go to content

Leaked Anglican Church Document Says Marriage Equality "Greatest Ever Threat To Religious Freedom"

"We shouldn't tear apart a good thing that God has put together".

Posted on

A leaked document from the Anglican Church called What has God joined together? warns that same-sex marriage is the "greatest threat to religious freedom" Australia has ever seen.

The booklet, which was distributed to nearly 1,000 Sydney Anglicans on Tuesday, instructs church members on how to win arguments about marriage equality.

Churchgoers are told to warn friends and family of the negative social consequences of same-sex marriage, which the church claims include widespread adultery, divorce, child marriage, bigamy, polygamy, and women's bodies becoming "slaves" to commercial surrogacy.

Bishop Michael Stead, chair of the Archbishop's plebiscite task force, said the booklet is “moderate and reasonable and non-defensive, and not narky or hysterical”.

The booklet criticises both major parties for "only contemplating minimal protection for religious freedom".

In its proposed legislation on same-sex marriage, the Coalition suggested exemptions for religious ministers and civil celebrants from marrying same-sex couples and exemptions for religious organisations from providing them service. The Labor party says ministers of religion are the only necessary exemption.

"If [same-sex marriage] occurs then the law will be used to silence dissent. This would be the greatest threat to religious freedom we will ever have seen in Australia," the booklet reads.

In the booklet, Stead argues "we shouldn't tear apart a good thing that God has put together" and that same-sex marriage is a "long way from the good picture of marriage given to us by Jesus and the Bible".

Anglicans shouldn't be "anti-anybody or anything", he wrote. Instead they should focus on being "pro-woman, pro-man, pro-marriage, pro-family and pro-the common good".

It also states that God "really doesn't" have a problem with gays. "He does have a problem – and we see this throughout the Bible – with acts of sex outside of a man-woman marriage," the booklet reads.

Stead encourages followers to urge gay people to leave their life of sin and "live in a way that is pleasing to the Lord".

The booklet tells churchgoers they aren't bigoted or homophobic if they are opposed to same-sex marriage but "if you ever feel silenced because of your view, it may be the other person who is being the bigot".

If asked the question "Marriage is between two people – what's it got to do with anyone else?" followers are instructed to reply that because marriage is public and affects our "common future" everyone should have a say on changes to the Marriage Act.

Comparing the plebiscite to communism, Stead dismisses the argument that Australia is behind the rest of the world on marriage equality and that same-sex marriage is inevitable.

"In the 1920s progressives proclaimed communism was inevitable in Australia. Then in the 1950s conservatives said a war on communism was inevitable. As it turned out, they were both wrong. No one knows the future."

On Tuesday, the Labor party confirmed it would oppose the government's plan for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, partly because of a possible increase in youth suicide caused by a negative public debate.

The church rejected this argument.

"There is no evidence that public discussions overseas have led to an increase in LGBTI youth suicide. The Irish referendum points in the opposite direction, with the overall suicide rate falling in 2014-2015," the booklet reads.

"LGBTI youth have nothing to fear from a respectful public discussion about same-sex marriage."

The booklet comes just weeks after Melbourne Archbishop Phillip Freier released a letter he sent to other Archbishops saying the Anglican church "must accept" same-sex marriage if a plebiscite is carried.

“We can still stand for and offer holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a sacred ordinance given by God, while accepting that the state has endorsed a wider view of marriage,” Freier wrote.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.