Changes at the Australian Christian Lobby – Martyn Iles

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Challenges Facing Christians – the ACL’s Role

“There are faith-based schools with Christian convictions around whether or not boys are boys and girls are girls.”

“It’s really basic stuff and they’re getting sued.”

“In the marriage campaign we actually shifted 1.5 million votes in 90 days which is unheard of in the political history of this country.”

“If we can harness that kind of energy we can really start to be a force for good and the church can find its voice again,” Martyn declared.

Quotes from Martyn Iles, the incoming Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Martyn Iles

Martyn is taking over Lyle Shelton’s role after Lyle announced his move to Senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party.

‘Our politicians are servants of God’

Martyn said the changing of the guard was first mooted after the marriage debate came to a close.

“Lyle has seen an opportunity to step forward into partisan politics. He sensed a calling in that direction and we’re all very happy he’s able to move into that field.”

Martyn referred to Romans 13 – “Our politicians are ministers of God, servants of God and I’ve always been of the firm opinion that there’s no one better to fulfil that role than Christians.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone who would disagree that we need politicians of conviction and strong belief in today’s environment.”

Martyn’s also excited about his new role and realises it’s one of great responsibility. He was the ACL’s chief of staff from 2014 – 2016 and travelled with Lyle Shelton to make sure events and meetings went as smoothly as possible.

“I’ve been in the hurly burly of the ACL for a good whack of time and I’ve always been intimately acquainted with what’s going on.”

The Human Rights Law Alliance

In 2016 following his stint as chief of staff Martyn pioneered the setup of the ACL’s Human Rights Law Alliance, its new legal arm.

Martyn said the Alliance has become a law firm to defend Christians who get in trouble with the law for living out their faith. In effect that takes ACL’s advocacy out of the parliament and into the courts.

But what Martin has noticed throughout his time with the ACL is the rising tide of persecution against Christians – Australia included.

“I saw more than 35 cases come across my desk where Christians were in trouble with the law. They were facing legal persecution simply for living out their faith in Australia.”

“These were university academics, university students, religious schools, or people who work for the public service. There are many examples.”

We call it ‘Lawfare’

Martyn Iles

Martyn said these are people who speak up or believe something and they have moves against them, against their job, against their professional accreditation and against their statements of belief.

“We call it ‘lawfare’ where people use the law to try and punish the expression of belief,” Martyn shared.

“I was seeing that more and more and I suppose I saw some of the struggles that Lyle and the Christian Lobby had in the heat of political debate and the real need emerging for someone with a knowledge of those issues and the legal challenges for religious freedom.”

“For me, it’s time to step up and make sure the church and Christian believers remain free and that our politicians are aware of these issues. I’m excited to step into a new level where we start addressing these issues in the politics where the laws are made rather than downstream and things go wrong in the courts.”

Most Christians can be excused for not being aware of any encroachment upon their freedoms to express their faith in Australia at this point of time.

‘I objected to it and now my job’s at risk’

What about that news from Martyn Iles? – That 35 cases against Christians have been made by those who oppose Christian expression at one level or another?

If Christians only source their information from secular news services then that’s one obvious reason why they won’t have heard about the cases. It’s not front page headlines in mainstream news. The cases are not considered newsworthy.

“These are things that are not very widely known in the public. But public servants have come to us who’ve said, ‘I’ve spoken up about my beliefs, or my organisation put out a statement and I objected to it and now my job’s at risk. I’ve been put under discipline and I may lose my job.”

Martyn spoke about a school-teacher who, in his own private time on Facebook posted his convictions about marriage and family. He was put under a disciplinary investigation by the education department.

“We’ve had a university academic who’s had her accreditation with her university put under review because she gave talks on human sexuality at a church and at a school.”

boys are boys and girls are girls

“We’ve a pastor in Tasmania who wrote a blog about these issues as well. He’s been hauled before the anti-discrimination commission in Tasmania, much like Archbishop Julian Porteous was before him.”

Although Bishop Porteous’s case was dropped, not so Pastor Campbell Markham’s case. It’s expected to end up in the Tasmanian Supreme Court.

Martyn said there are faith-based schools with Christian convictions around whether or not boys are boys and girls are girls.

“It’s really basic stuff and they’re getting sued.”

“A lot of these cases are really sensitive and it’s hard to get good PR around them because there are non-disclosure clauses. People are not allowed to talk about what’s going on hence the difficulty in getting publicity,” Martyn shared, saying this is very real.

“It’s very, very real and we’ve been warning about it for a while because in places like Canada and Western Europe and increasingly in the United States we are seeing this kind of thing really take off.”

High Court of Australia

Martyn mentioned the US is further down the litigation road than Australia with a number of Supreme Court cases that are right now dealing with these same issues.

“We may end up in the High Court with some of them. We’ve known it was coming and we’re there. I don’t want people to be alarmed but I do want people to be alert and understand that the times are changing.”

Martyn Iles is adamant that Christians become mobilised to speak to politicians, to be active in the political process and to speak out for their beliefs.

“I think the Australian Christian Lobby gives people the opportunity to do some of those things.”

“In the marriage campaign we actually shifted 1.5 million votes in 90 days which is unheard of in the political history of this country.”

“If we can harness that kind of energy we can really start to be a force for good and the church can find its voice again,” Martyn emphasised.

Lyle Shelton


The Australian Christian Lobby is a grassroots movement of over 80,000 people seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics.

We want to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate as a society. We want Australia to become a more just and compassionate nation.

ACL is a non-party partisan, non-denominational movement that seeks to bring a Christian voice for values to the public policy discourse.

The Human Rights Law Alliance exists to change the law and preserve freedom.

As an organisation with a Christian ethos, our primary area of interest is the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. We work to ensure that all Australians can peacefully live out their faith and convictions both in private and in public without fear.

The freedom to believe lies at the core of all human rights and freedoms. Freedom of speech enables the communication of beliefs, whilst freedom of expression permits beliefs to be lived out in society. Freedom of association allows those of like-mind to form groups, communities and organisations governed by common conviction.

In the Christian context, these freedoms enable belief in the Christian gospel to be spoken, shared, lived and therefore to promote the best interests of all Australians.

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