanasia give a false impression regarding the true views of the overwhelming majority of Christians.
“ACL has battled strongly against euthanasia being legalised for years at both State and Federal levels and before numerous parliamentary inquiries. In consulting with churches and Christian leaders in WA, as well as elsewhere, we have been left in no doubt that the vast majority of Christians are opposed to euthanasia,” Mrs Pearse said.
“The Christian community’s strong opposition to legalising euthanasia is reflected by the fact that over 1200 emails have been sent to Upper House members through the ACL’s ‘Care not killing’ campaign on our Make A Stand website at
“And while only 100 WA residents have signed Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia’s petitions which were sent to Members of the Legislative Council, a massive 6,117 WA residents have signed petitions presented to the Legislative Council opposing euthanasia – with most of these signatures collected from WA churches.”
Mrs Pearse said that throughout history Christians have advocated for better palliative care including emotional support for the dying.
“Christians believe that every life has intrinsic worth beyond measure, no matter what a person’s physical or emotional state may be. Legalising euthanasia seeks to put a measure on the value of human lives rather than affirming its worth even in the most difficult circumstances.
“The Judeo-Christian ethic which Australian society is based on is about caring for others and a commitment to life and hope – it does not endorse killing as an alternative to helping people.”
Mrs Pearse added that supposed safeguards for euthanasia legislation don’t work.
“In the Netherlands where euthanasia has been practiced since the 1990s, 1000 people per year are killed without their consent. The Dutch experience shows that so-called voluntary euthanasia quickly becomes non-voluntary euthanasia.
“Euthanasia endangers the lives of the most vulnerable, the people we should be striving hardest to protect. We urge all WA parliamentarians to oppose the euthanasia bill.”
Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan 0408 875 979
Christian vote again hailed as significant in 2010 Federal election
· September 02, 2010 10:00 AM
For the second Federal election in a row, the Christian vote has been hailed as having a significant effect on the outcome – further highlighting the need for political parties to be mindful of the Christian constituency.
A recent demographic analysis of the 2010 election results by research and demographic marketing group, Australian Development Strategies - headed by former Queensland ALP Senator John Black – reveals that the loss of Kevin Rudd’s pro-Christian profile cost the ALP support in marginal seats, particularly in the key states of Queensland and NSW.
Writing in Monday’s
Australian Financial Review
(offline), John Black highlighted this fact but also added that, on the flip side, “Gillard’s lack of religious beliefs – or the absence of Rudd’s Christian image – may have led to an increase in the swings to Labor candidates from agnostics and atheists.”
Tellingly though, Christian voters appear to have had a far greater impact.
Mr Black states in his report summary that: “There’s no doubt that the impact of these Christian and family factors cost the ALP more seats than it gained...the ALP did, after all, lose the Rudd majority of some 16 seats in net terms.” Please click
to see the full report.
The results of this research appear to be in keeping with qualitative research undertaken by the National Forum (publisher of Online Opinion) into Christian voting intentions carried out a month prior to the Federal election (between July 18 and 21).
This research found that going into the 2010 election, Christian voters were tending towards the Coalition, reversing the trend of the last election when the ‘Rudd factor’ (Kevin Rudd’s acknowledgement of his Christian faith) appears to have come into play. It showed that 30% of Christian voters who voted Labor at the last election were either undecided or planned to vote for the Coalition at the 2010 election (compared to the 22% of people who fit that category from the total sample).
As mentioned, this research was carried out a month before the Federal election – and prior to Julia Gillard making greater efforts to engage with the Christian constituency. Two weeks before the election, Ms Gillard agreed to address Christians via a video interview with Jim Wallace and made some important commitments on upholding the status of marriage and extending the school chaplaincy program.
Whether these and other commitments affected the size of the swing in the Christian vote is as yet unknown, as is how much having an atheist leader running against a leader of strong faith affected voting decisions.
This election’s research is all the more interesting in the light of that by Australian Development Strategies following the 2007 election, which also highlighted the importance of the Christian vote. As Christopher Pearson commented in
at the time, “The most surprising of his (John Black’s) findings is that the religious affiliation of swinging voters played a more decisive role in determining the outcome than any other single factor.”
These demographic assessments – both in 2010 and 2007 – provide valuable confirmation of the importance of the Christian vote and the fact that it is not held captive by one particular party, but can be won or lost by either side. As the ACL has said in the past, Christians don’t vote in a bloc, but often tend to weigh up their vote and consider the respective parties’ strengths in terms of both moral and social justice issues.
