In Defence of Religious Freedom
|SPECIAL THANKS! A big thank you for all your emails, phone calls and even visits
to Liberal and National Coalition Members of Parliament and Senators over the last week asking them to refuse a move to a conscience vote on homosexual 'marriage'. We had information that the issue would be brought up in the Party Room which was held yesterday morning in Canberra.
The Good News is there was no move in the Party Room to even raise the issue!
Our sources have told us that individual parliamentarians received up to 700 emails asking them
to keep their promise to put children first and support true marriage.
(We are sorry if you tried and the emailing service was on overload!) This is a great result!
We do not know if those who intended to bring it up withdrew at the last moment
or if it was not intended at all. One thing we do know is that your emails have had a positive effect,
so thank you again. Many hands make light work.
With this encouragement, let us think back to Australia Day and the recent National Christian Heritage Sunday which have helped us to cherish and celebrate our freedoms.
The Canberra Declaration states "the importance of these freedoms is shown in countries where they are threatened or absent. Police states and totalitarian nations inevitably begin with the curtailment of basic liberties, including religious freedom and the right to speak one's mind and conscience." So when we see our freedoms in Australia being eroded we need to speak out.
Therefore today we inform you of the plight of Major Bernard Gaynor who faces the possible stripping of his commission as an officer in the Australian Defence Force. Because he has expressed views at odds with Defence's position on homosexuality, he is now under fire.
In April 2013 Major Gaynor lodged with the Chief of Defence Force, General David Hurley, a 26-page complaint (WARNING: the photos in the complaint may offend some readers). He made this complaint in response to the CDF's decision to permit uniformed ADF participants to march in the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. As Major Gaynor pointed out, the Mardi Gras constitution outlines that political activity is a key object of the event. As such, Defence members who march in uniform breach long-standing Defence policies forbidding uniformed involvement in any political event.
The ADF's decision to march in the 2013 Mardi Gras Parade may very well be the first time in Australia's history that its military has officially taken part in a domestic political rally. But even more regrettable, the Parade was a rally that shouted out for radical changes to our existing marriage laws.
In his complaint, Major Gaynor also highlighted in great detail that the Mardi Gras, as with other 'gay pride' events, was an expression of acute religious, political and sexual harassment. And so the ADF support of the Sydney Mardi Gras violates its own policy. Defence members are not permitted to publicly take part in acts of sexual indecency or engage in political or religious harassment. Major Gaynor documented how the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade:
- mockingly denigrated Christian beliefs;
- hatefully campaigned for same-sex marriage;
- disrespectfully ridiculed politicians opposed to same-sex marriage;
- unashamedly had many instances of public nudity and sexually-explicit activity on display; and
- scandalously exposed spectating children to all of the above.
Military personnel have taken part in the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade as individuals under the umbrella of since 2008. But only in 2013 was permission granted for the Army to officially march in full uniform. An estimated 120 members of the Army, Navy and Air Force took part as seen in this 1-min video clip.
Much of this re-making of Defence is the legacy of the previous Labor Government who desired a new politically-correct 'progressive' military. See this Catholic Media article (with the same WARNING as above).
This year the Mardi Gras started on Friday 7 February and goes to Sunday 2 March 2014 with the Mardi Gras Parade on 1 March 2014. The ADF plans to allow its uniformed members to march through the streets of Sydney again.
Because Major Gaynor's believed his complaint was not formally dealt with, he expressed his concerns publicly.
In response, he received a Notice to Show Cause for Termination of Appointment from the Chief of Defence Force. General Hurley wrote in August,
"I respect your religious beliefs and your right to have, and express, opinions contrary to the ADF and Government policy. However your public articulation of these matters whilst a member of the Army Reserve, whether or not you are on duty, or in uniform, undermine my confidence in your ability to uphold the values of the Australian Army and your effectiveness as a leader in today's Army."
Major Gaynor was given until midnight on 5 February 2014 to respond with a defence. Please pray for him in this situation and send an email of encouragement to firstname.lastname@example.org Read more about Bernard Gaynor here.
In September last year Sally Vincent, the Family First Chairman in Queensland, launched a petition to Senator, the Hon David Johnston, the Minister for Defence to "Ensure service members with Christian beliefs and opinions will not be persecuted and retain Major Bernard Gaynor's commission so that he can continue serving."
Major Gaynor believes the underlying cause of this threat on his distinguished military career of 12 years in the Regular Army, and 4 more in the Army Reserve, including three tours in Iraq and time in Afghanistan, is that "I have offended the Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service". Prior to the petition, Defence had already cleared allegations against Major Gaynor put forward by DEFGLIS which is mostly made up of Defence members and is supported by the ADF. Its Chairman recently received a commendation for his leadership of DEFGLIS, which includes political campaigns to support homosexual marriage and to remove rights and funding from religious organisations.
Last year the ADF produced a new Army Pride Lapel Pin and Cufflinks with the Army's Rising Sun surrounded by the colours of the Rainbow Flag. In response to our email of concern, we received a letter from the Army Chief of Staff which gives some insight into how the Army now thinks. The letter states:
"Army is an inclusive organisation with a clear commitment to shape the collective attitudes, systems and behaviours of our people to improve capability. This is consistent with Army's core value of Respect, meaning having respect for ourselves, our colleagues, our community and our history of service to the nation."
Furthermore it stated that "cultural reform is integral to the ongoing capability".
We therefore might ask:
- Does this "cultural reform" for "shaping collective attitudes ... and behaviours" of Army personnel show that new values for the Australian Army are being put in place which discriminates against Christians?
- How is the ADF's permission for uniformed personnel to take part in the Sydney Mardi Gras consistent with the "Army's core value of Respect"?
If Defence members cannot practise their Christian faith, it must call into question the entire basis of the Australian Defence Force which serves to protect the freedoms for which generations of Diggers have shed their blood.
The Army Chief of Staff and DEFGLIS both stress that the Army is an "inclusive" organisation. But Jesus Himself was the most inclusive person in all human history. This is clearly shown in the Gospel stories in which He accepted and loved the despised and unloved. The sinless Son of God loved us all and died on a cross for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16-17). And why was Jesus so unjustly crucified? He spoke inconvenient truths to the religious and political leaders of the time.
What then can we do in response to all this?
- We can pray to God that religious freedom, which includes freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, will remain a vital part of our Australian way of life.
- We can show the love of Christ and speak the truth in love to those who want to take away our freedoms.
- We can use our religious freedom to speak to our leaders. And so we urge that you write an email to the Minister of Defence, Senator the Hon David Johnston email@example.com with copies to the Assistant Minister for Defence Hon Robert Stuart Stuart.Robert.MP@aph.gov.au and Prime Minister Tony Abbott firstname.lastname@example.org (You can get some ideas from a sample letter below).
Let us prayerfully keep watch and take an active role in the defence of our religious freedoms.
Yours for a free Australia,
David Rowsome and Warwick Marsh