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No monopolies on bigotry in election lead-up

By Charlotte Harper - 23 June 2016 31

Christina Hobbs

“I believe human life begins at conception,” the Liberal Senator said quietly.

Zed Seselja’s response was the last in a line of ACT Federal election candidate answers to the question, “When is an unborn baby a human being?”

It was posed during the Australian Christian Lobby’s Meet the Candidates forum at the Eternity Church in Kambah on Tuesday night.

Senator Seselja’s one-sentence answer to the when life begins question inspired spontaneous applause from the 200 or so attendees. This wasn’t quite rock star fandom in action, but verging on it.

Earlier responses to the same question, from the likes of the Sex Party’s Steven Bailey and Labor’s Katy Gallagher, had expressed the opinion that the question of when human life begins was complex and that decisions in relation to such matters were best left to medical experts and assessed on a case by case basis.

Their take left most attendees on Tuesday night muttering to themselves and shaking their heads.

But are the members of this particular community “a fringe group of bigots and extremists” as Greens Senate candidate Christina Hobbs described them this week?

Or by boycotting the event and calling them names, was Ms Hobbs something of a hypocrite, perhaps even a bigot herself? One definition of a bigot is “a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions”.

Wikipedia has a more detailed definition for the word:

“The English noun bigot is a term of abuse aimed at a prejudiced or closed-minded person, especially one who is intolerant or hostile towards different social groups (especially, and originally, other religious groups), and especially one whose own beliefs are perceived as unreasonable or excessively narrow-minded, superstitious, or hypocritical.”

Are the seemingly mild-mannered, ordinary looking Canberrans of the ACL bigots? Are they a fringe group? I guess it all depends of your point of view.

Eternity Church, Kambah

Whether they are or not, surely engaging with them is a better way of gaining an understanding of what has led them to believe what they do than censuring them.

Whether you like it or not, they have influence. They and other Australians with similar views have forced the hand of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on important policies such as the same sex marriage issue and Safe Schools program.

If the Coalition retains government next week, the Christian Lobby and others like them will campaign actively against marriage equality leading up the Turnbull’s plebiscite, causing distress to LGBTIQ people and their supporters in the process.

Refusing to engage with them sends a message of solidarity to those who are hurt by their views, true. It offers a political candidate short term benefits in terms of publicity and leads to pats on the back from like-minded colleagues too.

The trouble is, it also perpetuates an “us and them” mentality.

Why not engage with the ACL, debate the issues and in the process perhaps change some hearts and minds?

Steven Bailey and Katy Gallagher chose to, and one attendee said afterwards that he would now vote for the Sex Party based on Mr Bailey’s responses during the evening.

Perhaps given the deeply held religious beliefs of many supporters of the ACL, the number of hearts and minds that will be changed is small. But surely within each of us is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

To imagine being a 16-year-old girl who was raped and has struggled for weeks with the decision to have an abortion, then becomes a victim again as protesters stare her down at her as she walks into a clinic for the procedure.

To ponder being a middle-aged woman praying outside the same clinic, having been raised and educated in a deeply religious community to believe in her heart that every life is sacred, and that by being there she may save a child and help a woman become the mother she is destined to be.

To consider the young gay couple who have committed to each other for life and want the right to celebrate their union in the same way their straight friends do.

Zed Seselja on the cover of CityNews

Or to view marriage through the prism that our Liberal Senator probably does, whereby the idea of two men or two women marrying each other somehow diminishes the sanctity of his own marriage.

It’s hard, I know. I’m struggling to understand two of those four viewpoints myself, but it was very clear to me on Tuesday night that they are very real views, not held out of spite, and not going away anytime soon. I’ll keep trying to understand them in the hope that at least some members of the Christian Lobby will reciprocate.

Will Senator Seselja’s views of same-sex marriage and abortion impact on your vote next Saturday? Did Greens candidate Christina Hobbs’ decision to snub the ACL forum influence your thinking? Have you decided how you’ll vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate?

Pictured are Greens candidate Christina Hobbs, the Eternity Church in Kambah and Zed Seselja in a paid advertisement on the cover of City News this week.

What’s Your opinion?


