What do old, white, sex-obsessed people do three days after they’ve lost a national vote about tolerance and fairness? If you’re the Australian Christian Lobby, you hold a conference and talk about masturbation.

Embolden17, held in Sydney on Saturday, was the launchpad for the ACL’s new initiative, the Centre for Human Dignity, which appears to be anti-porn, anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia. About 400 people turned up to hear Wendy Francis, the Queensland state director of the ACL, who has equated same-sex marriage to “legalising child abuse”, do the launch. She said that due to pornography, our society was “marionating (sic) in the vile soup of degradation”.

Francis, the wife of a Baptist pastor, introduced a video clip of a couple who were so upset about the images in a Dunlop Volley ad that they had notified the ACL, which lobbied the company to take them down. Isn’t it good to know that while the rest of us are awake at night worrying about climate change, the ACL is protecting us from pictures of canvas shoes? Davis has also managed to get a bra company to take down a picture of Hugh Hefner (what is going on up in Queensland?) and lobbied for outdoor advertising to be G-rated.

The ACL’s heartland is Queensland; managing director Lyle Shelton is from Toowoomba, which hit the headlines in 2016 when the mayor launched a campaign to ban pornography. The success of the campaign was never revealed, although online adult store Femplay subsequently reported that based on the number of sex adult toys it sold, the good people of Toowoomba were its biggest customers.

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I went to high school in Toowoomba, in the days when premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen had banned both sex education and access to abortion. Inevitably, teenage pregnancy rates soared, and my best friend at school was forced to drop out because she couldn’t afford to go to New South Wales for an abortion. Access is still difficult in Queensland, where abortion is the only medical procedure to appear in the state’s Criminal Code. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked the Law Reform Commission to investigate the issue, with a final report due by June 30, 2018. Inevitably, the LNP and One Nation are campaigning heavily against any changes.

Back in Sydney, lucky attendees got to hear the theories of German sociologist Gabriele Kuby, who denies the existence of homosexuality.

“There is no innate same sex attraction. It is not supported by scientific evidence. There is no innate gender identity. It is not supported by scientific evidence. Most children with gender dysphoria grow out of it. It is not supported by scientific evidence that all these children need some kind of hormonal measures of sex change, which I think is simply a severe abuse of children.”

She told the audience that allowing gay people to marry was a mistake.

“The next step is that they will be given the right to procreate”, leading to the “artificial production” of children using “sperm from an anonymous masturbator”, she said. Christians were now called to battle, she said.

“We need men to reclaim their manly authority and fulfil their number one duty to protect their family … and the future of society.”

I mingled in the crowd at lunchtime — more Crocs than Volleys — and talked to a man who was trying to get Christian certification on foodstuffs. After a confusing 10-minute conversation, I realised that he was actually trying to stop halal certification — the opposition to which has consumed Senator Cory Bernardi and various members of One Nation (and totally bewildered the rest of us).

Apart from losing the vote on marriage equality, the ACL has a few obvious problems. Going by the members who turned up on Saturday, their constituency is overwhelmingly white and old, although I did see a handful of Asian faces. And while Shelton has become a de facto spokesman for Christian opposition to the vote, the ACL bears as much relationship to Christians as the Irish Republican Army did to Catholics. It’s a fringe organisation made up largely of Pentecostals and Baptists, which, in turn, make up a very small proportion of those people who identify as “Christians” on the Australian census.

Luckiest person at the conference was ABC comedian Tom Ballard — there as a journalist/observer, and for comedy material — was thrown out for daring to send it up. I soldiered on, but by mid-afternoon had heard so much about self-abuse that it felt like a evening with Louis C.K. Now that it’s lost the vote on marriage equality, the ACL should give up poking its nose into people’s bedrooms and stick to the things it’s good at: complaining about billboards.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey