With the Australian Christian Lobby now fighting on behalf of Israel Folau, it’s best that we understand who they are, and what they stand for.
The Australian Christian Lobby taking up arms on behalf of Israel Folau should serve as a rather notable red flag. Not in the territory of freedom of speech, nor religion, or what constitutes a contract, but because we find ourselves now in the realm of this being a politicised issue. This morning, they’ve already donated $100,000 to his cause. As it stands, $695,000 has already poured in from the general public.
This matters, as the core tents of the lobby, is not so much preserving the word of the bible per se, but influencing parliament in the name of it. The below screen grab shows a highlighted sentence on their mantra, readily available on the ACL website.
Despite this, Sleeping Giants Oz notes that the ACL is a registered charity, and therefore, pays no tax. The question, of course, is when is a lobby group a charity? Martyn Illes, the managing director of the ACL, notes that “all gifts you give on this webpage will be placed in a trust account for Israel Folau’s defence”. But Folau, is clearly their latest front man, nothing more.
The “all other expenses” slot promotes much and states little. Clearly, their influence stretches beyond our borders. Now, while our election was poor for their representatives, gleaning as little as 25,000 votes, clearly they do possess power as lobbyists, noted by their spearheading of attacks on the anti-bullying Safe Schools program, with numerous states, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia debating whether they should drop the program altogether. Two out of the three states later did so.
Clearly, that was an issue that made it to the highest echelons of political discussion. Now, the original sin of allowing them to break bread with our politicians dates back to at least 2007, but notably, in 2010, the famously atheist (and unmarried) Julia Gillard sat down with the ACL, stating how her “values were formed in a strong family, in a family that went to church”.
Per The Guardian’s Jeff Sparrow, “…her calculation seems to have been that the Australian Christian Lobby (and certain socially conservative union leaders) mattered more than the progressives appalled by the ACL’s stances since the former could swing a bloc of support. As a campus politico, Gillard had stood on a gay rights platform. As prime minister, she declared herself a “cultural traditionalist”, who opposed euthanasia and same-sex marriage on the basis of traditional values. “I think for our culture, for our heritage,” she explained, “the Marriage Act and marriage being between a man and a woman has a special status.””
Sparrow also notes that “the organisation exploits the media’s obsession with “balance” on subjects deemed controversial. The ACL can be relied upon for quotable content enabling the “on the one hand, on the other” format employed by traditional journalism. Such presentations implicitly elevate the ACL to an equal stature with its opponents, even in contexts when the ACL speaks for almost no-one. Furthermore, while the churches might be in decline, their core supporters tend to be active and dedicated. In an era in which political parties have lost their automatic hold on their constituency, a small cadre can exert an outsized influence – which is why both Kevin Rudd and John Howard took part in an ACL-sponsored form in 2007.”
Clearly, despite votes, and indeed, reality against them, the Australian Christian Lobby remain a force of representation without taxation. What we know, is clearly far less than what we should, even if we’re familiar with their new beau.