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31 Responses to
No monopolies on bigotry in election lead-up
dungfungus 10:31 am 24 Jun 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Ho hum. Christians are “extremely dangerous” people eh? Now substitute “muslim” in your mind.. . .

Nicely setup strawman.
Howabout we substitute “Taliban” then I’d think we’d agree that we could say they were “Extremely dangerous”.
I haven’t read comments here claiming the ACL covered all christians. They appear to be a minority christian group with loud views. Loud and dangerous views.

Anyone or group identifying as Christian is a threatened species no matter what views they have.
If the left doesn’t get them ISIS will.

devils_advocate 10:00 am 24 Jun 16

Acton said :

How do you know you’re conceiving when you have sex?

Your parent/s didn’t explain to you how all that works?

Steven Bailey 9:52 am 24 Jun 16

John Moulis said :

As I sat on the panel, I wondered why I was there. The majority of the room was filled with people whose ethical understanding of the world is extremely dangerous. But then I thought of the plight of women seeking an abortion, equality of LGBTIQ Australians, and the millions of people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism; I showed up for them. Even if I only changed the mind of one person, it was my responsibility to show up and stick it to the ACL.

1. “the plight of women seeking an abortion”, what plight?
Dictionary “Plight: 1.a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation”
The only one in danger is the unborn living baby.

2. “people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism;” Do you value the right for minority groups to have an opinion? At least half the population have a religion/ or faith beliefs, are these people all religious extremists? What is the boundary for an extremist vs someone of faith?

3. “Equality of LGBTIQ Australians”, Funny I thought marriage was a religious extremist thing you wouldn’t be talking about marriage equality would you? see point 2.

4. “stick it to the ACL.” So on one hand you want to stick it to a minority and on the other you want to stick up for another minority.

The whole abortion debate is odd. On one hand you have a bunch of people who claim that life isn’t life until birth (not sure if its the start middle or end of birth). Then the same bunch of people want society to treat pregnant women like they are carrying a human life in them.

All in all if you support the views or not the extremists are the ones that refuse to actually discuss the issues. The politically correct stance is shown by some, who likely have their own personal believes that they have tossed aside in favour of more votes.

I’m not religious but I value representation that values those who are religious. Everyone is a minority in some way, if you can’t represent a minority you can’t represent anyone.

“To imagine being a 16-year-old girl who was raped and has struggled for weeks with the decision to have an abortion, then becomes a victim again as protesters stare her down at her as she walks into a clinic for the procedure.”
Most of us would have a bigger issue with that she was raped in the first place.
Who would actually know she was going for an abortion?

Yes, ‘plight’. Notwithstanding your brilliant deconstruction of the semantics of my statement, I stand by what I said.

Steven Bailey 9:51 am 24 Jun 16

Holden Caulfield said :

As I sat on the panel, I wondered why I was there. The majority of the room was filled with people whose ethical understanding of the world is extremely dangerous. But then I thought of the plight of women seeking an abortion, equality of LGBTIQ Australians, and the millions of people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism; I showed up for them. Even if I only changed the mind of one person, it was my responsibility to show up and stick it to the ACL.

Ho hum. Christians are “extremely dangerous” people eh? Now substitute “muslim” in your mind. Oh wait, suddenly the “majority of the people” at the meeting were admittedly not all that progressive but hey, like, totally likeable people acting in good faith according to their beliefs, who deserve to be treated with treacly politeness and, uh, protected from bigots. But I guess you can’t see the reversal, huh? By the way I’m a dead-flat atheist. I even argue against Christianity. It’s just that I try not to make generalisations about entire groups of people.

Thank you for letting me know that you argue against Christianity; I’m sure you make excellent arguments. It’s really very simple. I consider the ACL as an intolerant and dangerous organisation that has very little to do with Christianity. If I actually claimed that all Christians are dangerous, there would be far more serious allegations aimed at me than this comment.

Frunkensteen 7:41 am 24 Jun 16

Holden Caulfield said :

Ho hum. Christians are “extremely dangerous” people eh? Now substitute “muslim” in your mind.. . .

