Van Explosion at ACL and Scripture Union Offices not Religious or Political, Say Police - Hope 103.2

Van Explosion at ACL and Scripture Union Offices not Religious or Political, Say Police

A worn-out looking Lyle Shelton told journalists that he holds no malice towards the man who exploded a van at the ACL headquarters last night.

By Clare BruceThursday 22 Dec 2016NewsReading Time: 3 minutes

Above: Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton. Source: ACL

A worn-out looking Lyle Shelton told journalists this morning that he holds no malice towards the man who exploded a van full of gas cylinders in front of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Canberra headquarters last night.

The explosion occurred around 9:30pm next to the ‘Eternity House’ building in Deakin, which is home to the ACL as well as Scripture Union’s ACT branch.

Extensive damage was caused to the ACL’s offices, and Mr Shelton, ACL’s managing director, initially believed the explosion to be a deliberate attack, in a year when ACL staff members have received death threats.

Fighting back tears, he told gathered journalists this morning, “I never thought that in coming to work for a public advocacy organisation like ACL that we’d be subject to this sort of thing.

“This is not the Australia that I grew up in and my team, my staff, have had to endure numerous death threats over the course of this year. I’m sure it’s a message to intimidate us and cause us to be silent in the public square and that’s something we’re not prepared to do.”

Yet he sent a message of compassion to the perpetrator of the explosion.

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“I bear no malice to the person,” he said. “I understand there is someone receiving medical attention and I hope and pray for that person’s swift recovery and for that person’s family.”

Not a Political or Religious Attack, Say Police

However police have since questioned the driver of the van and say his actions were “not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated” even though he appears to have deliberately lit the gas cylinders.

“I bear no malice to the person. I pray for that person’s swift recovery and for that person’s family.”

They have identified him as a 35-year-old male Australian citizen from the ACT. After the explosion the man was dragged from the burning vehicle and then presented to Canberra Hospital with serious burn injuries, where police spoke to him.

Nobody was injured in the incident, with no staff being in the Eternity House building at the time of the explosion.

Police are unsure when they will be able to speak with the driver further due to his medical condition, but they plan to conduct a thorough investigation taking into account previous threats to the Australian Christian Lobby.

They are confident there is no threat to the community at large.

Being Labelled as a Hate-Group Doesn’t Help

After police reported that the van’s driver had no religious or political motivation, Mr Shelton told Fairfax that he hoped they were right.

“Obviously I respect what the police have to say. I’m not sure how they can know for sure, given the man was pulled from a burning wreck last night. I certainly hope that’s the case.”

Mr Shelton said he was sensitive towards the incident given that “it comes in the context of the abuse, the death threats and the threats of violence we have experienced this year”.

He told media that his staff had suffered extreme backlash over their “advocacy on something as simple as marriage between a man and a woman”, and their opposition to the gender fluidity” message of the Safe Schools program.

He said that regardless of the driver’s motives, inflamed verbal attacks from politicians towards ACL’s work were not helpful.

“I’m very concerned when members of Parliament, particularly on the extreme left, refer to us as a hate group and as bigots,” he said.

“I’m sure that doesn’t help the situation if there are people who are a bit unhinged out there; that sort of rhetoric doesn’t help.”