EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Chip Roy Introduces Amendment To Protect Religious Objectors To Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Republicans in the House of Representatives are trying another path to protect religious liberty from assault by introducing an amendment to the deceptively named Respect For Marriage Act (RFMA) that would add legal protections for those who believe in traditional marriage.

The amendment, introduced by Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, mirrors word for word the protections that Republican Sen. Mike Lee tried to add to the Senate’s version of the bill.

The current RFMA reaches beyond the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision to make a private right of action for anyone who wants to sue Americans opposed to same-sex marriage. It also allows the Department of Justice, which faces severe scrutiny for politicization under Attorney General Merrick Garland, to go after religious Americans for their beliefs about marriage.

If Roy’s amendment passes the House, it will explicitly prohibit the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction” that marriage is between one man and woman. The amendment also would give Americans’ who are targeted by the government for their beliefs about marriage a right to sue.

While Lee’s amendment failed to meet the 60-vote threshold his colleagues set, the amendment from Roy and his Republican cosponsors Reps. Byron Donalds and Doug Lamborn will serve as a litmus test for conservative legislators who say they prioritize Americans’ First Amendment rights.

“The United States Senate failed to protect Americans of faith when they voted down my friend Senator Lee’s common-sense amendment to protect religious liberty. Unless amended, the so-called Respect for Marriage Act will fundamentally alter the relationship between faithful Americans and the federal government,” Roy told The Federalist. “Luckily, we have one last chance to amend this legislation when it comes back to the House; that’s why I am introducing Senator Lee’s amendment to the House Rules committee. This amendment should be a no-brainer for every single House Republican, and every American should know whether their representative believes they should be punished for a religious belief.”

Despite the RFMA’s flaws, 47 Republican representatives voted to pass the legislation when it made its way through the House in July.

When the bill arrived in the Senate, Roy, along with legal scholar Ryan T. Anderson, penned an opinion editorial warning Republican senators that the RFMA’s “lip service to religious liberty and conscience rights” does nothing to stop vindictive leftists from “dragging good people through the court system and a public tarring and feathering in the media for those simply living their lives in fidelity to God.”

Those “good people” include wedding vendorsadoption agenciesbakeries, and any other business run by people of faith who refuse to offer services condoning same-sex marriage based on religious convictions.

Together, Roy and Anderson urged at least three of the 12 Republicans who voted to advance the bill to reconsider supporting it in its final passage. But to no avail.

Despite problems raised by Republican voters, legal organizations, churches, and religious liberty groups, the RFMA passed the upper chamber with the support of those same 12 GOP senators.

Shortly after that vote, Roy took to Twitter to urge his House GOP colleagues to vote no “on a bill that demonstrably exposes Americans to persecution for closely held religious beliefs, in addition to attacking marriage.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who will likely assume the position of House speaker in January, already signaled his belief that this legislation should not be passed as is.

McCarthy told reporters early on Tuesday that he agrees with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) which says that the RFMA would “betray our country’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious liberty.”

“Catholic Bishops say religious protections in the Respect For Marriage Act are insufficient and far from comprehensive and treat religious liberty as a second-class right. As you know, that’s currently in the Senate. Do you agree with that assessment by the Catholic Bishops?” one reporter asked.

“I agree with them, yes,” McCarthy confirmed.

Jordan Boyd is a staff writer at The Federalist and co-producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Her work has also been featured in The Daily Wire and Fox News. Jordan graduated from Baylor University where she majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @jordanboydtx.


Sen. Mike Lee: Religious Liberty Amendment Rejection ‘A Discouraging Development’

Sen. Mike Lee: Religious Liberty Amendment Rejection ‘A Discouraging Development’

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) lamented the passage of the “Respect for Marriage Act” without his religious liberty amendment Tuesday night, calling the move a “discouraging development in our country’s storied history of protecting the free exercise of religion.”

Lee said in a statement following the vote.

Despite the support of every voting Republican but one, and even a Democrat, the Respect for Marriage Act just passed without my amendment, which would have prevented the government from retaliating against religious individuals and institutions for their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage.

This is a discouraging development in our country’s storied history of protecting the free exercise of religion. While I’m disappointed that my amendment was not included, I remain committed to preserving the religious liberties enshrined in our Constitution.