Nicely setup strawman.
Howabout we substitute “Taliban” then I’d think we’d agree that we could say they were “Extremely dangerous”.
I haven’t read comments here claiming the ACL covered all christians. They appear to be a minority christian group with loud views. Loud and dangerous views.

Obiter_Dictum 7:02 am 24 Jun 16

Zed’s views on homosexuality and abortion are the reason I can’t vote for him. I think Turnbull’s doing an okay job (damaging plebiscite aside) and I don’t want a talentless union drone as prime minister, but voting for someone with Zed’s social views is a step too far.

The Greens are out because of the kind of behaviour set out in this article, and the other one about the ACL event. I don’t like the ACL’s views either, and I wouldn’t have attended their little seminar, but to have the party whose members attend Hamas and socialist alliance rallies call the members of the ACL bigoted and extreme is a little beyond the pale.

For what is it worth, I am a committed and self-proclaimed feminist, and I hold conflicted views of abortion, views that have become even more complicated since I experienced pregnancy. I personally find it hard to doubt that ‘life’ might begin at conception (who really knows?), but that is hardly the end of the matter. Abortion is a deeply complicated matters involving the interweaving of the bodily integrity of one person and the complete dependence of other (potential?) person. The carrying of a child involves the mother and the foetus/child, and usually also the father, for their entire lives. For is a deeply personal issue, particularly for women. But it is also a public one, for these days it also involves issues of state resources and medical technology and complex considerations of what lives should be ‘lived’ (many abortions are for medical or genetic reasons).

Abortion is an article of faith for much of the feminist movement. I understand why – control of sexuality and reproduction is absolutely fundamental to female empowerment and liberation. Times and technology has changed so much over the past couple of decades that I think we would all benefit from having a deep, frank and complex discussion on the topic of abortion, but that is impossible because of the uncompromising views on both sides.

I can understand why many women think even a conversation about this topic must be avoided. My tendency is to want men to shut up. Indeed, my own fear is that many conservative men who oppose abortion do so because of their views on the evils of (women) having sex for pleasure (pregnancy is the ‘punishment’), or their concerns about female autonomy (how dare they deprive a man of his right to procreate in her body?). That the baby is not their primary concern is evident from the fact that these kind of men (and not a few women) could not care less about it once it is born. These voices have held sway in society for so long that I can understand the deep-seated fear that, if we give them oxygen, they will prevail again. Hence, the desire to shut them down entirely.

But that is not, and should not, be how we do things in a rational, liberal society.

I also do not think that all the members of the ACL who oppose abortion feel that way. Yes, they might hold conservative views on sex, but they also hold very Christian views on forgiveness and redemption. These are people who care deeply about others, and who genuinely believe that through abortion we are depriving an innocent being of a his or her one opportunity to experience the miracle of life. These are the same people who are out in society caring for the needy, delivering meals on wheels and offering charity and comfort and support, while most of the people calling them ‘extremist bigots’ are either sipping coffee in cafes, talking about how someone else (usually the government) should do something about the world’s problems, or attending rallies or writing opinion pieces in support of organisations that hold far more bigoted and intolerant views than those of the ACL.

ChristinaHobbs_ACT_S 11:15 pm 23 Jun 16

I’m incredibly disappointed that I was misrepresented in this article and that I was not contacted for comment. As I was not offered a voice I will provide one here.

Firstly, most importantly, I have NEVER called the Christians who attended the ACL event bigoted or extreme. I am a Christian and I know many people who attended the event do not agree with the ACL’s extreme views -they have told me. I have however, called the ACL and its public positions bigoted, I stand by this position. I also stand by comments that they are a fringe group who do not represent most Christians and have repeatedly refused to publicly publish their membership figures.

For the past 4 months I have met with every single person and group that has requested a meeting of me except one (unless there was a direct timetable clash). I have met with Christian groups, Hindu groups, muslim groups – I personally organised many of these meetings. I have listened, learned, discussed and politely disagreed with hundreds of people on this campaign. Only a few days ago I participated in a forum at a Baptist church. To refer to me as someone intolerant of differing views is far far from the truth.

