The ACL: Why Do They Exist, Why Do We Listen, And Why Should We Care?

The ACL: Why Do They Exist, Why Do We Listen, And Why Should We Care?

In the R18+ debate the Australian Christian Lobby has been the one major constant – always in opposition, always in the media, seemingly involved at the highest levels of Australian government. Considering their increasingly conservative message – in the wake of Jim Wallace’s controversial views voiced on twitter – we decided to take an in-depth look at the ACL themselves. Why do they exist? Why are they still relevant? And why should we care?

“Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for,” began the tweet. “Wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”

We were speechless. Gobsmacked. These weren’t the words of a boozed up lout with a loose tongue and a chip on his shoulder – these were the words of Jim Wallace, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, a man who – in December of 2010 – was invited to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to address those in attendance. A man who, with varying degrees of logic, has fundamentally opposed an R18+ rating for video games in Australia.

These were the words of a man with great power and influence.

In our disbelief we wondered why? Why does Jim Wallace and the Australian Christian Lobby have so much impact on Australian politics when their views can often seem so counter intuitive to common sense and decency? Why do they exist? What is their purpose? Why do they matter? We spoke to The Australian Sex Party, Lyle Shelton of the ACL, and numerous other experts to get answers.

“I’m not really sure,” laughs Rory Killen, from the Australian Sex Party, when asked why the Australian Christian Lobby were invited to speak at the SCAG meeting in December – a meeting in which Australia appeared close to receiving an adult rating for video games.

“Part of it is to do with the major political parties,” he continues, “there are groups within the major political parties that are, if not openly Christian, at least have that side to them. There’s a Catholic side of the Liberal party that tends to be quite vocal.

“But one of the major reasons the ACL tends to get such a look in on these matters is that they are outspoken and very politically organised. But they are definitely not in line with Australia’s views on matters.”

“Well, he has to say that,” says Dr Peter Chen, from The University of Sydney. “The Sex Party is the front end of the sex industry! They’re always butting up against the Australian Christian Lobby, and they get good mileage out of that.”

Peter Chen teaches at the University of Sydney, and is an expert on Public Policy and the manner in which technology and politics intersect. According to him, it’s important to separate the public presence of the ACL with the actual influence they have on policy.

“What I’d say is that there is no evidence that necessarily shows the ACL has had a huge impact on video game regulation in Australia,” claims Peter. “And I think it’s easy to mistake their inclusion in the dialogue for their active ability to, in a sense, dramatically change the regime.

“The government can’t really exclude the Australian Christian Lobby, because they do have to answer to that section of the public, but they haven’t necessarily had that much to do with this policy area.”

According to Peter Chen, the act of having the ACL involved in any debate is simply shrewd politics. An attempt to ease the minds of certain constituencies, whilst going through the process of finding the most comfortable middle ground politically.

“The ACL have a constituency that is motivated and mobilised on the R18+ issue, whereas the general public are not, for many reasons,” claims Peter. “One, most people tend to sit in the middle with these issues and, two – people who are put out by this, they usually find ways to circumvent the rules. Basically, there isn’t a huge mobilisation of people who think the other way. The government know if they were to tighten up restrictions these groups of people may mobilise, especially those who are fairly happy with things as they are.

“Politics is like that – just because you invite someone to a forum doesn’t mean you agree with their position. It certainly allows the ACL to talk to their constituents like they are big and important, but there isn’t conclusive evidence they’ve had an impact.”

SITTING AT THE TABLE Rory Killen, of the Sex Party, believes the situation is a little more sinister, driven by the agenda of specific politicians.

“It’s inappropriate that a Christian organisation is sitting at the table with the lawmakers when they’re considering changes to legislation,” he claims. “I don’t have a good reason as to why – but there will probably be particular Attorney-Generals who have an agenda – perhaps an AG who is against an R18+ rating.

“Having Jim Wallace at the table provides a politically expedient message. There’s also the fact that a figure like Jim Wallace has some clout – he has the ability to point the finger and say ‘you’re not protecting children.’ Some politicians may want to keep a figure like him onside.”

We spoke to Lyle Shelton, Chief of Staff at the Australian Christian Lobby – who, as you’d expect, disagreed vehemently with The Sex Party’s suggestions.

“Are they suggesting people should be barred from debates because of their religious views?” He asked. “That’s ridiculous. One of the things that makes Australia such a great country is religious freedom. People are free to come to this country and practice whatever religion they like.

We asked if this message of religious freedom is really apt in the wake of Jim Wallace’s comments on twitter, which implicitly suggested that Anzacs didn’t fight and die for Muslims.

“Jim Wallace made a clarification on that tweet, which I think is fairly self explanatory,” he said, “but that doesn’t take away from the idea of religious freedom – or the freedom for any religious group to express a view.

“I think most people are heartily sick of political correctness and they’re looking for people that will express a clear view.”

This fits with Peter Chen’s idea of politicians using more ‘extreme’ groups like the ACL and The Sex Party in order to find an acceptable middle ground, and appeal to the majority of their constituents.

“When you start messing around with the status quo, people start getting pissed off,” says Peter, bluntly. “It’s hard to piss people off, generally, when you don’t do anything, so by and large this area of policy making has seen very little change over time. That’s partly why there has been little change when it comes to R18+.

“The most significant people involved in this debate are the politicians themselves, who have a keen eye for where the Australian middle ground is, and they aren’t quite video gamers yet.”

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL So, the Australian Christian Lobby exists as a referential benchmark – a right wing touch point – but surely there’s more to it than that. On a state level at least it appears that, despite Lyle Sheltons claims, Christians are over-represented in government.

Despite being extremely careful with his language, Peter Chen agrees.