The same-sex marriage bill passed 61-36 with the help of the same 12 Senate Republicans who initially voted with Democrats to advance the bill. The legislation will now go back to the House for a vote as early as next Tuesday, where it was first passed over the summer with the help of 47 Republicans.

Before the main vote, the Senate rejected Sen. Lee’s amendment 48-49, although 12 GOP senators who voted with Democrats to advance the bill voted in favor it.

Lee’s amendment was conservatives’ greatest hope of shoring up religious liberty protections in the bill, and would have prohibited the federal government from punishing individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.

“Who wouldn’t want to deny the federal government the authority to retaliate against religious individuals and institutions in a way that is categorically abusive,” Lee queried before the vote.

Religious liberty amendments from Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) were also rejected 45-52 in simple majority votes.

“The Respect for Marriage Act isn’t about equality,” Lankford said after the final vote. “It’s about making some people’s rights more important than others. I voted against this bill because it will lead to violations of Americans’ constitutional right to live their faith.”

In stark contrast, Democrats celebrated their victory, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeting that “no one should be discriminated against because of who they love.”

President Joe Biden also praised Senate Democrats’ win and promised to sign the bill into law if the it passes the House.

“With today’s bipartisan Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, the United States is on the brink of reaffirming a fundamental truth: love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love,” Biden’s statement reads in part. It continued:

…Importantly, the Senate’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is a bipartisan achievement. I’m grateful to the determined Members of Congress — especially Senators Baldwin, Collins, Portman, Sinema, Tillis, and Feinstein — whose leadership has underscored that Republicans and Democrats together support the essential right of LGBTQI+ and interracial couples to marry,” he continued. “I look forward to welcoming them at the White House after the House passes this legislation and sends it to my desk, where I will promptly and proudly sign it into law.


Senate Rejects Lee Religious Liberty Amendment, Passes So-Called ‘Respect for Marriage Act’

Senate Rejects Lee Religious Liberty Amendment, Passes So-Called ‘Respect for Marriage Act’

The Senate rejected Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) religious liberty amendment, as well as amendments from Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Marco Rubio (R-Fl), and passed the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” (RFMA) on Tuesday evening.

The same-sex marriage bill passed 61-36 with the help of the same 12 Senate Republicans who initially voted with Democrats to advance the bill. The legislation will now go back to the House for a vote as early as next Tuesday, where it was first passed over the summer with the help of 47 Republicans.

The House GOP will have to decide whether they want to pass the RFMA with the newly added “No Impact on Religious Liberty and Conscience” amendment created by a bipartisan group of senators who say the text protects religious liberty. Critics of the added amendment, brought by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), say it will “provide nothing that is not already guaranteed” and is an “unnecessary piece of legislation that provides for lawsuits against those who simply hold a different view on marriage.”

Lee’s amendment was conservatives’ greatest hope of shoring up religious liberty protections in the bill, and would have prohibited the federal government from punishing individuals, organizations, nonprofits, and other entities based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage by prohibiting the denial or revocation of tax exempt status, licenses, contracts, benefits, etc.

“Who wouldn’t want to deny the federal government the authority to retaliate against religious individuals and institutions in a way that is categorically abusive,” Lee queried before the vote.

His amendment needed 60 votes and failed 48-49, though several of the 12 GOP senators who voted with Democrats to advance the bill voted in favor it. Lankford’s amendment, which needed a simple majority vote, was also rejected, 45-52, as was Rubio’s.

The RFMA was introduced following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, due to Democrats’ unfounded concerns that the Supreme Court could use the Dobbs decision to overrule the Court’s Obergefell gay marriage decisionOverall, the RFMA would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and would require the federal government to recognize any marriage that was “valid in the place where entered into.” The bill would additionally require every state to recognize every same-sex marriage that “is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into.”

The bill also has a “private right of action” clause, which would allow “any person who is harmed by a violation of subsection (b)…[to] bring a civil action in the appropriate district court of the United States against the person who violated such a subsection for declaratory and injunctive relief.” Likewise, attorneys general would be able to bring civil action against any person who violates the law.


Faith-Based Schools in the NT Threaten to Close

The NT parliament is currently considering amending the Anti-Discrimination Act so as to end an existing provision that allows “religious educational institutions to discriminate against staff based on their sexuality”. This would mean people who do not share the beliefs or values of a faith-based school or institution could no longer be excluded from employment.