As a candidate, my attendance at a forum organised by a group of people has a different significance than if one attends as a guest. When you are a candidate and you attend you offer the organising group a certain legitimacy. Each candidate and person must find their own line in the sand in terms of the organisations they will refuse. As an example, we know that some Liberal MPs found it appropriate to attend Reclaim Australia Rallies, while other members of our society found this abhorrent and called for boycotts.

The ACL has passed my line in the sand.

They passed it when they publicly announced that a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ is more hazardous than smoking. They passed it when they warned that same-sex couples having children will lead to another stolen generation – WTF? They continue off into the distance as they lobby for anti-discrimination laws to be ‘set-aside’ so opponents of same-sex marriage can engage in hate speech during a plebiscite campaign.

In the wake of what has recently occurred in Orlando, more than ever, as a passionate supporter of LGBTIQ rights, and leader in the ACT Greens, my responsibility as a candidate is to condemn this organisation as strongly as possible. In political actions, this does not mean standing on their stage and criticizing, it means not attending their event at all and calling on others to do the same.

In recent days I have been contacted by Christian parish leaders, the head of the Australian Education Union and dozens of Christians thanking me for my position and highlighting that the ACL does not represent a mainstream Christian voice.

I am disappointed that the Canberra Times failed to publish my full reasoning and that now even the Riot Act have decided to publish without asking for comment and I am disappointed that Zed Seselja and the ACL claim I am against Christians -as though I could somehow be against myself. It is also disturbing to see right wing groups leaping on this to claim me anti Australian.

But I am also encouraged by the thanks I received at Alfred Deakin High this week by young LGBTIQ people deeply hurt by the ACL’s comments, and I’m proud to be representing a political party that backs my line in the sand when it comes to a group that publicly declares hateful views on members of our rich and diverse society.

gooterz 9:19 pm 23 Jun 16

As I sat on the panel, I wondered why I was there. The majority of the room was filled with people whose ethical understanding of the world is extremely dangerous. But then I thought of the plight of women seeking an abortion, equality of LGBTIQ Australians, and the millions of people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism; I showed up for them. Even if I only changed the mind of one person, it was my responsibility to show up and stick it to the ACL.

1. “the plight of women seeking an abortion”, what plight?
Dictionary “Plight: 1.a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation”
The only one in danger is the unborn living baby.

2. “people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism;” Do you value the right for minority groups to have an opinion? At least half the population have a religion/ or faith beliefs, are these people all religious extremists? What is the boundary for an extremist vs someone of faith?

3. “Equality of LGBTIQ Australians”, Funny I thought marriage was a religious extremist thing you wouldn’t be talking about marriage equality would you? see point 2.

4. “stick it to the ACL.” So on one hand you want to stick it to a minority and on the other you want to stick up for another minority.

The whole abortion debate is odd. On one hand you have a bunch of people who claim that life isn’t life until birth (not sure if its the start middle or end of birth). Then the same bunch of people want society to treat pregnant women like they are carrying a human life in them.

All in all if you support the views or not the extremists are the ones that refuse to actually discuss the issues. The politically correct stance is shown by some, who likely have their own personal believes that they have tossed aside in favour of more votes.

I’m not religious but I value representation that values those who are religious. Everyone is a minority in some way, if you can’t represent a minority you can’t represent anyone.

“To imagine being a 16-year-old girl who was raped and has struggled for weeks with the decision to have an abortion, then becomes a victim again as protesters stare her down at her as she walks into a clinic for the procedure.”
Most of us would have a bigger issue with that she was raped in the first place.
Who would actually know she was going for an abortion?

Mordd 9:00 pm 23 Jun 16

Sure, and in the wake of Orlando, let’s engage with ISIS/ISIL, the KKK, Donald Trump supporters, and all the other groups dedicated to the hatred of gay people. Sure that makes sense, give equal air time to all bigots no matter how messed up their viewpoints. We have laws against hate speech for a reason. Not allowing hate speech does not mean we are not a democracy. Allowing groups like ACL to distribute their poisonous views and treating them like a legitimate lobby group only legitimises their insane beliefs.

“This is the same group that once said being gay was more hazardous than smoking.”

“This is the same group that warned that same-sex couples having children will lead to another stolen generation.”