“Well you know, it doesn’t really hurt Politicians to profess their faith – it’s not an electoral turn off. Politicians may be disproportionately Christians, but they’re disproportionately lawyers too, and disproportionately men!

“But why are they disproportionately Christians? Well being part of Christian groups, professional groups or unions teaches you professional networking. It forms a base upon which you can be a more effective politician.”

We suspect that Peter Chen might be on to something – Christian groups have always been involved in politics on some level. Is there something inherently Christian about political activism, or is there something political about being a Christian?

“Well, here goes,” begins Tim Dean, with a deep breath. “Organised religion is best understood as a cultural institution that binds and organises a social group, encouraging social and cooperative behaviour within the group, and group identity and central cohesion in order to better compete against other groups.”

Tim Dean is the Editor of Australian Life Scientist, and a PhD candidate focusing on moral philosophy. According to him, the motivations behind organised religion and political activism are more or less the same or, at the very least, intertwined.

“Each religion has its own metaphysical justification for obeying the prescribed social norms, and the specifics aren’t as important as the notion that they’re externally binding, which helps keep people in line.

“As such, organised religion is inherently political,” continues Tim, “it’s trying to solve the same problems of social coordination that politics also emerged to solve. It’s just a more ancient and less rational way of approaching it.”

To an extent it makes sense, organised religion is, by its nature, organised – which makes it easier for Christians to mobilise their efforts politically. Particularly when they have a specific, unified vision like the Australian Christian Lobby.

We put it to Lyle Shelton – does being part of an organised religion help the ACL mobilise themselves as a political entity?

“I don’t think so,” he claimed, “it’s obviously a factor for sure, but we’ve still got to put our case forward in the public square like anyone else. It’s a free country and if you’ve got a point of view you should organise. And it’s up to the court of public opinion and the democratic process whether your ideas will be accepted in the mainstream.”

SPREADING THE WORD But there is one connection that simply cannot be overlooked, not even by the Australian Christian Lobby themselves. As a group founded, and mostly staffed, by evangelical Christians – the nature of their faith almost compels them to spread their moral message, be it political or otherwise. That’s what it means to be evangelical.

“In the lobby we’re people drawn from the evangelical churches in the main,” stated Lyle Shelton, during our interview, “and it’s those sort of churches – orthodox, catholic, Pentecostal type churches – who tend to be supportive of what we do.

In a sense being evangelical compels the Australian Christian Lobby to get involved in the Australian political process.

Peter Chen agrees with this, with a slight caveat.

“If you are an evangelical Christian,” he begins, “you have a duty to advance a particular observance of morality. People in that movement are almost obligated to advance a set of behaviours.

“I have no view on whether religion automatically leads to organisation, but certainly when you have organised religion, it can mobilise its resources – and it does. Whether that’s effective, however, I’m not so sure.

“You can be a social conservative and be religious. You could be a social conservative and not be religious. You could be progressive and be religious too – it’s not necessarily about religion. But, on the whole, the Australian Christian Lobby really represents the evangelical side of Christianity.”

LIBERAL WITH THE TRUTH But why? Why does the Australian Christian Lobby tend towards socially conservative behaviour? Particularly when the New Testament lends itself so explicitly towards liberal thinking?

Long time gamer, and Christian, Jeremy ‘Junglist’ Ray, has some ideas.

“The most obvious answer,” he claims, “is the generational one. These decision-makers are so out of touch, with the technology they oppose and the Christians they represent. They didn’t grow up with video games, they didn’t grow up in a world where being homosexual was acceptable, and they don’t want their old fashioned values to die out. It’s as detached as the Catholic Church’s homophobia and condemnation of condoms.”

Lyle Shelton, of course disagrees with those assertions, despite admitting that the group often uses its own intuition in its representation of Christian values.

“We seek to represent a view that we know intuitively is in agreeance with our understanding of Christian values and what would appeal to an evangelical, bible believing Christian,” he claimed. “It’s not rocket science.

“But we have a policy formulation process; we speak to people on a state level, and a national level, on certain issues. So we feel like we can advocate with a high degree of confidence with the R18 debate that we’re representing Christian values.”

But if Jeremy Ray is representative of a younger, more liberal form of Christianity, it’s clear that they don’t represent all current Christian values. Which begs the question: why aren’t there a number of more moderate Christian Lobby groups?

The answer is simple – indifference.

“Why aren’t there more liberal Christian groups?” Wonders Jeremy. “Well, the generational answer would be that young people are more apathetic. The political answer might be that if you aren’t on the extreme of an issue, it’s hard to get heard.

“I feel that many young Christians would rather avoid the word ‘Christian’ altogether. Thanks to organisations like the ACL, some perceive ‘Christian’ values as a judgemental, discriminatory, holier-than-thou belief system that actually goes against the true teachings of Christ.

Rory Killen, of The Sex Party, has similar views.

“Well there have been a few groups who have rejected them,” he claims, “but it’s not common. In terms of moderate Christians, many will fall into the group who are a little more indifferent, or regard it as a side issue. So even if they reject what the ACL say, it’s not that important to them to lobby against them.”

Jeremy Ray also believes that younger, presumably liberal Christians tend to be more focused on bigger issues.

“Perhaps there aren’t more liberal Christian Lobby groups because, almost by definition, anyone who would belong to such a group would believe in the separation of Church and State,” says Jeremy, continuing from his earlier point. “Or they might believe that any funds such a group might obtain would be better put to use solving real problems like helping those in need, rather than using political channels to impose their values on others.

“I personally think there’s a place for such a Lobby – if only to provide a better representation of Christianity, and oppose policies sought by the broadly named ACL.”

