‘Nothing will change’ a smokescreen for coercion and harassment

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP joins the parish of St Martha’s, Strathfield, on 18 August 2016 for their centenary celebrations. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has taken a strong stand for religious freedom in Australia by calling on MPs of all political persuasions to explain how they will protect people’s right to religious liberty, should the Marriage Act be altered to allow same-sex couples to “marry”.

As the nation gears up for a postal plebiscite next month on whether to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, those wanting to defend marriage as it currently stands in law have begun putting forward their concerns, with a coalition of individuals and groups launching a new campaign website to protect marriage.

In a statement released on 14 August, Archbishop Fisher said that, “The free exercise of religion is either a right of every Australian or it is a right for none.”

“A law that does not protect religious freedom for all Australians does not really protect it for anyone. How can people be expected to vote for or against a redefinition of marriage, without knowing how those whose faith is in traditional marriage will be protected?”

“Many people believe that redefining marriage won’t affect them. Respectfully, I would say they need to take another look. It will affect every Australian.”

Archbishop Fisher referred to other parts of the world where marriage has already been redefined and where people of faith have subsequently been “harassed” or “coerced” into conforming to a view of marriage that contradicts their religious beliefs.

“It would be extremely naïve to think that won’t happen here,” he warned. “So far the only protections proposed by parliamentarians have been for ministers of religion and civil celebrants. But they make up only a tiny proportion of religious believers. What protections will be afforded the rest of them?”

Archbishop Fisher went on to ask what protections will be put in place for those who work for Church-run institutions, whether teachers will be forced to teach a more “politically correct curriculum” and whether Church agencies will be free to employ staff sympathetic to Church teachings. The Archbishop also queried if small business owners will be protected should they not wish to provide services that would support “same-sex marriage”.

“Will small-business owners be dragged before the courts for refusing to provide goods and services to weddings and events that don’t align with their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage? Will employees be bullied into supporting same-sex marriages in various ways?”

Identifying the relationship between the push for “same-sex marriage” and gender theory, which is currently being imposed on school students through the Safe Schools programmed, Archbishop Fisher said,

“Will children in government schools be subjected to propaganda in favour of same-sex marriage and gender fluidity such as the infamous ‘Safe Schools’ programmed? Will parents be free to take their children out of such classes? Will Church-schools be expected to toe the line also?”

“If the government is serious about protecting religious freedom, not just for clerics like me but for all Australians, I call on them, and on the other political parties and independents also, to tell us ahead of any vote how they propose to do this,” the Archbishop concluded.

On the same day that Archbishop Fisher released his statement, the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) launched its official campaign website, representing over 3 million people and more than 80 groups from around Australia who wish to defend the Marriage Act as it currently stands. Leading the C4M campaign is the Australian Christian Lobby, Marriage Alliance, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

“For too long, Australians who are uncomfortable with the redefinition of marriage, or are unsure about the consequences for education and free speech have been silenced,” said Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.

“This campaign is the opportunity for Australians to be informed and have their say on the consequences of changing the Marriage Act – the impact on free speech, the impact on what our kids are taught at school,” he said. “The coming together of family and community organisations, the partnering of faith-based communities with non-religious ones, and the diversity of the 3 million people they represent shows them that they are not alone.”

CEO of Marriage Alliance, Damian Wyld, said, “Though we are many different groups, some of faith, some not, we all believe in the importance of freedom of speech, religion, and the total rejection of radical sex-education programs in our schools. We now stand together and encourage the community to stand with us in our campaign.”

To find out how you can support the campaign to defend Marriage: www.coalitionformarriage.com.au

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