This whole gay marriage debate is turning really ugly. We’ve seen a medical practitioner have her licence to practice threatened by Yes extremists. But apart from this and other similar incidents, the strength is really with the No side. Those wishing to establish the Kingdom of Heaven are firmly in the No camp. They have the benefit of hundreds of years of common law and a shared definition of marriage going back thousands of years.

For God’s LGBTI children and their supporters, these facts make this debate that much harder. It also means the Yes crowd must make room for believers in their campaign if they are to represent all the colours of the rainbow. If the Yes crowd become a de facto and exclusive gathering place for non-believers, it may lead to a whole heap of potential Yes voters throwing their voting papers in the bin before heading off to Church, Shul, Mosque, Gurudwara, etc, where they will likely be told by the leaders of their faith that gay marriage is an abomination.

Indeed, the Pope has recently urged his flock to vote no. No, not the Argentinian dude in Rome. I mean the Coptic, the one who is ethnically and linguistically closer to Jesus. HH Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of millions of Coptic Christians (one of the oldest Christian congregations on the planet), is visiting Australia for the first time.

No doubt he will pray for his flock suffering under the yoke of majoritarian oppression in Egypt as well as brutal massacres by Islamic State in Libya. But on the religious status of gay relationships, this Pope has much in common with conservative Islamic clerics in Egypt.

On refugees, AAP reported that “Pope Tawadros was apprehensive to weigh in on Australia’s refugee intake, including Coptic Christians from Egypt”. But on same-sex marriage, he had no such hesitation.

“It’s a sin!” he thundered to a large group of Coptic youth, encouraging them to stand for truth and oppose marriage equality. He used similar words when arriving at the airport. “There is no — at all — same-sex marriage … Therefore this marriage is completely refused from the Christian faith,” he said. “When God created man and woman and for them the first family was made by man and woman. This is not acceptable and it is considered as a sin. It’s sin.”

One Muslim spokesman has claimed Muslims are stuck between criticism from left and right, and, hence, have kept out of the mass debate. To his credit, Ali Kadri doesn’t claim to be an imam or some other representative of Islamic religious orthodoxy. Neither do those who disagree with him, like Sydney lawyer Lydia Shelly who told ABC: “… Muslim communities react with varying degrees with respect to homosexuality. There are many, many gay Muslims — some whom practice, some who do not. The issue of same-sex marriage and the support of it varies depending on age, class and nationality”. I myself co-authored a piece on gay Muslims with a practising gay Muslim.

Melbourne is home to a gay imam. And who could forget the glee emanating from News Corp around the opinions expressed by some imams about homosexuality, some of which are now being echoed by News Corp columnists and various people on the No side. Among the imams targeted was Sheik Alsuleiman, an Australian of Palestinian heritage who is currently under a death threat from IS. Alsuleiman’s defamation action is before the court. Regardless, his Board of Imams colleague in Queensland has no hesitation in making a public call for Muslims to vote no. Their congregations have held the status of most hated minority in the country, but that won’t stop them from showing a lack of concern for the human rights of another minority.

The Queensland imam in question was cited as saying that gay people are to be put to death under sharia — once a thorough investigation establishes they are gay. One Greek Orthodox priest in Melbourne, the city with the largest Greek community outside Athens, has allegedly told parishioners gay people should be shot. True, it’s not the same as pushing them off a tower, IS-style, but it is equally fatal.

Another despised religious minority are the Sikhs. In submission 117 to the Senate Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, the National Sikh Council of Australia Inc wrote:

“Imagine for a moment if the progeny of Adam and Eve had decided to be homosexual no one of us, including the proponents and those supporting the Bill, would be here today to discuss what we are debating because the union of two homosexuals, does not and cannot produce anything. What the proponents of the Bill are proposing and supporting is against the law of Nature. God created humans on this planet to propagate the human race and not to destroy it. This bill will destroy the whole human race.”

I’m sure this isn’t the definitive Sikh perspective. You can read one Sikh response here.  

Religions on the No side haven’t shied away from speaking forcefully. Yet the No side continues to present itself as a victim, as having its freedoms curtailed. No one should have a problem with clergy speaking out on any issue. Evangelical atheists may claim such interjections compromise Australian secularism and freedom from religion. But if the current postal debate is anything to go by, Australian clergy are far from victims.

Peter Fray

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