Presbyterian pastor Campbell Markham and street preacher David Gee have been hauled before Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination commissioner following a complaint about their comments on same-sex marriage.
The comments were made back in 2011, at a time of intense debate in Hobart. “Back then Hobart was a bit of a hotspot on these issues,” says Markham. As the convenor of the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania Social Justice committee, he has been expected to take a lead on controversial issues.
“I won’t be changing a word what I wrote, unless someone can point out something unbiblical. But I have not had any feedback of that nature from my brother ministers.”
“He also does street preaching … That’s what people don’t like.” – Campbell Markham
David Gee works for Markham’s Cornerstone Church in Hobart, one day per week as an evangelist. Gee works a further one and a half days funded by 513, a street preaching group. He also practices as a vet.
Gee sets up a table in Hobart’s street, making the Bibles available, and handing out tracts. The table often becomes a place for conversation. “He also does street preaching,” says Markham. “That’s what people don’t like.”
The complainant has been hanging around Gee’s preaching places for years. “He is an atheist, who says he feels offended and insulted by what has been written and said.”
The complaint centres on a few sentences from Markham’s prolific blogging.
Markham and Gee are not hostile to the complainant. They are concerned about the State’s law which has a low bar for complaints, and the readiness of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner to allow the complaint to move forward.
The complaint centres on a few sentences from Markham’s prolific blogging. One example is what Markham wrote alongside some posters from the Rainbow Families Council, which promote non-traditional families. Markham quoted a saying of Jesus beneath them: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”
He will withdraw two or three of them, “but nothing about my right to proclaim the Gospel.”
Another is a brief mention of research about the “appalling health risks of the homosexual lifestyle”.
But in another (not complained about) post, Markham expresses sympathy for the LGBT community: “Tonight I joined hundreds of my fellow Hobartians at Franklin Square. I went to think of the dead and injured in Orlando, to grieve with those who grieve.”
Gee has a list of some 14 comments made while preaching which have been complained about. He is ready to concede that some where made in the heat of the moment and he will withdraw two or three of them, “but nothing about my right to proclaim the Gospel.”
The next stage is conciliation, which Markham expects will not succeed …
Markham laughs when asked if he is the “Protestant Porteous” – a reference to Julian Porteous, the Catholic bishop of Hobart who also faced a Anti-Discrimination complaint for sending a Catholic pamphlet home with Catholic School students. Markham describes some jokes he has shared with Porteous and says that Porteous has offered his support.
Possible sanctions that the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner can impose range from Markham being told to take down his blog, to his having to undergo sensitivity training, or face a fine.
The next stage is conciliation, which Markham expects will not succeed in heading off the tribunal process.