For obvious reasons, politicians tend to listen more to a constituency if it has an effective influence on election outcomes. This new assessment has reinforced the need for politicians to listen to Christian views when developing policies and framing laws. It is a welcome development as we work towards having a more moral, compassionate and caring society.
Conservative Christian? Make that ‘radical’
· August 11, 2010 10:00 AM
Writing in the August/September edition of
Magazine, ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace challenges concepts that Christians are rather conservative.
Below is the first part of the article. To read the full article please go to pages 10-12 of the free digital
magazine by clicking
CONSERVATIVE, WOWSERS, KILLJOYS, OUTDATED…these are just some of the words often used to put down Christians who seek to put forward their views and influence society.
Not too long ago Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young used two of these terms to try to disparage both Australia’s former Prime Minister and Opposition Leader for what she sees as their Christian viewpoint.
“Unfortunately we have both major parties led by conservative men who have outdated views, ideological views on this issue,” Ms Hanson-Young told ABC radio during yet another Greens’ push to get gay marriage legalised in Australia (thankfully a highly unsuccessful push).
It’s a good tactic of course – using labels to put down your opponents and to try to appear progressive and forward-thinking. With many other Christian organisations and church spokespeople, the Australian Christian Lobby is on the receiving end of this kind of tactic all the time.
But the ironic thing is that if you take a considered look at the role of Christians in history and as a countercultural force in society today, you will find that Christians are far from ‘conservative’ and are, in fact, the real ‘radicals’.
The Christian church itself began as a persecuted minority movement, many of whose leaders were unjustly imprisoned, tortured and executed for their faith – and for going against the will of the ‘establishment’.
As we look back through history, we see that it was Christianity that challenged the pagan nature of Rome and Greece over such practices as infanticide, abortion and gladiatorial sports, and gradually – sometimes spectacularly – brought about change.
It was Christian campaigners, motivated by their faith, who worked to institute public hospitals, public schooling, the Red Cross, and hospices for orphans and the poor – all radical changes when first introduced.
There are countless other examples of Christians who fought against accepted societal norms – the conservative position - to bring about far-reaching change which still impacts our lives today.
Take, for example, the great campaign against slavery in Britain which was based on the activism of socially aware Christians in the Clapham Sect working together with politicians, and is best remembered through the work of William Wilberforce.
This campaign developed into a wide reform program which included prison reform, educational provision, an end to repressive government of the colonies, animal welfare, and upholding the rights of Indigenous people in the British colonies.
Then there was the English statesman and devout Christian, Lord Shaftesbury, who attended Wilberforce’s funeral in 1833 and himself went on to become a great social reformer. As a Member of Parliament he was successful in changing working conditions in the factories that powered Britain’s Industrial Revolution and thereby alleviating injustices such as the employment of women and children in coal mines, and young boys as chimney sweeps.
to read more (pages 10-12 of
Greens’ claims to be Christian at odds with refusal to be scrutinised
· August 09, 2010 10:00 AM
Claims by the Australian Greens
on the weekend that their policies are very much aligned with Christian values are completely at odds with their
refusal to respond to 18 out of 24 questions
on issues of concern to Christians, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that out of all the major and minor parties to respond to the questionnaire, the Australian Greens were the only party to selectively respond answering just six of the questions.
“The Greens had an opportunity to demonstrate their alignment with Christian values by answering ACL’s questionnaire.
“If Greens’ policies were truly aligned with Christian values they would not have sought to avoid scrutiny in this way,” Mr Wallace said.
“If they think that issues such as youth unemployment, the sexualisation of children, freedom of religion and life issues – all areas where they declined to answer questions – aren’t of importance to Christians then they are clearly out-of-touch with the great bulk of the Christian constituency.
“Christians tend to care about a broad cross-section of issues ranging from social justice issues to moral and life issues. In some areas, such as the environment and refugees, the Greens’ policies have attractions. However on issues like the sanctity of life, marriage, school chaplaincy and ending the exploitation of women through prostitution and pornography, Greens’ policies run totally against most Christian views.
“You can see how ridiculous their claims are when Greens’ leader Bob Brown says his party is closer to Christian thinking than the highest ranking Catholic in Australia – namely the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.
“Any attempt by the Greens to describe ACL’s concerns as narrow doesn’t hold up when the reality is that the narrowness of the Greens’ agenda was demonstrated by them only answering six of the 24 questions which were part of the ACL’s broader agenda.”
Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979.
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