Suggested letter for MPs regarding changing Marriage laws and the future of free speech in Australia

Here is a draft letter that I’m writing for local MPs. I’m sure others can improve on it. I thought I would post it here, should it be helpful for other Australians who wish to express concerns to Canberra.

 

Dear ….

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Following the results of the national marriage survey, I believe our Federal Parliament has two responsibilities, both which are necessary for maintaining the liberal democracy that we value in Australia.

First of all, while I do not support same sex marriage, there is a clear mandate from the people for the Parliament to redefine the Marriage Act; I believe that the Parliament should respect this.

Second, we need to ensure that freedom of speech, religion, and conscience, continue in our great country.

While, 7.8 million people voted for change, almost 5 million Australians voted against same sex marriage. Indeed, over 30,000 people in the electorate of Isaacs voted to retain the current definition of marriage.

The Dean Smith bill may provide protections for clergy who perform weddings, but as I’m sure you will agree, marriage is much more than a wedding. It must also be noted that the overwhelming majority of the 5 million Australians who voted against same sex marriage are not clergy, and therefore are beyond the scope of this bill’s limited protections.

As soon as the Marriage Act is reworded, future laws and interpretations of these laws, and future social norms will all be defined by this wording. This raises important questions for millions of Australians who with good conscience, do not support the corollary of expectations that will ensue throughout many parts of Australian culture. I am not advocating that we shield homophobia, for we all want to see those days gone, but affirming classical marriage does not equate to hating fellow Australians.

Here are three examples of concerns that I am hearing being asked,

Will Australians be guaranteed freedom to continue teaching and explaining the classical view of marriage and sexuality, not only in a Church setting but also in public places, including our universities?

Will religious schools maintain the freedom to teach and affirm the classical view of marriage?

Will our children in state schools have liberty to express, without bullying, a Christian view of marriage? Will parents have freedom to opt-out children from lessons that advocate views of marriage and sexuality that contravene their religious convictions?

It is worth noting that there are already matters of conscience that the State does not enforce upon all its citizens. For example, while abortion is legal, doctors who have a moral objection are not required to perform this action. The Voluntary Assisted Dying bill that is currently before the Victorian Parliament, will not require doctors to sign and participate, should euthanasia contradict their beliefs.

The issue of redefining marriage is a  significant test for Australia, and whether we truly wish to embrace cultural pluralism and liberal democratic freedom. If sensible protections are not provided, we can expect an erosion of personal freedoms for persons not subscribing to the new morality. Indeed, if, upon changing the law, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience is lessened from what we had on November 15th 2017, we will have cut away part of this country’s foundations, which are responsible for the prosperity, security, and freedom we enjoy.

Thank you for your hard work in serving our Electorate and the people of Australia. I wish you well in pursuing the good for all Australians.

Kinds Regards,

Murray Campbell

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Australia chooses to change marriage, and perhaps much more

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the result of the marriage survey.

The question given to the Australian people was,

Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

12.7 million people voted (79.5% of registered voters in the nation).

61.6% said yes, while 38.4% said no.

What does this mean? I wish to address two areas of impending decision making, the political and the Christian.

Political decisions

In terms of the politics, a private members Bill will be tabled this afternoon in the Senate, for debate and deliberation (the Dean Smith bill).

Several members of the Government have already indicated that the Smith bill will be used as the blue print, but they are open to amendments. The intention though is to pass legislation and the thus legalise same sex marriage before Christmas.

We do not know what shape the bill will finally take. Senator James Paterson (who supports SSM), has proposed a Draft Marriage Amendment (Definition and Protection of Freedoms) Bill. This bill provides significantly more protections for Australians than the Smith bill, although Senior Government Ministers have already suggested that this is a non starter. 

We need to keep in mind that legislation is more complicated than simply replacing a couple of words in the Marriage Act. When same sex marriage was introduced in the United Kingdom (2014), hundreds of pieces of law required change, and all manner of issues relating to religious freedoms have appeared since. Indeed, the very notion of religious freedom is now more under threat in the UK than in any time since the reign of Charles II in the 17th Century.

Here in Australia, even prior to the law changing, we have witnessed preachers in Tasmania being brought before a tribunal for explaining the Bible’s view of marriage, and a Catholic Archbishop who wrote a leaflet for fellow Catholics, outlining their position on marriage.

If proper protections are not provided, we can expect an erosion of personal freedoms for anyone not subscribing to the new morality. Indeed, if, upon changing the law, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience is lessened from what we enjoy today, November 15th, this country will have taken one giant leap into a shark tank.

