Documents obtained via Freedom of Information reveal that senior officers believe Defence is now ‘comfortable’ being seen to support political activity for homosexual marriage and that it is acceptable to vilify Christianity but not other religions, specifically Islam. These beliefs were based on the decision by the Chief of Defence Force, General David Hurley, to allow uniformed participation in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The written statements were made in a Defence Quick Assessment Report, authored on 16 April, 2013. The report was in response to a complaint by Army Reserve major, Bernard Gaynor, that uniformed participation in the Mardi Gras breached Defence orders forbidding uniformed involvement in any political activity and violated Defence policy on unacceptable behaviour.
The report did not address whether Defence orders on uniformed political activity had been breached but admitted that the Mardi Gras was a controversial political event.
“The ADF traditionally avoids overt support of specific political viewpoints. By allowing official participation in the 2013 Mardi Gras by uniformed personnel the ADF could be seen as now being comfortable in supporting politically polarising issues.”
The report also found that uniformed ADF members would face severe disciplinary action for supporting an event in which Islam was vilified, but that it was acceptable for them to support Christian vilification at the Mardi Gras. As a result, it did not recommend a formal Defence Inquiry into unacceptable behaviour.
“If a uniformed member were to support a gathering that insulted strongly held beliefs of a religion other than Christianity (to use (Gaynor’s) example, vilifying Islam with ‘Mohammad is Gay’ signs vs the ‘Jesus is Gay’ signs in the Mardi Gras) that member would be severely dealt with. In the case of the Mardi Gras, the opposite occurred.”
The report also accepted that sexual acts at the Mardi Gras were performed in front of children by ‘radical’ elements.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Buxton, the Commanding Officer of the Defence Intelligence Training Centre, received the report on 17 April, 2013. Against the two points on political activity and religious vilification he wrote the word “policy”. Below the section relating to the linkage of the ADF to radical gay groups, he dismissed concerns, writing that it was a “policy issue, not an unacceptable behaviour issue”.
Lieutenant Colonel Buxton noted in his Commanding Officer comments that “the issue raised concerning ADF’s involvement in polarising events is a matter for CDF and senior leadership,” and did not order any formal investigation.
Colonel Chris Rule, the Commandant of the Defence Command Support Training Centre, also reviewed the report on 22 April, 2013. He found that there was no case of unacceptable behaviour at the Mardi Gras, accepting that Defence policy now allowed Christian vilification and uniformed participation in the political parade, writing:
“The officer is to be advised that I assess his concerns with regards to the Mardi Gras participation constitute a disagreement with Defence policy rather than people’s behaviour. Should he feel that current Defence policy is such that he cannot work within its bound, he should reflect on his ability to continue in such employ.”
Colonel Rule did not address concerns raised about ADF participation in an event in which children were exposed to sexually-explicit behaviour.
Bernard Gaynor says that the documents confirm Defence has adopted a discriminatory stance towards Christianity and questions why his complaint regarding the breach of Defence policy on political activity was not investigated.
“It is extremely disturbing to see a written Defence document acknowledge that it is ok for Defence personnel to march with people holding signs that say ‘Jesus is Gay’, but that it is not ok to do the same with Mohammad,” Mr Gaynor said.
“This should be properly investigated immediately. The Chief of Defence Force must explain why his officers think that it is acceptable to vilify Christianity.”
“General Hurley should also explain why he is allowing ADF involvement in the Mardi Gras again this year, when this Defence report accepted that last year children were exposed to sexually-explicit acts.”
“He must explain, as a priority, why his officers think that Defence policy allows uniformed military support of an event where children are exposed to sexually-explicit behaviour.”
“Furthermore, it is troubling that written Defence orders that prohibit any uniformed political activity are now ignored.”
“The Chief of Defence must explain why his organisation is supporting the push for homosexual marriage and why homosexual soldiers are exempted from Defence laws on uniformed political activity that all other members must obey.”
“I would also like him to explain why he allowed this uniformed political activity at the same time I was being harassed for lawfully expressing my own private political beliefs.”
Mr Gaynor will take his complaint to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and says that the released documents confirm that the military is illegally engaged in religious and political discrimination, violating Australian laws.
Click here to view the Quick Assessment Report viewed by Lieutenant Colonel Chris Buxton, 17 April 2013.
Click here to view the Quick Assessment Report viewed by Colonel Chris Rule, 22 April, 2013.
Click here to view ADF orders on political activity.
Click here to view ADF orders on unacceptable behaviour.
Click here to view Bernard Gaynor’s complaint regarding ADF involvement in the Mardi Gras.