Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Perils of Ideological Purity

It has been asserted that it is “un-Australian” for state-based GLBT lobby groups to join in a national effort to influence the government at the Federal level. It has also been said our efforts should be purely Australian – that we have nothing to learn from, for example, our US counterparts, and should neither import their structures nor form local affiliates of their organisations.

The fundamentalist evangelical opponents of gay rights have no such purist inhibitions, forging close ties with US evangelical organisations, and have learned from them how to infiltrate and influence mainstream political parties. For example:

The Fatherhood Foundation
Campaigns for “father’s rights” in both “divorce and non-divorce” situations. Australian subsidiary of the US Fatherhood Foundation of Colorado, an evangelical organisation which aims to “heal marriages” and “restore families” – in other words, opposes divorce, and offers men anger management classes. The Australian operation was started by the Australian Heart Ministeries.

The US FF is a creation of the World Prayer Centre , Colorado Springs, a “prayer factory”, with a series of prayer rooms staffed by “prayer teams”, praying in shifts in an attempt to resolve problems emailed in by individual members. Their website says “The Holy Bible, and only the Bible….. is the final authority for determining all doctrinal truths . . . it is inspired, infallible and inerrant.” They believe in creationism, not evolution. They do not believe in sex outside marriage, divorce, or IVF. Or homosexual equality.

Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family is a subsidiary of the US organisation of the same name. Former leader Glenn Williams who now works for the US parent organisation, freely admitted that the Australian body was financially supported by the much larger and very influential US parent.

Like many other fundamentalist organisations, FoF do not initially mention religion, stressing instead the resources they offer, such as “Family Forums”, workshops on parenting, etc. Their policies are anti-divorce, anti-abortion, anti-gay and pro-censorship. Both US and Australian organisations have close ties with the Destiny Church in New Zealand and the Australian Family Association.

The Catholic Connection
The Australian Family Association is a subsidiary of the National Civic Council, one of a number of such subsidiaries established according to B A Santamaria’s plan to surreptitiously insert catholic doctrine into mainstream political life “each [organisation] with a single limited objective. To deal with … policy and organisation associated with the…family, the Movement (NCC) has fashioned the Australian Family Association.” (Santamaria 1990)

Former AFA leader was Mary Helen Woods – B A Santamaria’s daughter – also a major supporter of Fred Niles Christian Democratic Party. Current AFA head Bill Muehlenberg was previously on the board of The Salt Shakers, another micro-group vociferous in their condemnation of gay rights (these fundamentalists may be few in number, but they have many names).

Catholic links cut across party lines: the chief opponent of gay rights in the Labor Party is Joe De Bruyn (Gough Whitlam called him “the Dutchman who doesn’t like dykes,” because he opposed IVF for lesbians). He heads the Shopworkers Union, which wields the largest block vote in the Labor Party.

His Liberal Party counterpart is ex-trainee priest Tony Abbott: the two of them have been spotted sharing a platform at a conference run by the hugely powerful but secretive Catholic organisation Opus Dei.

The Election
Political parties Family First (with whom the Democrats have exchanged preferences) and Fred Niles Christian Democrats, supported by these evangelical networks, are standing on a strongly anti-gay platform, including:
· No gay marriage
· No recognition of gay relationships
· No gay adoption
· No IVF for lesbians
· National ban on X rated videos
· Block all internet porn
· Enforce moral standards on TV and radio
· No support for Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
· Allow religious bodies to discriminate in employment
· Exempt religious organisations from vilification laws

If we are to stand any chance of countering the pernicious influence of these backward-looking medieval fundamentalists, we need to do as they have done: link up with the might and power of our US and European counterparts and – given our smaller numbers - link together within Australia into one effective, internet-based national grouping.

Doug Pollard

Some evangelical organisations and networks

(you can find these on the net)

· Australian Evangelical Alliance
· Australian Christian Lobby
· Australian Prayer Net
· Transforming Melbourne
· Endeavour Forum
· One Heart for the Nation
· Living Waters Ministeries
· National Marriage Coalition
· National Association of Christian Leaders
· National Prayer Network

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Protest Beats Politics

Fascinating little piece in last week’s New Scientist (Aug 28th edition).

A study by Jon Agnone, a University of Washington sociologist, has found that sit-ins, rallies and boycotts were highly effective at forcing new environmental laws 1960 –1994.

The study compares the number of bills passed by Congress with the tactics employed by green groups in the same year. Each protest raised the number of pro-environment bills by more than 2%. Neither the state of public opinion at the time nor the effort spent schmooozing politicians, by contrast, had any influence whatsoever.

He also found that, unsurprisingly, more bills pass when both houses controlled by sympathetic parties – in US terms, the Democrats – and protests in an election year are more effective than at other times.

Agnone, addressing the American Sociological Association meeting in San Francisco, said protest groups lose effectiveness when they become part of the system, and the most effective weapon is disruption.

“If you make a big enough disturbance then people have to recognise what you’re doing.”

Greenpeace USA agreed. Director John Passacantando said, “Unless a politician feels real pressure, or a CEO senses a threat to his market, everything else is just talk.”

This agrees neatly with what Canberra politicians were saying when they decided it was OK to ban gay marriage: they weren’t hearing anything, so they felt safe to go ahead.

Moral: it doesn’t matter if the general public doesn’t like it, it doesn’t even matter if it upsets some of our own constituency – make enough of a stink and you CAN get stuff passed. Just don’t expect to be liked or thanked for it.