Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher has spoken out in support of free speech, after the ’beer and Bibles’ debacle that saw Coopers Beer end its friendship with Bible Society.
The company was attacked on social media in March for supporting the Bible Society, which was perceived as being anti-marriage equality. Coopers then scrambled to improve its public image by ending the long-standing Bible Society partnership, and instead joining Marriage Equality Australia.
Archbishop Fisher believes it’s a case of political correctness gone too far, and that corporations should be wary of trying to dictate moral issues to the wider community.
In an interview with Open House presenter Stephen O’Doherty, Archbishop Fisher said there’s no place for such intimidation in civil society.
“Only today at church, I had a man come to speak to me after the service to say that he works in one of our big banks, and that he wouldn’t dare openly identify as being in favour of the traditional understanding of marriage, or openly identify as Christian in his workplace for fear that that would affect his employment or his career,” said Archbishop Fisher.
“It’s extraordinary because only a decade or so ago people would’ve said, ‘What do you mean a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman?’ It would’ve been unthinkable.
“All our political leaders all took the same view that marriage was between a man and a woman. That you could think the same people 10 years on are somehow monsters for holding those positions and shouldn’t be able to have responsible positions in companies, seems an extraordinary path in such a short time.”
Companies Turning into Dictatorships
Archbishop Fisher said he fears a future where employees will be bullied for taking moral stances that are politically incorrect. He believes corporations should stick to their business instead of having a finger in every political pie.
“That’s the only responsible use of their resources and their corporate power,” he said. “Having that kind of power comes with certain responsibilities and amongst those are responsibility not to abuse your power by bullying your employees, or your customers, or your suppliers, or your own shareholders by trying to force them into social or moral positions that they might not agree with.
“Just as it could be overreach for a trade union or a church to decide they’re going to be the government in a democracy like ours, so too it’s dangerous for corporate leaders to decide that they’re going to dictate social and moral policy to the rest of the citizens.”
Archbishop Supports a Marriage Plebiscite
On the issue of marriage equality, Archbishop Fisher is in support of a plebiscite or public vote.
“This is such a big matter, and one that we’d want to be confident that the community was behind it, therefore we’d take that to the people for a vote. That is still what I think would make the most sense as the way forward for us,” he said.
In his view, Christian churches and lobby groups that want to see the traditional definition of marriage retained, have displayed civility and fairness during the marriage debate.
“It’s been in a very civil way with conferences and debates and discussions, not attacking anybody or displaying homophobic or other kinds of nasty or violent attitudes,” he said.
He believes some lobbyists supporting marriage equality could do better.
“The bullying seems to all be coming from one side at the moment,” he said. “I wouldn’t pretend that everyone on the pro-same-sex marriage side would be in favor of that kind of [bullying] tactic either. I would imagine that many people who favor redefining marriage are themselves very uncomfortable with the intolerance of diversity.”