RATIONALITY IS DEAD Speaking to a high ranking member of the Australian Catholic Bishops, who asked not to be named, he claimed that, apparently, the Australian Christian Lobby is often driven not to change policy per se, but simply to make noise. To satiate those who support and fund the group.

Which may account for the way in which they attack certain issues with a disregard for common sense.

“The ACL’s representatives regularly quote factual inaccuracies in their arguments, they rarely man up to a public debate, and they spin defeats as victories on their website,” claims Jeremy Ray. “Call me assumptive, but I just don’t think people that are this organised could possibly believe their own BS. It would require a state beyond out of touch – bordering on delusion.

“My belief is that the ACL is filling their self-perceived role in society. They probably know it’s a losing battle, and they probably know they’re wrong. They just believe it’s expected of them to be the good guy in all this ‘Current Affair’ styled hysteria – and they know journalists aiming for objectivity will seek both sides on the issue, so by always providing a soundbyte from the extreme right, they ensure they’re always in the headlines.”

Peter Chen doesn’t go quite as far, but does concede that, as a lobby group, the ACL has to answer to its constituency is some manner.

“Well, some lobby groups get funding to do particular things,” he says, cautiously, “and certainly these kinds of groups have to sell themselves back to their memberships. If you’re a member of the RSPCA you have to tell your members how effective you’re being. If you’re a lobby group your effectiveness is in your profile and the amount of policies you’re raising – even if you’re not effective you have to say that you are!”

Lyle Shelton, however, denies that he or the ACL feels pressure. According to him the Australian Christian Lobby are unified as a group, and committed to making a genuine difference.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure,” he said. “People support us because they like what we’re doing, and they can see a need for it. We don’t get pressure; we get support because they can see we’re having an effect.

“If you take the R18+ issue, they’re worried about what their children might be exposed to, and they’re worried about the games industry pushing the line, bringing in more offensive and dangerous games – according to academic research. So we get support from our base, particularly parents who want to make sure the system is in line with what they want for their children.”

Is that moral support or financial, we ask.

“Both – all of that,” he begins. “We’re a not-for-profit organisation. We exist because people donate to us financially, like they donate to other lobby groups. There’s nothing unique about that. It’s support for the positions we take and material support as well.”

BLACK AND WHITE The Australian Christian Lobby has a right to exist. No-one doubts that – even for a second. It also has a right to be involved in the political process, particularly if it represents its constituency in a responsible and accurate manner.

Problems arise, however, when the group continues to spin truth, quote outdated research, and stoke the moral panic with inaccurate information and brute political pressure. Problems arise when it fails to represent the majority of Christians and instead caters to a far right minority, the minority who most likely funds and holds the group accountable.

In a sense, the failings of the Australian Christian Lobby are the failings of the political system as a whole – a system in which the loudest are heard first, a system where the squeaky wheel gets the oil to the detriment of all others.

We live in a world coated in shades of gray, yet those that would approach situations in a pragmatic manner are ignored.

“My point of view is this,” says Rory Killen, finally, “moderation and rationality simply isn’t good politics. That’s my conclusion.

“A moderate and rational response tends to be understanding and takes into account the grey areas. The ACL, on the other hand, takes the position of finger pointing – and they live in a black and white world.

“And, sadly, a black and white world is simply far easier to communicate to politicians.”


  • “You could be a social conservative and not be religious”

    In my experience that is very, very rare.

    • Gillard claims to be an athiest and I would definitely consider her to be socially conservative.

      • I think it’s probably more accurate to call her an accomodationist rather than a social conservative. She’s unmarried and has no children, she’s not anti-gay but she knows openly supporting gay marriage would decimate the Labor party because so many religious conservatives are vehemently against it.

        But to address the title of the article: The reason why these groups flourish and expand, why people listen to them and they get their way is because people equate religiosity with morality. Just because a group or a person is religious is certainly no way to ascertain whether they have a strong moral framework or not. I think it is painfully obvious that these folks are above lies and deception.

      • Gillard’s shown herself time and time again to be a flat-out liar, there’s no reason for me to believe she’s an atheist.

        • She was a member of the Socialist Forum, then a lawyer for the unions, and she’s not a member/goer of any religion (says she is atheist), she lives with her boyfriend, her policies are all: “tax & spend”, “big government”, “redistribution of wealth” with a big dose of incompetence (all of wich are big red signs saying “liberal!”). So, she might CLAIM to be a “social conservative”, but all the evidence suggests that is just code to appeal to as many people as possible. She is a hopeless pile of dooody, as hollow and reprehensible as the ACL itself. And to think, I had been a Labor voter my entire life. No more thanks to her and Kevin.

          The ACL can lick my balls. … *gently*

      • Though why pretend to believe in God? It must be hard enough for her to pretend to believe in Global Warming.

    • Well, being what you would typically call an evangelical, confessional (and probably labeled a ‘conservative’) Christian, I’ve seen enough to notice that a lot of people who say they’re Christians are nominally so at best.

      In fact, I think some people are attracted to Christianity simply because it is seen as ‘traditional’, and in some forms is more reminiscent of a more Anglo-centric, socially conservative era, rather than becoming attracted to social conservatism because they’ve begun as Christians.

      They might go to church every now and then, but they’ve probably never read the Bible, probably don’t believe some or all of the key tenets of biblical Christianity, and certainly wouldn’t understand grace if it hit them in the head.

      I think the idea of a ‘Christian society’ is a more modern conjuration of these conservative groups. First century believers were too busy getting chased out of towns and being fed to the lions by the Roman empire to even dream of influencing government.

      While I think religious groups, like any other interest group, have a place in social discussion and the general political milieu, groups like the ACL, while probably meaning well, have lost sight of the gospel, instead settling for a kind of social legalism that is both futile, and ultimately misrepresents what Jesus was actually on about.

