Church leaders unite to fight for Folau's 'freedom'
A GROUP of Sunshine Coast pastors, disturbed by the persecution of rugby sensation Israel Folau, have called on church people to unite for traditional family values.
The pastors, one of whom led a campaign which forced Kmart to remove Playboy and Penthouse magazines from its stores across Australia years ago, said for too long the church had been absent from debates around contentious moral and political issues.
They said freedom of speech had emerged as a major election issue following the fallout from Rugby Australia's treatment of Israel Folau.
"We are a sleeping giant, and now we need to be awake," group spokesman Ps Adrian Alzino, of the History Maker Australia Church at Kawana, said.
"Up until now, the church and its pastors have been sitting back and letting things happen, but now we're saying, 'Hang on, we must speak up and be a positive influence for positive values'."
Major concerns identified by the local pastors are maintaining freedom of speech and freedom of belief of all faiths.
The group cited developments that they believe impacted the freedom of speech:
- A 2016 anti-discrimination case, which was later withdrawn, against the Tasmania Catholic Church and Hobart's Archbishop Julian Porteous, over the church's booklet, "Don't Mess with marriage";
- The call to have Margaret Court Arena re-named in retaliation to the tennis-star-turned-minister's opposition to same-sex marriage; and,
- The recent case of rugby union star Israel Folau at risk of losing his playing contract for quoting a Bible verse on his personal Instagram account.
The pastors believe Australia is fast becoming a nation that curtails all speech that espouses views that don't align with politically-correct views.
Their comments come as Prime Minister Scott Morrison was hammered by Bill Shorten and the media until he declared that he did not believe gays would go to hell.
"If you are on 'the wrong side' of the debate, there are consequences, but when a belief is disagreed with, however vehemently, it should be critiqued, not censored - that is how a mature, democratic society works," Ps Alzino said.
"All Australians must know that they are free to express those beliefs which are part of their identity, even if they are overtly Christian.
"The church has a moral obligation and a spiritual obligation to voice what it believes in.
"It is not perfect, it is made up of imperfect people, but the church does have standards based on the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the Bible, and a message of hope for all Australians."
The pastors say they will speak out on issues like discrimination, bullying and intimidation in society generally.
The pastors involved in the move so far are Ps Alzino, Ps Patrick Chandran (Coast Alive - International Network of Churches, Maroochydore), Ps Neil Miers (Global Connexions, Buddina), Ps Lawrence Seiuli (Nambour Christian Church), and Ps Mark Green (The Range International Network of Churches, Montville, and Kawana State High School Chaplain). They are inviting other pastors to get involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor Miers once headed one of the largest church on the Coast - the Christian Outreach Centre at Woombye - during which time he spoke out on issues like Playboy and Penthouse in stores and wet t-shirt competitions.