In response, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Darwin, Charles Gauci, has said that he will consider closing all eighteen Catholic colleges and schools in the Northern Territory. Christian schools have also thrown their support behind the decision, strongly suggesting they would follow a similar course of action.

According to The Australian, Bishop Gauci said denying parents the right to send children to schools with religious teachings was “reverse discrimination”. Bishop Gauci went on to say:

“Denying faith schools the right of ensuring that their belief systems are upheld by employing the right people is a violation of religious freedom.

Can you imagine a Catholic school employing a leader of a school who advocates atheism, or thinks that the beliefs of our church are silly?”

Christopher Brohier, the Australian Christian Lobby’s NT director, has also called on the NT government to reverse the amendment, saying,

Everyone understands the right of political parties to hire staff who are members of their parties, and for other values-based organisations to hire staff who adhere to their ethos.

And yet the NT government plans to deny faith-based schools this same right. Religious schools should not be forced to hire staff opposed to, or out of step, to their beliefs.

The Australian Association of Christian Schools has outlined the following key concerns:

The Bill will:

  • Remove the ability of Christian schools to hire only Christian staff by repealing the Religious Educational Institutions Employment Exemption (s37A)

This means a religious school would be unable to require all staff members to share the same religious belief and activity of the school unless it could be proven to be a ‘genuine occupational qualification’ (s35(1)(b)) which is a much higher bar and would ultimately need to be tested in the courts.

  • Prohibit conduct that could offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people (s20A(1)(a))

This introduces a very low bar for unlawful conduct, meaning a Christian teacher or pastor could be forced to defend a complaint for merely sharing the gospel or a Bible reading that offends someone.

  • Prevent Christian schools from being able to prioritise students on the basis of religious belief (s30(2))

This means that where a Christian school is reaching capacity, it will be unable to preference Christian families in enrolment decisions.

  • Introduces a representative complaint system where a party may file a complaint about ‘systematic discrimination’ resulting from the ‘behaviour, practice, policy or program’ of an organisation without having to name or identify any actual complainant (s62A(2)) or even obtain the consent to the complaint being lodged (s62A(3))

This means a school which holds a traditional Biblical view of male-female marriage could be accused of ‘systemic discrimination’ based on this belief, despite support from the school community.

The statement from the Association of Christian Schools goes on to state:

Implications for NT Christian Schools

There is clearly a direct conflict between the Federal Labor Government’s expressed intention and direction to the ALRC to allow religious schools to ‘build a community of faith by giving preference, in good faith to persons of the same religion’ and the NT Labor Government’s legislative agenda. Also, there are concerning implications for other states, such as QLD and WA, where there are new anti-discrimination laws being drafted, and these governments might look to the example of the NT and consider following a similar approach.

If the Bill passes unamended, it will leave the Northern Territory as the only Australian jurisdiction without explicit legal protection for religious schools in employment matters. They will be open to complaints of discrimination for their policies, employment and teaching practices and could be in the courts within the next six months defending themselves against vexatious complaints from activist representative bodies.

The Lie of Same-Sex Marriage

Marsha Gessen, a lesbian political activist, let the genie of deliberate public deception out of the bottle all the way back in 2012 when she told the Sydney Writer’s Festival:

Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there. Because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change. And that is a lie.

We should have woken up to the alarm bell then but here we are, five years later, and the agenda of LGBTIQ activists is being well and truly realised.


Photo by Pixabay.

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The Public Square, “Religious Neutrality” and the War on Christianity

The public arena is not neutral — rival religions are competing for hegemony.

We are told — at least in theory — that in the West all points of view are welcome, and they can be argued for in public forums. This may have been more or less true not all that long ago, but things have changed. Here I want to look at how one recent book deals with this issue, but I must do two other things first.

One, I must mention that I recently revisited the important 1984 book, The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus. In it, he argued that religion was being stripped away from the public square. But the question is, do we still have a neutral or empty public square? Or has a new religion rushed in to fill the void? As one writer put it a few years ago:

True as Neuhaus’ observation of a “naked public square” may have been for his time, it no longer holds. The public square was “naked” only as a transitional stage, as one set of adornments — woven from religious tradition and taken from the wardrobe of the moral imagination — were taken down to make way for other, more daring ones.

Today the public square is festooned with the draperies of multiculturalism, gender fluidity, and all the false colors of an ideology committed to using the federal government to re-order society in accordance with the dictates of the new religion. Adherents of this new religion no longer feel the need to hide their contempt for the old draperies, or for those who loved them.

Two, and related to this, I recently quoted from a February 2022 article by Aaron Renn who discussedThe Three Worlds of Evangelicalism”. He says that things have radically shifted in the past few decades (at least in America), so evangelicals will need to rethink how we engage in the public arena.

He mentioned three worlds: The Positive World (Pre-1994); The Neutral World (1994–2014); and The Negative World (2014–Present). While Christianity was once viewed positively, it is now treated in a hostile fashion. So just trying to be winsome and nice will not cut it. We are now on a war footing.

Those two preliminaries nicely tie in with the book I said I wanted to focus on. I refer to Stephen Wolfe’s Christian Nationalism (Canon Press, 2022). This is a significant book that I will discuss in a number of forthcoming articles, including a proper review.

Christian Nationalism bookSubtle Stranglehold

Here I just want to look at a short section (pp. 339-345), where he discusses the stranglehold of liberalism’s soft tyranny, especially on public life, and how we must reject the myth of religious neutrality. He does not refer to Neuhaus, but he does mention Renn once or twice, although not in this section.

He of course is not the first Christian thinker to discuss these matters. But I like what he has to say here. And it comes in the context of why believers should not be shy in affirming their faith and beliefs in the public arena. The other side is always pushing theirs, so we should be willing to stand for Christian truth in public as well.

Wolfe notes that hardcore outward persecution of Christianity is rare. What is happening is much more insidious:

“Today, we contend with the soft power of liberalism — a power that has been remarkably effective at destroying religiosity in the West without firing a shot and without significantly undermining ‘religious liberty’.”

He then offers a great quote from the recent book The Demon In Democracy by Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko, who lived under both communism and liberalism. He says the endgame of both seems quite similar: both have succeeded in making secularism triumphant:

All the objectives the communists set for themselves, and which they pursued with savage brutality, were achieved by the liberal democrats who, almost without any effort and simply by allowing people to drift along with the flow of modernity, succeeded in converting churches into museums, restaurants, and public buildings, secularizing entire societies, making secularism the militant ideology, pushing religion to the sidelines, pressing the clergy into docility, and inspiring powerful mass culture with a strong antireligious bias in which a priest must be either a liberal challenging the church or a disgusting villain. In short — one may wonder — this nonreligious and antireligious reality of today’s Western world very close to the vision of the future without religion that the communists were so excited about, and which despite the millions of human lives sacrificed on the altar of progress, failed to materialize.

Says Wolfe, this has

occurred both without the use of explicit power and under the guise of “freedom” and “toleration.” There was no explosive event of anti-religious tyranny. A thousand nudges seemingly led Christians, largely willingly or at best begrudgingly, to confine their religion to churches, privatize religion, and surrender the public to hostile secularization.

The uniqueness of our time is that modern liberal power seemingly protects religious liberty while simultaneously undermining religion with implicit social power. Secularism dominates the institutions and has normalized a “neutral” value system that conflicts with Christian moral teaching. “Neutrality” and “diversity” provide the perfect cover for the pervasive use of implicit power to undermine and control religion.

Christians were not ready for this. We are ever-vigilant for that explicit, outward, open, physical, declared, and official persecution. We received this expectation from the Christian tradition — a tradition formed in times very different from our own. But we don’t live in the same world as our spiritual forefathers, in the world of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. The powers of our modern world — the ones that undermine true religion in the West – are more implicit and psychological; they operate in the normalization of secularism.

He continues:

Christians in the West are enmeshed in totalizing liberal regimes. Though seemingly limited in explicit power, liberal regimes have universal reach: Every square inch is secularist, unless granted an exception by the state. Christians in civil life must adopt either a secularist or a non-threatening religious posture. Contrary to what is promised and assured, there is no neutrality or contestability in the public square. As Lugutko said, “In defense of pluralism, we give people the right to choose any available philosophy, provided that they choose liberalism.”