        • Brilliant post mate… We all miss the point sometimes… In the end Christianity isn’t even about morality.

  • Good article.

    The situation still leaves me feeling frustrated that facts and logic seem to have taken a back seat for so long, but I’m fairly confident that can’t go on forever. As much as the ACL would like it to.

  • I just wanted to say that this is a great piece, really informative and well-argued. And the motives and theories within it go much further than gaming and R18+, into all areas where the secular and the theologians mix it up with politics (or not, if they’re apathetic for the reasons listed here). Thanks for giving me something to think about over the weekend.

  • Somebody has been doing work on their birthday. That goes completely against tradition.

    Anyhow, more on topic. I find the biggest problem is that reaching out to the extremes and trying to give both sides equal weighting. Why can’t moderates be heard? Why can’t sides with much to support their case be given more focus than the side with nothing more than a megaphone and some poorly spelled out signs?

    The whole system is broken, both politically and in journalism, to the point where appearing to be non-biased will artificially inflate the influence of groups so that the argument doesn’t seem one sided. Which is problem when the facts supporting the arguments are incredibly one sided.

    Oh well, whenever I hear an evangelical trying to enforce their morals, I always wonder, “why is their religion a reason for me not to do anything?” When their arguments boil down to “because God said so!”, I can’t help think that we don’t keep kosher just because the Jews think they were told not to by the same god.

    In short, the ACL is like a wireless keyboard. Sod ’em.

  • This article just shows that the ACL is out of touch with christians. They say they represent them, but they dont. Every christian(be them catholic, orthodox or pentecostal) do NOT agree with the ACLs views, not just on games but many of their views such as that of the view shown in the tweet at the beginning of the article.

  • Excellent, excellent article.

    Jeremy has a great point, I think, that more liberal – or younger – Christians haven’t emerged as a counterweight to the ACL precisely because, perhaps, they see little scope for religious influences on ostensibly secular or rational policy.

    I’ve got more to write but typing on a phone sucks. Will say more soon.

    Again great article.

  • “It’s not rocket science.”

    umm havnt you guys been fighting science for a few hundred years now

  • Pretty good read. I was pleased to see there was some discussion on the fact that the ACL falsely claim to represent all Christians when in reality they only represent an aging evangelical minority. My biggest issue with them are their claims of representing the majority of “Christian Australia”. Every Christian I know thinks they’re full of crap.
    (disclaimer: I’m an atheist)

  • Rory’s quote at the end rings so very, very true: “And, sadly, a black and white world is simply far easier to communicate to politicians.”

    Labor, Liberal. For, Against. Left, Right.

    The other quote that stood out was from Lyle Shelton: “And it’s up to the court of public opinion and the democratic process whether your ideas will be accepted in the mainstream.”

    I guess he doesn’t get the irony in that statement.

    Great article Mark. The evangelical stuff, as well as the ‘support’ were avenues I hadn’t considered before. It’s definitely something I’ll think about next time I hear something from them. Also a well balanced piece, with both sides and neutrals covered.

  • Can we not join the ACL?

    As a group they need to have an AGM, or election of officers… couldn’t we all join, and decide that the issues they’re arguing are wrong. Y’know, have them reverse their positions?

    It’s been done before, and they are answerable to their members.
    Mark, what is the membership of the ACL… if it’s less than the 85 thousand who signed an R18 petition then we’re in business.

    Also, I’m a Christian… the repeated use of that term in a negative light kind of bothered me. I know there’s no other collective term for us, and that we’re not a united entity… but.

    • From everything I’ve read the ACL is a company structure with (presumably) the right to reject members’ applications. I think they’d twig fairly quickly to 80,000 new registrations 😛

      That being said, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that moderate & rational Christian voices could, and should, be represented among its membership.

    • The ACL doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid.

      You need to understand that the ACL is actually a limited liability company – a setup used by many charities and not-for-profits. As a result, their actual, *legal* membership comprises of only four or five people (contact them to find out who – they are legally obligated to provide their membership roll on request). They, along with certain paid employees like Lyle Shelton, make decisions as to how the money they raise is going to be spent and what they are going to lobby about.

      As a result, the rank & file ‘members’ aren’t members at all – they are essentially there to provide money and mobilise on call to back up the ACL when it speaks about issues.

      They only way you could alter the course of the ACL’s campaigning would be to convince the company’s financial backers that it’s no longer representing them. You’d need to convince those paying dues providing donations (from $10,000 bequests to $5 kick-ins on particular campaigns) and, I would guess, the evangelical churches like Hillsong that probably provide them with regular contributions. Remember: the ACL is being paid to act like this, and being paid well enough to afford full-time staff.

      The upshot of that is that, if moderate Christians want to be heard over their louder, more conservative brethren, they’re going to have to form their own lobby and get their name out there. Co-opting the ACL would be neigh on impossible: they have a funding model that works quite well already.

  • So much to discuss here.

    Important to be really careful with labels.

    The follower’s of Jesus weren’t a religion until Constantine.

    Religion doesn’t necessarily equal fair representation of Christ.

    I believe that an R18 rating is important, but will be irrelevant. Parents will still ignore game ratings. It breaks my heart when I sit with 8 year olds watching super violent movies and games when their brains aren’t wired to process it. That has to do with parents.

    I am a follower of Jesus and the ACL don’t always represent me.

    Jesus hated “religion” like may of you do.

    • They were a religion in Antioch… long before Constantine converted and made it the State religion.

      • They were a religion in a lot of places. The group in Antioch were the first to refer to themselves as ‘Christian’ but in terms of Christ followers, early on there were hundreds of different competing groups and ideas. In parts of Egypt for example Christianity was combined with ideas from Gnosticism.

