I Stand for Freedom of Speech and Religion in Tasmania
Cornerstone Church Pastor Campbell Markham and street preacher Mr David Gee have been reported to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner due to their comments on same-sex marriage and atheists, highlighting an attitude of cultural victimhood that is gripping the State and the Country. It seems today when we hear something we do not like, we run to the Discrimination courts.
This new anti-discrimination case is another test for our freedom of speech in the State. Please join this petition in solidarity with these Christian men and their right to freedom of speech including the practice of religion.
The complaint which was lodged in recent weeks to the Anti-Discrimination board and accepted by Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Sarah Bolt is effectively twofold. Accusations have been made against Mr Markham as Pastor of the Church that street preacher, David Gee attends. Mr Gee is accused of offending atheists and homosexuals during his public preaching in the popular Hobart Mall’s “speaker’s corner”.
Mr Gee said the complaint which consists of a lengthy 14 pages, refers to comments he has made in online blogs and distributed in pamphlets. It appeared the complainant, who is known to both Mr Gee and Mr Markham from ongoing debate over the last few years, is an atheist who is offended by Mr Gee’s preaching and is seeking orders to ban him from speaker’s corner.
Mr Gee said he was willing to apologise for some things he had said, but would stand by others. “We should be able to have public debate and discussion, even if we radically disagree,” he said.
Mr Markham accusations relate to blog posts from 2011 when the debate around re-defining Marriage intensified in Tasmania. Speaking to The Australian Newspaper, Mr Markham stated that he did not believe his blogs, which he saw as an extension of his preaching on the Christian understanding of life, marriage and family and aimed primarily at parishioners, were demeaning of, or hurtful to, homosexuals. “Has stuff I’ve said or written upset people?” he said. “Of course. I don’t set out to do that, but that’s part of being a human being.”
Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws are the broadest in Australia. Under the State Anti-Discrimination Act 1988-Section 17 (1) “A person must not engage in any conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another person on the basis of an attribute referred to in section 16(e),” which includes among other things sexual orientation, gender and religious activity.
This case raises significant concerns that the existing legislation in Tasmania, in fact, limits freedom of speech, censoring people and not allowing them to speak. It follows the high profile case in November last year when a complaint was filed against Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous and the Australian Catholic Bishops about the distribution of the ‘Don't Mess With Marriage’ booklet, a pastoral letter outlining the Church's teaching on marriage and given in Catholic schools in Tasmania. In May this year, following a voluntary withdrawal of the complaint by the complainant, transgender advocate and Greens political candidate, Martine Delaney, the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner decided that it was not in the public interest to continue investigating the complaint against the Archbishop.
Clearly, some people are intent on seeking to use The Anti-Discrimination Act to limit Christian’s ability to teach the Bible and Church traditions which ultimately will hamstring debate among the wider community.
Gay rights activist Rodney Croome has defended the laws saying they protect the LGBTI community from “hateful” language. “Freedom of speech is a fundamental right but it is not absolute, and when free speech crosses into hate speech a line has to be drawn,” he told the Adelaide Mercury.
The complaint will be put forward at the Consolidation Council of the Anti-discrimination Council later this week. It is unknown what the conclusions will be if these two men are found in breach of the Act. They may be fined, forced to remove their blog posts or even as we have seen in other countries, forced to undertake mandatory re-education classes on LGBTI awareness.
Please join this petition now which will be given to these two Christian preachers as a sign of solidarity. Add your signature and if you like add a message of support for freedom of speech and religion in Tasmania.
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Support Pastor Campbell Markham and Mr Gee freedom of speech now!