Compelled Conformity

The war on real Christianity becomes apparent in such a milieu:

The regime’s chief objective is suppressing an activist Christian religion that seeks Christian normalization and anti-secularism. The American regime does not want to eradicate religion. Thinking so was the error of prior generations of concerned Christians and perhaps also the error in strategy of the New Atheists twenty years ago. Rather, modern liberalism, at least in the post-Trump era, requires that the distinctives of the religion are either rendered harmless to the regime or the regime harnesses it for its own ends…

Christian Americans should see themselves as under a sort of occupation. … The occupation universalizes their ideology, forcing your Christianity to exist only in the walls of churches, denying any civil and social ordering to God and Christ’s kingdom. The top-down and foreign imposition of secularism is evident in Supreme Court decisions, though these are only the tip of the iceberg and most visible to us.

He wraps things up this way:

When Christians are under a universalizing and totalizing non-Christian regime that wields implicit powers against true religion, how is this not tyranny? Is this not an assault on the people of God, who are forced to live in a public square that wars against Christ’s kingdom and against the nature of true humanity?

The natural spheres of life, each with its own God-ordained power, are ordered against God and His people. This certainly is tyranny, though there isn’t, at first glance, a clear tyrant. We see a modern regime made up of politicians, bureaucrats, media, Hollywood, public intellectuals, academics, corporations, HR directors, public health officials, foundations, medical associations, etc. The regime is the threat.

Everything he says here comes from Chapter 8, which is about “The Right To Revolution.” What he says about revolution will have to wait for another article. But I like how he highlights the very real changes that have occurred over recent decades, and how we need to recognise that full-on persecution is already here, but just in a form that we may not have expected.

As such, the public square is not at all naked, but a new kid on the block has moved in and taken control. And his values and beliefs are overwhelmingly opposed to those of the biblical Christian. How we got this way and what we should do about it is the focus of this important new book. Stay tuned for further articles on it.


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Malcolm Lightbody.

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Rising Support for Religious Freedom Sparks Calls for Albanese to Take Action

A recent survey commissioned by a coalition of Christian Schools in Australia found that support for religious freedom laws is rising. An overwhelming majority supported the rights of religious schools to employ staff who affirm their values.

Over the past few years, religious freedom has gotten quite a bad rap. It has been construed by many — particularly within the legacy media and the political class — as the right to be intolerant or a bigot.

Many have perceived calls for religious freedom as merely an attempt by religious institutions to consolidate or extend their political power in Australia.

But a recent poll reveals that attitudes are changing. Well, actually, despite the negative attitudes in the elite class, support for religious freedom has always been quite high. Nonetheless, a recent poll commissioned by the Christian Schools Alliance indicates that the level of support for religious liberty is on the rise.

According to The Australian, the survey found that three in four (75%) Australians support the right of religious schools to hire staff who support their “stated values and beliefs”.

An even higher percentage — 86 per cent — support the rights of parents to choose a school that reflects their beliefs. This figure is up from 81 per cent just months ago in May.

ValuED Voices highlighted the fact that almost 90 per cent of parents whose children are in a faith-based school support the right of those schools to be able to hire staff who affirm their values.

The findings have sparked calls by prominent faith-based school advocates for Anthony Albanese to act by legislating against discrimination on the basis of religion. Representatives from the Australian Association of Christian Schools and Christian Schools Association called on the government to pass legislation with “strong” and “fair protections” for faith-based schools.

Conducted between 24 and 26 October, the survey comes in light of the recent Andrew Thorburn saga, in which the former National Australia Bank leader was pressured from his position as the CEO of the Essendon Football Club due to his Christian affiliations.

It was conducted by Compass Polling on behalf of the Australian Christian Schools Alliance, and it included a sample of respondents from across the political spectrum — Labor, Coalition, Greens and others.


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Christian Witness in a Hostile Culture

How should we live in these changing times? How do we continue to bear witness to Christ’s Gospel in the face of outright hostility and incomprehension?

My theme is simple. As I have said so often over the years, the once-Christian West is no more. The West has not only moved into being a post-Christian West, but it is now quite clearly an anti-Christian West. That is the reality we find ourselves in today. So how do Western Christians live in such a culture?

In one sense, we live the same as always. We seek to live lives of integrity, allowing Jesus to shine through our daily words and actions. We seek to share the Gospel. We continue to worship God. All that remains the same. But in other ways, we need to think and act rather differently.

Changing World

Just yesterday I wrote about this matter in a book review. I quoted Eric Metaxas:

“The problem is not at all that wonderful pastors like New York’s Tim Keller were wrong in their assessments that we should avoid politics and culture-warring, but that as circumstances in our own culture changed, they eventually became wrong by sticking to a script that was no longer right for the time in which we found ourselves.”