        Modern Christianity as we see it now was initially codified by the first council of Nicaea, which was indeed convened by Constantine. They went through all the different views of all the various sects, chose the ones which were consistent with their view and suppressed the rest. Mainly they decided decided the issue of the Divinity of Jesus (early Christianity was split as to whether he was divine or not), deciding the date of Easter (specifically, separating it from the Jewish calendar) and the earliest canon. The compilation of various groups’ texts into the modern Bible didn’t happen until even later.

      • I’ll have to challenge you there. The Greeks did not view Christianity as a religion, not in the same way they viewed Judaism or the Cult Of Artemis. This was because the followers of Christ did not have a temple, nor a specific cultus.

        Christians (little Christ- an insult) met in houses, talked on the street and had no formalized hierarchy. Apostle Paul had no formalized authority, other than the authority to preach Christ crucified. Deacons and such were functions, not positions.

        Religion is a loaded term, and I can see why Christians want to avoid it. I would suggest Christianity IS a religion, just not in the same way we understand the word to mean.

  • Not that it needs to be said again, but it’s a great piece, Mark.

    And god damn, Rory Killen’s hair is amazing. Look at that, it’s like a side-swept mop.

  • Nice article.

    “are they suggesting people should be barred from debates because of their religious views?”

    I don’t think any sane person has suggested this.

    However one thing that must be mentioned is at the SCAG.

    They were not in a debate, and in fact the only side that was allowed to show up was the negative.

    It would be like having a court case and only allowing the prosecutor to speak, if the opposition cannot argue against points raised by one side of the discussion. Then the validity of what is said is not challenged giving the people condemning something free reign to make up anything they want.

    Fact is from memory the Sex party was not allowed to attend while the ACL were. in which case why was the ACL allowed probably because as this article states. Their job seems to be to Bitch’n’Moan about stuff as opposed to actually provide a solution or a compromise.

    • Before this myth goes any further. Get your facts straight.
      ACL was NOT the only group at the Dec meeting of SCAG.
      There was a panel incl representation from the games industry: Ron Curry from IGEA, Dr Jeff Brand (who conducts research for IGEA, psychologist Assoc/Prof Grant Devilly, Mr Donald McDonald (of Classification Board), Jim Wallace from the Christian Lobby, Rev Bp Peter Ingham from Aus Cath Bishops conference, and the Australian Council on Children and the Media.
      ACL is far from being the only group concerned about exposure of the young to very violent games.

      • I have no problem with the ACL making submissions to any review process, no matter what topic is being considered. Everyone should have that right.

        An open call for submissions allows a review process to look at what opinion is out there.

        However, when it comes to sitting at the table and addressing SCAG, it has previously been policy that lobbyists of any kind are unwelcome.

        There is logic in that. The ACL represent a viewpoint, but there is no justification for granting that viewpoint a privileged position and to grant it privileged access to SCAG.

        The ACL are not experts, they are not gamers, they are not psychologists. They are not even representative of the broad spectrum of the Christian POV in Australia.

        Let them have their say, let them submit a document outlining their concerns to any and all legislation reviews that are open to public comment.

        But invite them to the table? No, thanks.

      • The issue is that SCAG has, in the past, explicitly stated that it will not entertain lobby groups. From memory, that was their reason for denying they Sex Party’s request to contribute to the proceedings. It’s a similar situation for the EFA, I believe.

  • ““What I’d say is that there is no evidence that necessarily shows the ACL has had a huge impact on video game regulation in Australia,” claims Peter. ”

    Isn’t the fact we still don’t have our R18+ rating extremely strong evidence to support the opposite?

    • I found Peter Chen’s concept of the ACL as a right-wing touch point interesting. He’s probably spot on that [usually] politicians seek a safe middle ground.

      But it seemed to render the ACL as a quite benign presence. I don’t agree it has no impact on the lack of an R18+ rating in Australia.

      If the ACL is a right-wing touch point, does the position of that touch point affect the perceived middle? If the ACL is more extreme, does the perceived middle get pulled more to the right?

      And when we’re talking about ‘middle’ ground… Is that going to be a position that is most acceptable to most people? Or the average of opinion? Or the median of opinion?

      Certainly it can’t be supported that the ACL, and the ACL only, are responsible for the lack of action on classification. However, ‘opinion generator’ organisations such as the ACL must have a role to play in this issue being regarded as controversial.

  • “Well, the generational answer would be that young people are more apathetic.”

    “Young people are more apathetic”

    I STRONGLY disagree. I could ask almost all of the people I know have some very clear clear views with regards to political or social issues( although admittedly I do generally hang out with a university-educated, tech-savvy bunch). I do believe that the systems through which somebody could take action are generally very obscure, if not DESIGNED to deter people from taking action, which isn’t the same thing as apathy. People believe that it is impossible for them to do something, not that it’s too difficult.

    We need to find more effective ways of getting people involved, and making it clear that they CAN be involved., particularly through the media. Corporate or governing bodies certainly aren’t going to do it, so we’ll do it ourselves.

    • And yet membership in political parties is pretty damn low.

      Decisions are made by the people who show up.

  • “Apparently, the [insert party name here] is often driven not to change policy per se, but simply to make noise.”

    Some days, I feel this accurately describes all politics in this nation.

  • “according to academic research”

    Why do they always use the words ‘academic research’ but never supply the source of said research? According to common sense, R18 will restrict anyone under the age of 18 from buying R18 games. Instead of arguing the point of ‘more violent and more sexual games’ they should be informing their members that ‘hey, this game is no good for your kid but it’s ok for an adult’. Not that hard.

