Last week, members of a Brisbane church were publicly accused on national TV of injuring an LGBT campaigner outside the church by driving cars at her, at nearly full speed.
The accusation, made as Australia goes to the polls in a referendum on whether to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage, led to huge media coverage. The woman who made the accusation against the church claimed she had been injured “because people drove their cars nearly at full speed into the Yes campaigners here,” adding, “It was extremely scary, extremely irresponsible and police tried to help the people in the cars to get through the crowd of protestors.”
Her comments led to senior politicians, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, calling for calm from all sides, wrongly implying that the church was partly to blame.
In fact the opposite was true, as the Herald Sun later reported. The church had been due to host a talk by Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) about a controversial school programme. However, the organisers cancelled it that afternoon, on police advice, because of fears of violence from the LGBT activists. Nevertheless, the protestors still blocked the church entrance until they were cleared by the police. The ACL-backed Coalition for Marriage, which opposes the redefinition of marriage, told The Australian newspaper, “They blocked access to the hall in question, preventing access for those seeking to attend the meeting. They then chose to make some very serious allegations, dismissed as false by Queensland Police, as a way of excusing their bullying tactics.”
The organiser of the meeting expressed his disappointment that the intimidation had led to the church having to cancel the meeting, saying, “It’s very disappointing that we have to cave into this sort of unruly mob.”
This marks the latest in a series of attacks on religious freedom in Australia. Last week, Barnabas Fund reported how an Australian politician defending religious freedom said that she had been subjected to bigotry worse than racism because she opposed the redefinition of marriage.
Taken together, the false accusation, nationwide media coverage, and mistaken suggestions from senior politicians that the church were partly to blame, are disturbing developments. These are the sort of tactics we see used against Christians in countries where actual persecution takes place. No one should have ideological beliefs forced on them – whether LGBT or Christian. Tolerance means allowing people to express views you disagree with, not forcing them to subscribe to your views. The latter is the road to totalitarianism, no matter how it is dressed up.