He had referred to an article that in turn referred to an earlier piece. Let me retrace the steps. In February 2022, Aaron Renn wrote about “The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism”. He uses Keller as one of his examples as he looks at these three worlds:

Positive World (Pre-1994): Society at large retains a mostly positive view of Christianity. To be known as a good, churchgoing man remains part of being an upstanding citizen. Publicly being a Christian is a status-enhancer. Christian moral norms are the basic moral norms of society and violating them can bring negative consequences.

Neutral World (1994–2014): Society takes a neutral stance toward Christianity. Christianity no longer has privileged status but is not disfavored. Being publicly known as a Christian has neither a positive nor a negative impact on one’s social status. Christianity is a valid option within a pluralistic public square. Christian moral norms retain some residual effect.

Negative World (2014–Present): Society has come to have a negative view of Christianity. Being known as a Christian is a social negative, particularly in the elite domains of ­society. Christian morality is expressly repudiated and seen as a threat to the public good and the new public moral order. Subscribing to Christian moral views or violating the secular moral order brings negative consequences.

A number of other writers picked up on this assessment. For example, a few months later James Wood wrote “How I Evolved on Tim Keller.” He said this:

I began to observe that our politics and culture had changed. I began to feel differently about our surrounding secular culture, and noticed that its attitude toward Christianity was not what it once had been. Aaron Renn’s account represents well my thinking and the thinking of many:

There was a “neutral world” roughly between 1994–2014 in which traditional Christianity was neither broadly supported nor opposed by the surrounding culture, but rather was viewed as an eccentric lifestyle option among many. However, that time is over.

Now we live in the “negative world,” in which, according to Renn, Christian morality is expressly repudiated and traditional Christian views are perceived as undermining the social good.

As I observed the attitude of our surrounding culture change, I was no longer so confident that the evangelistic framework I had gleaned from Keller would provide sufficient guidance for the cultural and political moment. A lot of former fanboys like me are coming to similar conclusions. The evangelistic desire to minimize offense to gain a hearing for the Gospel can obscure what our political moment requires.

Branded as Bigots

Just a few days ago, Australian writer Simon Kennedy looked at all this in light of the recent case of anti-Christian bigotry in the AFL. Andrew Thorburn was hounded out of his role as Essendon CEO for daring to identify as a Christian, and for being associated with City on a Hill church and its minister Guy Mason. After this event, Mason was soon on Channel 7 trying to deal with all this.

He tried to present his side of the story to David Koch on Sunrise a week ago, but as might have been expected, he was bullied and shot down by a very unsympathetic Koch. Mason wanted to stress the positive and highlight God’s love, but Koch would have none of it. All that reflects the big cultural shift now underway. Kennedy says this:

Here is the fact the culturally sensitive, missional, gospel-centred church in Australia now needs to face. And that descriptor makes up a good chunk of the conservative churches in Australia, be they Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Uniting, or whatever. The fact is: No. One. Cares.

No one cares how nice you are. No one cares how clever you are. No one cares how many recent Hollywood films you reference in your sermon. No one cares how many cultural connections you make in your blog posts. And I’m afraid that no one will have given two hoots about Mason’s positive vision for Christianity from his Channel 7 interview.

Why is that? Because Mason is a bigot. I am a bigot. And you, dear brothers and sisters, are bigots. We are, as Carl Trueman pointed out years ago, the equivalent of white supremacists in the eyes of our enlightened, post-Christian society. No matter how gentle, meek, and winsome you are on national television, no matter how nice you come across, and no matter how well you avoid the hard issue thrown at you in public, you will be cast as a bigot.

So how do we approach this? What should our ministry and cultural strategy be? I suggest starting with Aaron Renn’s framework of “positive world,” “neutral world,” and “negative world.” Renn argues that we winsome, culturally-sensitive types are operating quite naively in neutral world. The trouble is, we’re not Tim Keller in New York in 1998. The world, and the culture we’re trying to relate to, have moved on. In our culture, Christianity is a net negative.

Given that, our approach to everything we do should be coloured by the reality that our efforts to be winsome, pleasant, gentle and meek won’t increase our persuasiveness. Our presentation of, and communication of, the gospel message is not enhanced by pretending we live in neutral world. Do you know what our culture wants to know? It wants to know what Kochie wanted Mason to tell him — Why are we bigots?

