Opinion: You might not like what they have to say, but the ACL should have access to tax-payer funded venues

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Freedom of expression is implied (not guaranteed) in the Australian Constitution.
Camera IconFreedom of expression is implied (not guaranteed) in the Australian Constitution. Credit: Don Lindsay/The West Australian, Don Lindsay

I’ve always been a heavy sleeper. I was dead to the world while cyclone Seroja ripped through the Mid West and often slept soundly while my neighbours in Kalgoorlie enjoyed a biology-defying three-day bender.

But the story of the Australian Christian Lobby’s The Truth of it LIVE show coming to Geraldton completely destroyed my unconscious bliss this week.

As a Christian, I have a natural affection for my fellow Jesus-lovers but I could almost feel myself growing a stomach ulcer when I discovered the ACL event had been moved from Sun City Christian Centre to Queens Park Theatre. The Christian worldview has always made people uncomfortable but for the most part, we can go about our business with little disruption in Australia as long as worship and other activities are confined to the church and home.

According to the Equal Opportunity Act of WA (1984), it is “unlawful” for a person (in this case the State) who makes facilities available “to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s religious or political conviction”.

Free speech is not guaranteed in the Australian Constitution but the High Court has held the document contains an implied freedom of political communication, which prohibits any level of government from creating laws or regulations (like a venue hire policy) which “inappropriately restrict freedom of political communication”. Some recent media reports have included comments from individuals and groups describing the ACL’s regional shows as having the potential to introduce “hate speech” into communities.

This is certainly not the intention of the ACL, although I do admit “The Trans Tsunami” is not the title I would give to a podcast episode. The podcast typically analyses current social and political issues through a Christian lens and the live show held in Perth on Saturday followed a similar format. I know this because I cancelled my regular date with my favourite murder shows to stream hours of ACL content this week.

Gender and sexuality was barely mentioned during the hour or so ACL managing director and The Truth of It podcast host Martyn Iles was on stage at RAC Arena in Perth, with much of his time instead dedicated to encouraging Christians to not be ashamed of their God and to serve Him without fear.

But regardless of what you or I think about the ACL’s position on certain legislation or social issues, barring groups from using taxpayer facilities is against the law (for now).

There may well come a time when our country has to decide whether these protections on religious and political freedoms should continue to exist.

If that time comes, I can only hope that Christians will not have to contribute to the debate from a prison cell.

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