Associate Professor Neil Foster has written a helpful summary of the pros and cons of both the Smith and Paterson bills.

I doubt if many people are shocked by today’s announcement; disappointed and concerned, but not surprised. The compass has been pointing in this direction for 50 years, and we have not yet journeyed to the final destination. There is now the important question of how the Federal Parliament will now deal with the issue. Given the support for same sex marriage as expressed by the Australian public, I think it is only right that Parliament respect this democratic process. For those in Parliament who cannot, for conscience, support marriage redefinition, might I propose that you abstain rather than vote against. Doing so enables you to respect the decision of Australians without marring your conscience.

Even prior to any marriage changing, numerous threats have been made against individuals and organisations, for not coming out in support of same sex marriage. Some of these groups had simply made the decision not to become embroiled in the debate. Neutrality, however, is not enough for many same sex marriage advocates; total alliance is the only acceptable option.

This is a test for Australia and whether we truly wish to embrace cultural pluralism and liberal democracy, or whether we will heed the war drums of social progressives and thus move toward a poor replica. We must understand that this is not mere hyperbole, for even the favoured Smith bill will expose many Australians to threats of litigation and reduced freedoms

Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, said on the weekend,

“West Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith’s bill guarantees only “the right of clergy and religious institutions” to decline participation in same-sex marriage services and celebrations. There is by omission no recognition of the likelihood of damage to the freedom of conscience for ordinary citizens and their businesses. Smith and many of his colleagues seem unmoved by the encroachments on freedom of speech and conscience already demonstrated in Australia.

Smith’s exemptions approach arguably does more harm than good, for it assumes freedom of conscience is of worth only to professional religionists and not to all Australians. This weakens even further the standing of this important democratic right and makes it an easy target for those who would lobby to erase this exemption and similar exemptions that may remain in state legislation.”

Why is this a problem? Because 4.83 million Australians have said that they do not support same sex marriage. Millions of  Australians potentially face loss of income, employment, and facing tribunals for adhering to a view that will no longer be supported by the law.

Will Australians be guaranteed freedom to continue teaching and explaining the classical view of marriage and sexuality, not only in a Church but also in public places including universities?

Will religious schools maintain freedom to teach and affirm the classical view of marriage?

Unless the Government ensure thorough and principled protections, we can anticipate the promises of many advocates being enacted onto our society.

Mauvre Marsden, in the Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 4),

“Yes, marriage is not the final frontier. Yes, we want safe schools. Yes, gay conversion therapy is child abuse. Yes, we want transgender kids’ agency to be respected and supported – regardless of what their parents want. Yes.”

Auberry Perry in The Age (Sept 3),

“This survey offers us a conscious opportunity to make a firm stand in support of a secular government and to reject discrimination or favouritism based on religion. It’s our opportunity to say that religion has no part in the shaping of our laws. A vote against same-sex marriage is a vote for religious bias and discrimination in our legislation, our public schools, our healthcare, and ultimately, in the foundation of our social structure.

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Decisions for Christians

Today is not a day for outrage, but for mourning. We must learn to weep like Jeremiah, and we must learn to live as Daniel. We must learn to accept injustice as did the Psalmists, and we must come to terms with the truth of Jesus’ words, ‘take up your cross and follow him’.

This is a good day for thankfulness and to remind ourselves of the hope that does not disappoint or fade.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

We are mistaken if we define God’s faithfulness by cultural or political successes, rather than by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian hope doesn’t diminish, depending on societal norms and laws. Rather it carries us through whatever transpires in life; this makes us the freest people on earth.

1. Stick with Jesus

Christian hope frees us to hang onto what we have become convinced is true and good.

It is not worth giving up God’s ways for the sake of social acceptance, and we are ultimately not serving them well or God, should we adopt the new moral horizon.

For a set of practical steps for Christians moving forward, please read https://murraycampbell.net/2017/11/14/gearing-up-for-the-marriage-survey-outcome/

2. Love your neighbours

While there are very important questions relating to the impact this change will bring for religious and societal freedoms, we should be less concerned about ourselves, and more concerned for the future of our children, and for the good of our fellow Australians.

We have opposed same sex marriage, not because we hate people but because we  love God and we love people, even our gay and lesbian neighbours, and we truly want them living well. Today’s announcement is no licence for changing either our view of marriage or God’s call to love our neighbours. I trust and pray that our resolve to be the best of friends, and the kindest of people, will increase from today onward. Did not God treat us with even greater love?