What drives us to be bigots? Why would we hold to purportedly outdated, disgraceful, out-of-favour views about moral issues like abortion, gender, and marriage? Mason, unfortunately, never got to give an answer, maybe because he did not have one ready for his interview on Channel 7. This is unfortunate, and I feel for him. My suspicion is he wasn’t expecting the line of questioning he received.

But what else should he expect? Ministers should no longer expect the culture to play nice. Media engagement is a minefield, a battlezone. It is not a tennis match with cucumber sandwiches and soda water afterwards. So, too, parishioners and congregation members are actually in a battle zone when they live in the world. Equipping them with winsomeness, niceties, and polite apologetics strategies is very 2002.

Quite right. Things have changed, and just trying to be nice no longer cuts it. We may need to go back to our Gospel roots — the actual four Gospels in fact. Recall John the Baptist standing up to Herod and rebuking him over an issue of sexual immorality. He lost his head for daring to do that.


Jesus spoke truth to power to both the political Roman overlords and the religious leaders of his day. He too lost His life for doing this. And almost all of the disciples also paid the ultimate price for speaking truth boldly and not worrying about how many feathers they were ruffling along the way.

Countless Christian martyrs through the centuries also testify to this fact. To proclaim the truth of God to a world that hates the one true God will always result in a fierce and hostile reaction. How can it be otherwise? The Old Testament prophets also knew all about this reality.

Is there still a place to seek to be wise and careful and cautious as we relate to the world around us, and to the world’s leaders, elites and media? Sure, but the idea that if we just smile a lot and seek to be hip, trendy and cool we will gain a hearing no longer cuts it in the very antagonistic climate we find ourselves living in today.

So we must go back to basics. When Jesus said this in Luke 6:22-23, He actually meant it:

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracise you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.”

And when He said this in John 15:18-21, He also meant it:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also.”


Let me say here that I (and the writers I feature above) are not picking on Mason. As someone who has been involved in many hundreds of interviews with a hostile secular media, I know how tough it can be. It is never easy, and real wisdom is needed.

But I might also say that even in his own church, he may have been too careful and cautious (although he may have known the secular media was going to be there; and someone said he eventually got stronger in the end). Having said that, I tend to go along with Doug Wilson here in his assessment of Mason and the trans issue:


Originally published at CultureWatch.

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Protest the Sacking of Essendon’s Andrew Thorburn

Protest the Sacking of Essendon’s Andrew Thorburn

Andrew Thorburn, who was recently appointed CEO of the Essendon Football Club, has been pushed out of his job on account of the views and moral beliefs of the church he belongs to and on whose board of management he sits.

Those views, which even the club itself accepts were not stated personally by Mr Thorburn and which had to be found by scouring a database of sermons back to 2013, represent views on moral issues that are shared by Christians, Muslims, Jews and many other religious believers.

They are not “radical” or “hateful” or “bigoted”. It is arguable that the Club has breached Victorian anti-discrimination law, while the intervention of Daniel Andrews has made it an issue for the November state election.

Guilt by Association

Mr Thorburn was recruited as someone with top managerial experience in the banking sector, and a long-time Essendon fan. But as soon as the announcement was made, it was apparently discovered that he was a member of the board of management of a church called “City on a Hill”, which is linked with the Anglican Church but has its own corporate governance.

The “media story” has been to repeat that the church “equated abortion with concentration camps and claims “practising homosexuality is a sin”.

Yet, to its credit, here is what the Guardian reports on the topics with more detail:

“A City on a Hill article from 2013, titled Surviving Same-Sex Attraction as a Christian, advises those who ‘struggle with same-sex attraction’ to “speak to a mature Christian whom you trust, so you can receive the support and accountability you will need in the long term to survive these temptations.

“Those views were reiterated in a 2016 sermon stating ‘practising homosexuality is a sin, but same-sex attraction is not a sin’…

“Another sermon, published in 2013 and titled, What Should Christians Think About Abortion, said:

‘Whereas today we look back at sadness and disgust over concentration camps, future generations will look back with sadness at the legal murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings every day through medicine and in the name of freedom.’”

Hence, Andrew Thorburn’s sin is guilt by association.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews bluntly condemned Andrew Thorburn’s views as “absolutely appalling… I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry. It is just wrong.”

