NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Damian WyldNews Weekly
Assessing the Australian Christian Lobby
, November 22, 2008
Some of the ACL's recent activities have given cause for concern among pro-life, pro-family and faith-based activists, writes Damian Wyld.Since its founding more than a decade ago, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has become a prominent player in public life. Indeed, its own website claims the group has "positioned itself as one of the premier political lobbies in the country". It also provides a regular source of media commentary on a range of issues and is quoted in parliamentary debates.
Given these facts, it is only fair to ask what policies ACL pursues.
ACL's longstanding acceptance of some level of recognition of same-sex couples has raised eyebrows in some circles - as did their inclusion of environmental issues in voting guides alongside matters of life and death.
However, it is their more recent activities which have given cause for concern among pro-life, pro-family and faith-based activists.Late-term abortions
Recently, the public were invited to makes submissions to a federal inquiry into Senator Guy Barnett's proposal to remove Medicare funding from late-term abortions. Many good submissions were received by the inquiry. ACL's offering was certainly comprehensive and well-presented, but made some ill-chosen remarks regarding abortion.
According to the submission, "where a fetus has a lethal abnormality and would not be expected to survive once born, [ACL] would accept a new Medicare Item number to provide funding for abortions in these very rare circumstances" - although advocating support for parents who wished to continue the pregnancy (ACL submission, page 8).
This statement does not sit well with ACL's statement in the same paper that "all people are of inherent and equal moral value, irrespective of their physical or mental state".
Giving ACL the benefit of the doubt, one could argue it is actually seeking compromise for the sake of preventing at least some abortions from occurring, rather than failing to prevent any.
However, it bodes poorly for the future of pro-life rhetoric if it can be agreed that some abortions are acceptable. If it cannot be agreed that abortion is always wrong, it then merely degenerates into a battle of how and when and who pays for it...
Perhaps a misunderstanding also caused ACL, in the same paper, to trip over the case of life-threatening maternal disease.
In such cases, ACL rightly points out that a procedure may be undertaken such that "the intent... is not to terminate the life of the fetus but to preserve the life of the mother" (page 9).
Unfortunately, ACL here fails to emphasise that such a procedure should not be conducted as an abortion, but rather a live birth with full intention to save the child, even when it may be a seemingly hopeless cause.
Comments such as "where... the only way of saving her [the mother] is to end the life of her unborn child" once again implies the acceptability of some abortions and flies in the face of traditional Christian ethics.
On some political and social issues, it is commendable for people to consider both sides of an argument, especially in order to refine their own position.
However, on the all-important life-and-death issue of euthanasia, it is puzzling to see the ACL's quarterly magazine Debate
take a seemingly even-handed approach by according equal space to opposing views, the first by Queensland pro-life activist Dr David van Gend; the second by none other than euthanasia advocate Dr Phillip Nitschke (Debate
, Issue 3, August 2008).
ACL's desire to be on good terms with politicians of all persuasions has resulted in some unintended outcomes.
Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull was keynote speaker at ACL's recent national conference in Canberra. The audience applauded when he spoke of his Christian faith and quoted from Scripture, but they fell silent when he expressed his pro-abortion view that a woman had the right to end an unwanted pregnancy.
Mr Turnbull's opinion that there should be no discrimination against same-sex couples also received a cool reception.
In subsequent media reports, Mr Turnbull's controversial views made the national headlines, thereby obscuring the very pro-life, pro-family issues that the ACL was promoting.-Damian Wyld is South Australian state president of the National Civic Council.Editor's note: ACL's Jim Wallace AM has responded to the above article in the December 6 issue of News Weekly