Today many Australians are celebrating, and many sensing relief. We are not among that number, but neither are we jealous or vindictive. Our hope remains unaltered, and as Russel Moore aptly noted following the Supreme Court decision in the United States to legalise same sex marriage, let’s be ready to embrace and welcome the many refugees who will come through this sexual revolution.

We must prepare today, to keep living out God’s good news tomorrow.

“I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly”. (Psalm 40:10)

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws”. (Psalm 119:30)

Gearing up for the Marriage Survey Outcome

Tomorrow morning, the results of the national marriage survey will be announced. While I suspect many Australians are moderately interested, many others are waiting with much anticipation and anxiety.

I was thinking through the book of Daniel this morning and realised again how instructive it is for us. So, ahead of tomorrow’s results I wish to suggest, for Christians, some lessons worth learning from this Old Testament book.

1. Choice when there is no choice.

Daniel did not choose the time in which he lived, nor did he decide to leave his homeland for Babylon, where he was forced into the service of King Nebuchadnezzar. He did however have choices as to how he would live in this place of exile.

2. Ask permission

Soon after his move to Babylon, Daniel made the decision to refuse food that would defile him (i.e. cause him to disobey God’s food laws). While he was firm in his conviction, Daniel nonetheless asked permission from his supervisor to eat an alternative. He even proposed a trial period, to see whether it was beneficial for the broader group.

Daniel was strong in his views but he did not push this on everyone else. Rather, he did encouraged a better way via presenting clear requests to those in charge.

3. Seek the wellbeing of society

Daniel find himself living in a very different culture to where he had been raised and understood. He was now living in a city that had destroyed his own city, and had removed all that was common to and valued by God’s people. He was living in a place which showed little regard for the God of Israel and his purposes. Despite all this, throughout the entire book, Daniel uses his wisdom for the good of Babylon, even the Kings of Babylon: he gave regular counsel, and his 3 friends became administrators over Babylonian Provinces.

4. Work for mercy

One one occasion when Nebuchadnezzar became fed up with his advisors and threatened to have them executed, Daniel mediated on their behalf. Despite the irreconcilable worldview being propagated by these figures and the damage inflicted by their whacky views, Daniel called for mercy. 

This is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer Australian society. In our culture that is becoming sharply polarised, and where disagreeable ideas are quickly associated with ‘extreme’ and hateful ideologies, Christians can resist this behavior. “Blessed are the merciful”, says Jesus. Seek the good of those who do not tolerate Christianity, be generous in our attitudes toward fellow Australians who have no time for Christian speech and ideas in the public square.

5. Faithfulness is always better than freedom

Daniel and his friends repeatedly risked their security and position, choosing to honour God over obeying wrongful laws. From this we shouldn’t surmise that Daniel was not a loud voice or angry voice or hateful voice. He was courageous, not stupid.

When a law was introduced, forbidding prayers to anyone except the King, Daniel continued in praying only to God. He didn’t make a song and dance out of it, but quietly maintained his practice.

Daniel didn’t abandon or avoid what he believed was right and good, and when asked to give an account, he spoke truthfully, with clarity and courage. Of what value is societal freedom if we have to sell the soul and give up God?  

For Daniel, faithfulness to God would at times result in threats, and other times, especially when God’s word was demonstrably proven true, Daniel was vindicated. Vindication normally follows faithfulness, not the other way round, and the only vindication promised to Christians in Scripture, will come about when the Lord Jesus appears on the last day.

6. Whose word is our hope?

Unlike Melbourne’s much loved Elm trees that are sadly facing extinction, no matter tomorrow’s marriage survey outcome, the good news of Jesus Christ will remain true and good.

“the grass withers and the flowers fall,  but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24b-25a)

Daniel didn’t view exile as the end of his story, nor that of the people of God. Through the word of God, Daniel was often reminded about the faithfulness of God’s promises and appeals to Him.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Daniel 9:15-19)

7. Conscious about confessing sin

Daniel was not ignorant of Israel’s history of covenantal unfaithfulness, and nor did he try to cover it up. Chapter 9 records a prayer of confession, and a request for Divine mercy in light of the multitude of sin,

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong.We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets.11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.”

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I’ll have more to say tomorrow, once the results have been published, but dear Christian, as we wait let us guard our hearts and check our motives and think carefully about our words.

We pray as did Daniel, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”