“And this is the same group that has called for anti-discrimination laws to be ‘set-aside’ so opponents of same-sex marriage could engage in a huge race to the bottom during a plebiscite campaign.”

No I do not think legitimising the ACL is the right thing to do, and I maintain Christina is the only ACT pollie with the guts to stand up to such an abusive and morally outdated group as the ACL. We need to stop allowing fringe lobby groups to dictate federal politics, I come from a deeply religious christian family and all my family members are deeply disgusted and ashamed by how the ACL claims to represent them. They do not and never will represent any more than a slim minority of right wing christians who would prefer us still stuck in the medieval ages with a feudal system of government and patriarchy for all.

Shame on anyone who would support the ACL agenda.

sportsmum 8:08 pm 23 Jun 16

I won’t be voting for Zed based on this. It’s a deal breaker for me (and I’m a Christian).

Rustygear 7:54 pm 23 Jun 16

As I sat on the panel, I wondered why I was there. The majority of the room was filled with people whose ethical understanding of the world is extremely dangerous. But then I thought of the plight of women seeking an abortion, equality of LGBTIQ Australians, and the millions of people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism; I showed up for them. Even if I only changed the mind of one person, it was my responsibility to show up and stick it to the ACL.

Ho hum. Christians are “extremely dangerous” people eh? Now substitute “muslim” in your mind. Oh wait, suddenly the “majority of the people” at the meeting were admittedly not all that progressive but hey, like, totally likeable people acting in good faith according to their beliefs, who deserve to be treated with treacly politeness and, uh, protected from bigots. But I guess you can’t see the reversal, huh? By the way I’m a dead-flat atheist. I even argue against Christianity. It’s just that I try not to make generalisations about entire groups of people.

Texpat 7:00 pm 23 Jun 16

That the ACL claims that their bigotry is based on “strongly held religious beliefs” doesn’t make it any less offensive. Many such beliefs have no place in the government of a modern, secular society. However deeply felt their *personal* religious beliefs, there’s no reason the rest of us should be governed by them.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to refer to the ACL as an extremist fringe group, given that many of their views are by far in the minority, not only among Australians in general, but also (despite their name) among Australian Christians.

Neil34 6:04 pm 23 Jun 16

Zed Seselja’s answer was not surprising, but stretched credibility. How do you know you’re conceiving when you have sex? I think Christina Hobbs was perfectly within her rights not to appear – although it may have been politically unwise. Politicians shouldn’t be expected to attend every meeting just because a particular group wants them to. The ACL has form and is known for its views. Why waste your space and time trying to move unmovable minds?

Steven Bailey 5:39 pm 23 Jun 16

As I sat on the panel, I wondered why I was there. The majority of the room was filled with people whose ethical understanding of the world is extremely dangerous. But then I thought of the plight of women seeking an abortion, equality of LGBTIQ Australians, and the millions of people who are persecuted in some way by religious extremism; I showed up for them. Even if I only changed the mind of one person, it was my responsibility to show up and stick it to the ACL.

Garfield 3:14 pm 23 Jun 16

When it comes to Christian conservatism, the issue where I understand their position the most is in regards to abortion, as the unborn child/foetus doesn’t get a say in what happens. When it comes to same sex marriage or voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill people, I can understand them not wanting to end their own suffering or marry someone of the same sex for religious reasons, but I don’t believe they should be able to prevent others who don’t share the same religious beliefs from making those decisions. With Australia’s separation of church and state, politicians should not be using their personal religious beliefs to prevent people from taking actions that have no negative impact on other people.

That concept of no negative impact on others can be tricky with regards to abortion, as it raises two difficult questions. When does human life start and does a peaceful protest outside an abortion clinic inflict harm on the woman using it? I can’t definitely answer the first, but I’m sure the answer to the second is yes it can inflict additional harm.

I vote Liberal, but in regards to Zed, his views do not correspond to mine on these issues and I will think about whether he should get my first preference. Similarly, I think a socially progressive Greens candidate refusing to engage with an admittedly very conservative group raises questions as to her ability to represent all of Canberra in the unlikely event she were to be elected. To be fair, I also have concerns about Zed’s ability in that regard given his strong conservatism If only there was a small l Liberal running my decision would be simple.

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