An Open Letter to Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby
As I write, 50 LGBTIQ people are dead and at least another 53 wounded; shot down by an Islamic terrorist in Florida.
Florida is a long way from Canberra, Lyle. And you are a Christian, not a Muslim. You were nowhere near the Pulse nightclub when Omar Mateen took out an assault rifle and a pistol and began firing indiscriminately into a club packed with the kind of people your Australian Christian Lobby spends so much money to vilify.
And yet, Lyle, I blame you for the horror which occurred in that nightclub. Because it is you, and people like you, who actively fuel the homophobic culture which helps unhinged people like Mateen justify their actions as ‘right’ and ‘holy’.
Omar Mateen was not born in a Muslim country. He was born in New York. He is as much a product of a Western religious culture as Muslim one.
Just like you, Lyle, Mateen appears to have been influenced by a father with extremist religious views. It is true, Mateen’s homophobia was fomented in a mosque rather than the Toowoomba City Church as yours was. But, the message preached from his imam is not a great deal different to the message preached from the pulpits of churches like your father’s. It differs little from the propaganda the Australian Christian Lobby spends millions of dollars to disseminate in Australia.
- Homosexuality is not natural.
- Sex between people of the same gender is ‘dirty’ and sinful.
- Advertisements which seek to educate and protect homosexual people from sexually transmitted diseases should not be allowed in public.
- Homosexuals are the same as pedophiles.
- Children should not be exposed to homosexuality.
- Homosexual love is unnatural and sinful.
- People who are gay should somehow ‘become’ heterosexual or resign themselves to lifelong celibacy.
- Gay families are not ‘real’ families.
- Homosexual couples cannot parent as well as mixed-gender, married couples.
- The children of homosexual couples are disadvantaged.
- Homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt.
- Children should only be raised within a marriage – but homosexuals must never be allowed to marry.
- Australian ‘values’ and public morality will suffer if homosexuals are allowed to marry. People will want to marry their pets and farm animals and men will begin to take multiple wives (just as they did in the Bible).
- Anti-bullying programs which seek to educate and protect LGBTIQ children should be ruthlessly attacked with propaganda in case nice, heterosexual children are lured into the dark world of homosexuality.
- Homosexuality is a choice – a sinful one.
- Nice, white, heterosexual, Christian people will suffer if homosexuals are given full equality.
All of these messages. All of this false, hateful, filthy propaganda adds to a culture which dehumanises LGBTIQ people and makes them vulnerable to attacks from people like Omar Mateen. And this, Lyle, is the Australian Christian Lobby’s stock-in-trade.
These messages are not messages of love, and tolerance and beauty. They are messages of ignorance, hate and irrational fear.
Ignorance, hate and irrational fear. This is what drives terrorists to blow up planes, tube stations and entertainment venues. This is the impetus behind a young American man of Afghan parents walking into a nightclub and opening fire under the delusion it was the ‘right thing to do’.
But this was not just any nightclub. This was a club full of people Mateen had been taught were evil, dirty, dangerous, less than human and an affront to God.
Who taught him these things? Possibly his father, certainly his Abrahamic religion, and undoubtedly the culture created by the Christian fundamentalist, right-wing Americans who inspire your organisation’s own homophobic propaganda here in Australia.
Let me be clear, Lyle. Regardless of whether they came from Muslims or Christians – and it is clear he was influenced by both – messages no different from those disseminated by the Australian Christian Lobby convinced Omar Mateen LGBTIQ people deserve to die. The same kind of religious zealotry you and the Australian Christian Lobby embrace, convinced Omar Mateen God would reward him for his service in ending their lives.
I blame you, Lyle.
You did not buy the guns. You did not pull the trigger. But you, and religious fundamentalists just like you (both Muslim and Christian), as sure as hell provided the psychological ammunition.
Words are weapons, Lyle. You and your ilk armed that young man to the teeth with everything he needed to become a terrorist – ignorance, hate and irrational fear.
If the Coalition wins the election on 2 July, Australia will face a plebiscite to decide the issue of same-sex marriage. The Australian Christian Lobby has called for anti-discrimination laws to be suspended to allow you to go for the jugular in your attacks on LGBTIQ people and rainbow families.
Psychologists have warned the harm done to the LGBTIQ community from your campaigning will be immense. People will die as a result of your campaign, Lyle; as surely as if you walked into a gay bar and opened fire on them.
You may not kill them directly, by pointing a gun and pulling a trigger, but the result will be the same. Your attacks will be the final straw for some LGBTIQ people who have spent a lifetime dealing with the kind of hateful ignorance you peddle for fun and profit. And your views will convince some young people they’d be better off dead than having to deal with a lifetime being vilified by people like you.
If you had one shred of decency, you would look at the events of the last 24 hours and put out a statement:
“The Australian Christian Lobby wants no part of the homophobia, hate and religious zealotry that led to the attack in Orlando, Florida. As Christians, we do not want to fuel that kind of fear and intolerance here in Australia. While we remain opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, we accept our views are not shared by the majority of Australians and we are content to let the Australian parliament decide this issue. We will no longer add to the rhetoric that drives people like Omar Mateen to commit atrocities, or drives LGBTIQ people to addiction, self-harm, mental illness and suicide.”
Of course you will say nothing of the sort. Because, Lyle, at your core, you are Omar Mateen with a veneer of respectability.
You have no interest in the truth. You have no empathy for those who do not conform to your narrow, extremist, religious views. You believe in a righteous God, not a loving God. And you are happy to sacrifice the lives and happiness of the people you target in the interests of your own religious delusions.
And that is why, when I watch the footage of the carnage in Orlando, Florida, I blame you, Lyle.
I blame you.