The next day Mr Thorburn tendered his resignation, but it seems clear that he did so because of pressure from the Board.

The President of the Club said:

“As soon as the comments relating to a 2013 sermon from a pastor, at the City on the Hill church came to light this morning, we acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organisation’s official website, which are in direct contradiction to our values as a club.

“The board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as chairman of City on the Hill.”

Mr Thorburn later released a comment on LinkedIn, in part of which he said:

“[T]oday it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many. I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed.

People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect. Behaviour is the key. This is all an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.”

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne and Essendon supporter, Peter Comensoli, entered the debate attacking the Victorian Premier for using words like “intolerant” and “bigotry” — warning that Victorian society was in “big trouble” if that was the reaction to people of faith.

Archbishop Comensoli pointed out that it was the premier’s comments that were “harmful”, saying,

“The Premier’s own words about his beliefs and how they play out for the sake of others, have tended toward the harmful, because they have sought to uphold the good of one by undermining the good of another.”

What Happens Now?

The background to this decision is the increasing hostility of Western elites to mainstream Christian views. They aim to silence religious believers in the public square. Its possible implications are spelled out with great clarity in posts by Stephen McAlpine (here and here) and Murray Campbell (here and here).

Also, there are legal implications for the Essendon club.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (the “EOA”) makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone in employment (s 18) “by dismissing the employee or otherwise terminating his or her employment”, where that decision is on the basis of the attribute of “religious belief or activity” (s 6(n)), or “personal association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above attributes” (s 6(q)).

It seems fairly clear that while formally Mr Thorburn resigned, he was in effect forced to do so, and that would seem to be either a dismissal or termination. It seems clear from what has been said that a significant reason for this dismissal was either his own personal faith, or else his “association” with an organisation (City on a Hill church) with particular religious beliefs.

The EOA says that discrimination occurs “if a person treats, or proposes to treat, a person with an attribute unfavourably because of that attribute.”

It is also possible that this action could be seen as unlawful under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth.) Under s 351 of that Act it is unlawful to take “adverse action” against an employee on the basis of their religion, unless it can be shown that the action was taken “because of the inherent requirements of the particular position concerned” (s 351(2)(b)).

Talking Points

In a free, democratic society, all views and beliefs should be tolerated. That means Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of faith have the right to express their beliefs without being sacked from their job, which is discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The premier’s statement — “There’s no place for bigotry… That kind of intolerance, hatred and bigotry is just wrong” — is itself bigoted and expresses hatred as it is saying that only one moral view will be tolerated in Victoria. Other beliefs will not be tolerated in the pubic square. Yet, Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act says it is unlawful to dismiss a person from their job on the basis of their religious beliefs.

What has a person’s religious belief got to do with managing a football club? This is cancel culture at its worst. Andrew Thorburn is condemned for comments by someone else in his church about their historical cultural beliefs, and then sacked. His sin is guilt by association. He should be going for unfair dismissal, given the Equal Opportunity Act protects his right to hold and manifest his beliefs.

Australians used to be able to associate with causes they believed in, be they churches, lobby groups, political parties, sporting clubs, or whatever, without looking over their shoulders. Now, as corporate Australia complies with the agenda of LGBT activists, people like Israel Folau, Andrew Thorburn and other prominent Australians, are no longer welcome to voice their opinions if they aren’t in lock-step with the new moral orthodoxy.

This is not diversity, this is imposed uniformity.


1. Support Archbishop Comensoli for defending the right of Andrew Thorburn to express and live by his religious beliefs.
Email: archbishop@cam.org.au  
Write a letter to: Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, PO Box 146, East Melbourne. VIC 8002

2. Comment at the Herald Sun by going to the bottom of this page to JOIN THE CONVERSATION and make your comments. More articles will appear soon, so comment on those articles also.
Send letters to the Herald Sun here.

3. Protest to the Essendon Football club. Emails: generalenquiries@essendonfc.com.au or windyhillvenue@essendonfc.com.au
Write letters to the Club: PO Box 17, Essendon, VIC, 3040, or phone: (03) 8340 2000.

4. Call/email 3AW and make your comments heard:
Email: digital.products@3aw.com.au  Open Line: 133 693

5. Push out your comments on social media.

Yours Sincerely,
Patrick Byrne
NCC National President

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