Four Christian groups at the centre of a social media storm met in secret after a planned gathering of traditional marriage advocates was cancelled following a social media backlash and death threats against venue staff.
Event organisers cancelled the meeting of Sydney Catholics, Sydney Anglicans, Marriage Alliance and the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) at Mercure Sydney International Airport Hotel earlier this month after being informed of death threats made on the hotel’s Facebook page.
The Accor Group, which owns the hotel, said the event was cancelled “following an objective review regarding the safety and security of hotel guests and staff”.
The company also shut down the Facebook page.
“We thought it was incredibly unfair that threats were made against them simply because they happened to work at the hotel and we did not want them to put them in a position where they were afraid to come into work,” said Sophie York of Marriage Alliance.
While she was disappointed with the tactics used by same-sex marriage activists, Ms York said she was “not surprised”.
“We are all too familiar with same-sex marriage activists’ tactics being used to silence us, and we know that this will only get worse if the definition of marriage is changed,” she told The Catholic Weekly.
Ms York said the incident heralded a dangerous climate for supporters of traditional marriage.
“If the law changes, anti-discrimination laws will be used as a weapon (to enforce compliance with the ‘new’ view of marriage) against the rest of us,” she said.
“Everyday Australians will be threatened with financial penalties, legal action and violence even if they choose to remain neutral on the issue.
“This is what we have seen in other countries which have legalised same-sex marriage and this is what the management and staff at the Mercure Hotel realised last week.”
Ms York said the rescheduled meeting, held at a secret location, was well-attended.
ACL managing director Lyle Shelton told The Catholic Weekly, “Australians feel uncomfortable with the situation where fellow Australians, who hold to the millennia-old idea that marriage is between a man and a woman and that children, wherever possible, deserve their mum and dad, are having to meet in secret because of safety concerns.
“When leaders of the same-sex marriage movement were asked by the media to condemn the activists who targeted the Mercure, they declined to do so,” Mr Shelton
“When leaders fail to condemn this sort of activity, it only further emboldens the extremists in their movement.”
Ms York said a “respectful discussion of the redefinition of marriage” was in the best interests of all Australians.
“Without a civil debate, the Australian people will not be given the information they need to make this important decision and they may not realise that changing the definition of marriage will affect them and their family.
“Hate-speech is meant to be a severe term, reserved for objectively evil language.
“Instead, the term has been misused so far to label any viewpoint other than the same-sex marriage activists’ position, simply because they ‘hate to hear’ any different viewpoint.
“It has been used strategically to date, to silence dissent,” Ms York said.
“It is a blatant attempt to make it socially unacceptable in
Australia to respect the existing definition of marriage between one man and one woman, known socially and culturally as husband and wife, and if they have
children, as father and mother also.
“It remains reasonable to uphold this view of marriage.
“To categorise difference of opinion as hateful is false, and is in itself disrespectful. Neither side should do it.”