While campaigning in Victoria last year, I witnessed several Liberal candidates pitching for Christian and conservative votes.
Nothing wrong with this, Family First was doing the same. We live in a democracy.
While the failure of the institutional Labor and Liberal parties to stand for family, faith, freedom and life is the reason Family First exists, the cause is the cause and we’re always glad when the major parties preselect fellow travellers.
Many religious and conservative constituencies are alarmed, with good reason, about both Victoria’s and Australia’s drift to the radical left.
There is now a lot more interest in party politics from these people than there was before the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite.
Top of mind is concern for religious freedom because of the legislative successes of LGBTIQA+ political activists who, with the help of politicians from both sides, have created serious vulnerabilities in law for people of faith and family.
Also right up there is the threat to girls’ and women’s safety and sports because of the demands of biological males identifying as females.
Moira Deeming’s candidacy for the Victorian Upper House made her an attractive choice because she had a track record outside of Parliament as someone who spoke up.
Many of Moira’s fellow Liberal candidates also presented at meetings of Christian and Muslim leaders in the lead-up to the November election pledging to fight for religious freedom and for the truth about gender.
They were seeking support, endorsements and volunteers.
I know this because I was at some of the same meetings doing the same.
Christian and Muslim leaders I met with were more than open to candidates, whether they were from a minor party like Family First, or a Christian from the Liberals pledging to take a stand.
The one Liberal who kept her promise to speak up once elected was Deeming.
That’s why it was a shock to read yesterday that two candidates I met at such meetings, now Liberal parliamentarians, voted to expel Deeming.
In recent years many Australian Christians have been captivated by the story of German dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer thanks to American author Eric Metaxas’s popular biography of him.
“Silence in the face of evil is evil itself,” Bonhoeffer famously said and Metaxas’s reprisal of this quote has struck a chord in these times where our politicians, again from both sides, have legalised abortion-to-birth and allow experimental transgender treatments on children.
Sadly, there is way too much silence in the Liberal party. But what we saw yesterday was far worse than silence.
Deeming was being punished for speaking up for girls’ and women’s safety. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she knows the risks of biological males being given access to girls’ and women’s spaces.
Despite this, her leader John Pesutto smeared her as a Nazi sympathiser, a vicious lie, and then once the lie was exposed refused to exonerate her as agreed.
Shunned and shamed, Deeming sought to clear her name, working patiently over many weeks.
Pesutto arrogantly refused and she was left with no choice but to take legal action.
Another historical figure Christians like is Edmund Burke. He famously said:
“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.
Evan Mulholland and Ann-Marie Hermans didn’t just do nothing.
Having courted Christian votes before the election, yesterday they cooperated with a grave injustice in expelling a brave woman who was simply doing what they had once implied they would do.
These events must be a wake-up call for religious and conservative leaders. Greater discernment of Liberal party candidates courting their votes and volunteers will be needed in future.
Lyle Shelton is National Director of the Family First Party. He started his career as a rural journalist before being elected as a member of the Toowoomba City Council and serving the Australian Christian Lobby for 10 years, half of that decade as ACL's Managing Director. He was a Director and spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage during the 2017 postal survey campaign which resulted in the legal undefinition of marriage. He also blogs here.
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