  • This was a fantastic read. It’s very interesting to see at all sides and everyone getting their fair say on the issue. Helped shed some light on all the views presentable, but still want my R18 rating!

  • TO be quite honest, the only difference between the ACL and Groups like Al-queda and the IRA is the simple fact that they have not gone out starting bombing Adult Shops and Video Game Stores or abortion clinics.

    Remember the 1996 Atlanta Bombings..they were caused Right wing Extremist groups who opposed Abortions and such. I would also place PETA, Sea Shepard and to an extent, Greenpeace as well as close to be comming terrorist groups.

    There is no way in hell that one can call the ACL Moderate, I mean the ACL went off at the Australian Cathloic Bishops Assoication because the later supports and R18+ classification.

  • When I read the title I thought Kotaku had published an article on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. 😛

  • Pretty much nailed it on the head. These people claim to represent Christianity and yet make claims and comments almost completely contradictory to the teachings of Christ. Christianity is about being compassionate, accepting and loving of EVERYBODY, regardless of their background, and caring for those less fortunate. High Horses were never supposed to be part of it, unless there was injustice being served. I think pretty much every Christian I know would be embarrassed to be associated with them.

  • It should be a high crime to be a homophobe!

    Without a gay man we would not have computers and the UK would have fallen to the Nazis because the uboats would have sunk the help coming from the US!

    Not only that but the same part of the bible that attacks gays also tells people to keep slaves and murder children if they swear, both things that people should be put to death for!

  • Horribly flawed section on evangelicalism.

    Christian evangelicalism is not about imposing your morals on others. It is about spreading the gospel message. These are not the same thing at all.

    I’m from an evangelical Christian background. If you don’t understand the difference between these concepts you won’t understand the ACL. Because the ACL is not actually engaged in evangelism.

    • From the ACL’s website:

      “The vision of the Australian Christian Lobby is to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate to each other as a community.

      The ACL aims to foster a more compassionate, just and moral society by seeking to have the positive public contributions of the Christian faith reflected in the political life of the nation.”

      There’s a big difference between what Christian Evangelicism is and what should be.

      • They don’t claim to have an evangelistic mission however. You might see them as performing evangelism but they don’t and other evangelistic Christians won’t either.

        If you want to understand them you need to see that what they are doing is not considered evangelism, it is something else.

        They can’t claim to be biblical evangelists without following the bible. If they did then no evangelical church would have anything to do with them. But that is not the case, they may be evangelical Christians but they are not engaged in evangelism.

        • Being honest, I think I see what you’re getting at. In the traditional sense, I get that it isn’t evangelical. But I guess I’m placing the word in a broader perspective.

          • It’s not just a question of semantics. The word has a special meaning within the church and especially among those who call themselves evangelical christians.

            For instance I as a “Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian” understand what the ACL is doing from two points of view. One is that they are representing the Christian view in a democracy. Secondly that they represent a failure on part of evangelism. That failure stems from my understanding that we as evangelicals don’t have the right to tell other people what to do. Instead we should explain the gospel to people and then they can choose to follow it or not. From them following the gospel they should act in a Christ centered fashion. Therefore there would be no need to enforce any law.

            Christianity is not about enforcing the law or morals on other people. It is about getting people into a relationship with God if they choose so. If we are enforcing the law then we are trying to do God’s work. And we are specifically mandated not to do that.

          • 1. They are representing *a* Christian view in a democracy. Not the Christian view. Most Christians I know – including my clergy parents – do not consider most of what the ACL (and other similar groups) do and say to be even remotely Christian.

            2. There is a big difference between Evangelism and evangelism. You are talking about Evangelism. Mark is talking about evangelism. They are both entirely valid uses of two different words.

            3. The ACL considers what they’re doing evangelism (and maybe even Evangelism). That you disagree with the suggestion that they are doing so just goes to prove point 1; there is no unified Christian view – even among self-proclaimed E/evangelicals.

  • You have a point, James.

    I’ve seen some ANU research on political participation by young people and overwhelmingly the trend seems to be that a lack of party membership is matched or exceeded by other political activities – including petitions, email campaigns, etc.

    It’s deeply mistaken to suggest young people are apathetic about politics- despite the declining party affiliation. On particular issues – for example, climate change, mental health, gay marriage and, certainly, an R18+ rating – action by predominantly youth-dominated organisations far exceeds action by parties themselves.

    I do agee that to a large extent the traditional institutional structures of parties and politics does exclude a lot of youth participation. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt if a liberal, younger counterweight to the ACL emerged. It’s abundantly clear that they don’t speak for all Christians, despite their claims.

    The influence of a tiny proportion of evangelical, reactionary and frankly anachronistic ‘leaders’ needs to be challenged and curtailed.

  • Solution: Ban all religion from politics.

    Just because one person with power has Christian views (regardless of if they’re so strong to the point of defying all common sense and logic), doesn’t mean thousands, if not millions of people have to follow suit.

    The last thing this country needs is stupid bigots in power.

  • “If you take the R18+ issue, they’re worried about what their children might be exposed to, and they’re worried about the games industry pushing the line, bringing in more offensive and dangerous games – according to academic research”

    Only because the ACU keeps telling them to worry about it… And unless there’s some content cut from that quote, I can’t say I recall any academic research saying that the the games industry is trying to bring in more offensive and ‘dangerous’ games.

    Wait a second… ‘Dangerous’? Ah. Like the dangers of women and black people voting, and the dangers of democracy in the middle east.

    I really do miss the days when playing games wasn’t stating a political view point.

    • Not even the ACL deserves to be labelled alongside those monsters. There’s nothing even remotely Christian about them.

