Eric Abetz

Ultra-right conservative Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has slowed the “tide of evil” in our government, according to the founder of anti-gay group Salt Shakers, as the group announces it is shutting down in the coming months.

Salt Shakers is a Melbourne-based Christian group that has lobbied the government for more than two decades on social issues, particularly homosexuality and other contentious issues such as abortion.

The group denies it is anti-gay, but it has a lengthy history in opposing advances in the rights of LGBTI Australians. For example, at a 2000 Senate committee investigating offering equal superannuation benefits for same-sex couples as straight couples, founder Peter Stokes said Australia should not send a message to children that it was OK to be gay:

“Another law that says that same-sex relationships are OK sends the wrong message to our children. It says to them that homosexual relationships are OK, and they are not.”

Despite the march towards equality under the law for LGBTI Australians, the Salt Shakers’ campaign has continued to this day, with the group arguing against same-sex marriage. While organisations such as the Australian Christian Lobby and Marriage Alliance are cheering on the proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, Salt Shakers was one of the few Christian groups opposed to the plebiscite, and in its submission to the last parliament argued that if it were to be held, it should be held at the same time as the election:

“We believe that the question of same-sex ‘marriage’ is not a question to be decided by the parliament OR the people. The meaning of ‘marriage’ cannot be changed.”

The group is also one of a very few Christian groups still advocating publicly in Australia that people can be cured of homosexuality and become straight.

But that is set to end, with Stokes telling supporters in a letter at the end of July that he was retiring, and Salt Shakers would cease operating at the end of 2016. Stokes told supporters that he was turning 70 next year and that he and his wife, Jenny, had been considering potential replacements to take over the organisation for the past three years:

“Finding that suitable person, with the background and skills to continue, has proved difficult, which is just one of the reasons for believing that this is God’s time.”

Despite a “steady increase in immorality, and the growing endorsement of immorality through laws being passed by our governments”, Stokes claimed a victory in same-sex marriage not having yet passed, and said Abetz was “a very good friend of Salt Shakers” who should receive much credit for helping Salt Shakers’ agenda:

“I can categorically say that had it not been for Senator Abetz and his consistent stand for Christian values in the Parliament, the tide of evil would have moved much, much faster in Canberra. One day we may be able to tell the whole story, but now is not the time.”

The conservative Christian senator has a long history with the Salt Shakers. In 2005, there were calls for Abetz to resign as John Howard’s special minister of state when he addressed the group’s inaugural annual dinner.

Abetz will speak at the group’s “Farewell Celebration Dinner” on October 15.

Peter Fray

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