An Australian church has received “vicious” threats to its safety after it displayed a sign stating the Biblical position on marriage, which activists claim “cause distress”.
Ahead of a postal vote on same-sex marriage, the Bellbowrie Community Church was targeted with threats and abuse after posting the sign, which pointed out that “God designed marriage between a man and a woman.”
Senior pastor at the Brisbane church, John Gill, told the Daily Mail Australia: “On Facebook, a lot of the stuff has been quite vicious at times. I mean quite physically threatening. That’s been scary for some in the church.
“One of the comments I saw, for example, was a suggestion that people bring petrol down and set the church on fire.”
He added: “There are two sides to this debate so it was no surprise that some do not agree with the sign. But what did surprise me was the degree of malice expressed by some, which could only be described as hate speech.”
Australian rugby star attacked for declining to support gay marriage campaign due to Christian beliefs https://t.co/CtZigMv9Z2
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 14, 2017
The billboard was vandalised and made to read “God designed marriage between a man and a man” at the weekend, whilst activists piled onto the church’s Facebook page to leave one-star reviews and cartoons of homosexual couples and sailors waving LGBT flags.
“Hopefully there are churches in the area that cater to ALL Christians and not just the ones who fit in the narrow minded view of this ‘Church of God’. I’m sure Christ would be very disappointed in your view of Christianity,” posted one activist.
Another post read: “A closed-minded group which overtly discriminates against members of our valued community and their (very reasonable) quest for marriage equality.”
A spokesman for 4070 Says Yes — a local activist group pushing to get the definition of marriage changed, who have protested outside the church — demanded it takes down the sign, asserting that most Bellbowrie residents support gay marriage.
“Our community has implored the church to remove the offensive sign, making phone calls, writing letters, emails and meeting with officials to point out the damage and distress it is causing,” she said.
Pastor Gill said the Facebook activity had been “difficult” for many in the church, asserting that backlash over the sign highlighted the threat to freedom of religion if Australia legalises gay marriage.
“Many now realise that it is no longer easy to hold and express a Christian viewpoint in Australia,” stated the former architectural designer, who also revealed that other churches are frightened to put Biblical messages on billboards.
The pastor said he believes freedom of speech is important to Australians, stating: “This means gay people are entitled to speak their minds, and anybody who does not agree with their views should still respect them and not abuse them for expressing their opinions.
“In a free country, Christians also have this right. They do not expect everyone will agree, but should they not expect the same freedom to speak and be given the same respect that they give to others?”, he told Westside News.
“As a pastor, it is not my place to tell people how to vote,” he added, noting: “Many of us have friends and family who are gay, and it is absurd to think we hate them. We love them very much.
“It is possible to hold different views, yet still love people. So this does not need to be a source of division throughout Australia. We can differ, yet still respect and care for each other and let the voting determine the issue.”