    • I have been personally attacked, in a public sphere, by the ACL. I have as much reason as anyone to dislike them. But they are in no way even close to the Westboro Baptists. To suggest they are diminishes the pure hatefulness WBs represent, and the mental anguish they cause.

  • People have a go at Australia for not being democratic on this subject. Unfortunately on this subject we are OVERLY democratic. The reason this has taken so long is that everyone has had their say and it has prolonged the inevitable outcome. The only way this can be sorted out on a proper public decision is a referendum, and I do not this this rates as a referendum subject. So the decision will be up to elected officials. This is going to take much much longer, and I will be buying my contraband online from Asia at half the price.

  • Great article, balanced and well written. As a evangelical Christian, I wish we had more media like this.

    Wallace’s comments are disturbing tho.

    ‘. . . love your neighbor as yourself’

  • If this were about muslims then the article wouldn’t have been so brave. Easy to pick on the people who wont try to hurt you. Way to reward terrorism.

      • All right fine.

        You two gross examples of prejudice need to shut your disgusting mouths. For one thing, your comments are utterly irrelevant as there is no “Australian Muslim Council” squawking about the R18+ rating at the SCAG meeting.

        Secondly, “muslims” do not hurt people who disagree with their beliefs. You are generalising and spouting off the bullshit that the right-wing media wants you to believe. Terrorists do indeed hurt people, but there has been just as much violence in the name of Christianity as any other religion throughout history. Like the ACL, ask any moderate, average Muslim about al-Queda or the other terrorist groups, and they will explain to you how those groups are extreme outliers that betray what the moderates believe Islam to be about.

        So in conclusion, sit down and shut up.

        *On the off chance that Phil was being sarcastic (which I doubt but can’t be sure) please ignore this.

    • I genuinely feel dumber for having read your comment.

      This article is about a political group who have a negative impact on Australian politics. They would be equally valid targets for ridicule if they were Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Pastafarian or any other religion you might care to name and it wouldn’t be because of their religion, it’s because the group has a negative impact on Australian politics.

  • …and so why, in our modern age of scientifically driven progress, wherein for the last few hundred years the progression of both morality and social standards has been due to the displacement of religious power; why is there a Christian political group even involved in this discussion? And why not a Sunni group, or a Scientology group, or a Greek deity worshiping Heathen group?

    For the life of me I don’t understand why so many of the above peoples are arguing that said group is not a “real” part of the greater group. This one early movement has spawned literally thousands of sects, all claiming to be Christian. None of these groups are True Scotsmen, it would seem, and none of there followers have actually read the bloody Bible they claim to sanctify.

    Games are for those that understand it is not real. The players should be creating the changes, not the outsiders who can’t tell the difference between a story of fiction and an actual historical account.

  • And if a popular blog site like Kotaku were to write something about the Muslims, they’d get blown up. Why do they do one on Christians? Because We’re defenseless. We’re not going to blow you up if you say something bad. But if a Christian group writes something ‘ Out of touch’ with ‘today’s society’ it’s considered Stupid, idiotic, Racist, even. What’s picking on something that won’t fight back called? Bullying.

    • With all due respect this wasn’t a beat up. I felt like it was pretty balanced. Junglist is a Christian. And I spoke to the ACL. I’m married to a Christian. My Father in-law is a pastor. I have all the respect in the world for Christians and Christianity.

    • Is your only possible method of defence to do violence to people to disagree with you? If you don’t like what’s written here, you can respond in kind, through dialog.

      Don’t cast Christians as the ‘victims’ of this article. This is a response to the ACL who are spouting off their point of view and verbally attacking gamers and other groups who support the R18+ rating. This is us responding to that, in kind, as a defence of our views. The ACL have somehow gained the luxury of presenting their views directly to government, and through various media outlets countless times. I hardly think they are a defenceless group.

      And again, assuming you’re the same Phil from above, your views of Muslims in general are ignorant and disgusting. If 1% of Christian priests are paedophiles who have abused children, does that therefore mean all Christians do it? The extremists in al Queda do not represent all of Islam any more than those priests who stand accused of abuse represent all Christians.

    • When there is an Australian Islamic Lobby that tries to push it’s Sharia Law in the guise of “protecting children”, then there will be public debate about how it is “out of touch” also.

      For the time being, Christianity is by far the most powerful religion politically in Australia. It is far from defenseless, and also very far from innocent.

    • I won’t repeat what Mark, Adam and Sagarat have said, but seriously – have some perspective.

      The ACL is a self-identified Christian organisation attempting to influence public debate. Opponents of their worldview – such as gamers who want an R18+ rating – have a right to respond in kind.

      If and when any Muslim – or Buddhist, Jewish, athiest, Space Lizard – organisation professes a similar view about gaming, my response, and I assume, others’, will be the same.

      I’m not against the ACL because it’s an easy target. I’m against the ACL because their views are dangerously outdated. Just as I’m against other organisations and other worldviews – even other religious ones – worldwide.

    • Blowing someone up isn’t the only way to defend yourself. You could provide a reasoned counter-argument. If you can’t provide a reasoned counter-argument to defend your position, then maybe you should take a good hard look at your position because there is clearly something wrong with it.

      Also, Muslims come under fire constantly. Racism against Arabs and persecution against anyone who even looks like they might be Muslim is rife throughout society, particularly in comments responding to articles that don’t show any aspect of Christianity to be a shining beacon of moral superiority.

      Stop playing the victim.

  • ACL’s just a front for the Aussie Mafia. They illegally smuggle in games to sell to gamers and don’t want competition!

    What, it makes about as much sense as their arguments…

  • The bible endorses slavery, genocide, and rape.
    The commandments of “GOD” (Not just the first 10) were outdated by the time Christianity started out.

    Christians performed horrendous atrocities in the name of their faith, like the Crusades, the Inquisition, Witch-burning, the KKK lynchings, just to name a few.

    Why then does anyone take Christianity as being a standard for morality? Superstition, bigotry, and stupidity are what I would attribute it to.

    No religion should be able to influence civil decision making, such as classification laws.

  • Not a bad article. I’m glad it mentioned that there is religious social conservatism on both ‘sides’ of politics. There are some Roman Catholic Social Conservatives in the liberal party but there are also plenty in the labor party (hence why Gillard couldn’t introduce gay marriage).

    • Wrong. She deliberately chose not to pursue legislation in support of marriage equality, despite quite strong support for it within her party and the Greens to do so.

      Watch what happens at the end of year at the Labor national conference. She WILL face very strong opposition on this issue and Labor Party policy is likely to be changed to one of officialy supporting marriage equality. Finally.

  • “Jim Wallace made a clarification on that tweet, which I think is fairly self explanatory,” he said, “but that doesn’t take away from the idea of religious freedom – or the freedom for any religious group to express a view.

    “I think most people are heartily sick of political correctness and they’re looking for people that will express a clear view.”

    I understand the need for freedom of religion, but how about the freedom of expression that a lot of game developers should be allowed when crafting their games? Should we, as (mostly) mature adult gamers, be consistantly told what we can and cannot play in our own homes? The whole “think of the children” argument that seems to be the basis for the ACL’s argument is no longer applicable to the “debate” because kids are getting their hands on these games all the time. Just last night I was talking to a mother who asked me, having worked in the retail game industry, what I thought about her letting her 6 year old play an MA15+ game. I immediately told her “no.” She then turned to her partner and said, “See, I told you that he shouldn’t be playing those games” and at the end of the day it truly is a parents’ responsibility to monitor what their child is watching on television or in a movie, and yes, playing in a game. The ACL is, in effect, restricting what adults can choose to do in their own free time in their own homes. And if they consider themselves as “debating” the issue, I feel that they are pretty much saying what they think people should hear and when someone tries to disagree, act like children themselves by holding their hands on their ears and saying “Nahnahnahnah I can’t hear you” It’s time they grew up and got in touch with modern society.

  • NOT having the R18 rating is completely counter productive. We have restrictions and laws about tobacco, films and alcohol, so why can’t we for video games?

    It doesn’t make any sense, you conservatists are idiots. Anyone can abuse anything to any new limit. It doesn’t matter what you do, people will abuse or exploit a situation. having the R18 rating won’t stop all under 18s getting the game, but it WILL cut it down

  • I really do not think the ACL should have a right to be involved in political discussion.

    I’ve got no problem with an individual who feels one way, and also happens to be a christian, but an organisation that is entirely founded on religious motives should have no part in lawmaking.

  • I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will–and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain.” — Gene Roddenberry

  • You claim that the ACL “spin[s] truth, quote[s] outdated research, and stoke[s] the moral panic with inaccurate information and brute political pressure.”

    What untruths or outdated research has the ACL been guilty of quoting lately? Point to it. Then provide some proof that it’s not true, outdated, and inaccurate.

    • “If you take the R18+ issue, they’re worried about what their children might be exposed to, and they’re worried about the games industry pushing the line, bringing in more offensive and dangerous games – according to academic research…”

      Its in a quote in this very article. They claim videogames are ‘dangerous’ and ‘offensive’ according to academic research. Offense isn’t provable through research. The danger of game playing has been refuted most recently by Chris Ferguson, and here’s some text for you:

  • What struck me with this article was that the ACL wanted to claim they, and their base, were unified in their opinions. What now? The biggest a group of people can get, where they all agree on everything, is one – such a claim not only shows how out of touch with their base the heirarchy of the ACL is, but also how out of touch they are with reality.

  • Great post, thanks for doing all of those interviews and writing it!

    It may interest some of your readers to note that I launched a petition entitled “Australian Christians against the ACL” shortly after Jim Wallace’s horrific ANZAC day tweet, and that a new group of Christians is starting to form – albeit slowly, because I’m busy! – around a less conservative political platform than the ACL.

    The petition is here: And the Facebook page, where everything else is starting to launch from:

    Gaming is but one of the issues I look forward to tackling in the near future.

  • I just wish these asshat christians would get it through their holier than thou heads that Jesus told them to go & make disciples, not go & create political parties & lobby groups, legislate your morality & then force it down the throats of everyone else whether they what it or not. To all of you christians who wonder why the world detests your kind, we’re sick to death of your smug sermonising about our morals when your own house is full of the sin & perversion you take great delight in pointing out in us. That is why we can’t stand you. As God himself said “my name is blasphemed amongst the Gentiles because of you”. Yes christians, because of YOU

  • Good article and discussion. I would say that the ACL represnt social conservatism more than they do Christianity.I think advocating biblical morality or their understanding of it is not necessarily a problem. Its just that the bible puts following God before morality. If you don’t follow God, why would you care about a biblical sense of morality.

    I think in the R18 case they are representing a position more than an argument. The only problem is kids are already playing voilent games. All the boys in the youth group at my church play balck ops, and they’re all like 12 years old.

    I also think that alot of liberal Christians represent liberalism more than Christianity.I don’t think either are a true representation. Jesus mostly addressed legalism things such as the sabbath, he certainly didn’t dismiss morality.

  • “I feel that many young Christians would rather avoid the word “Christian” altogether. Thanks to organisations like the ACL, some perceive ‘Christian’ values as a judgemental, discriminatory, holier-than-thou belief system that actually goes against the true teachings of Christ.”

    Wow… Read me like a book… I’m almost stunned at how accurate that is…

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!