Adshel has pulled the Queensland Government’s safe sex ads because someone complained about them. Apparently making sure children don’t see an image of two men touching trumps the fact that, in 2010, there were more people diagnosed with HIV than at any time since the mid 1980s. According to Paul Martin, executive director of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, “65 per cent of these diagnoses are among gay men”.
This is the hideously offensive ad:
Shocking, I know. You can find the story here: Company defends decision to remove safe sex posters
An Adshel spokeswoman said:
“The decision to remove the posters was made on the basis of the large number of complaints received.
“Adshel does not take a position regarding the views or position of various community groups.”
Perhaps, but Adshel is half-owned by APN, which refused to run ads by the Atheist Foundation of Australia. That makes things a little more interesting.
You can read the complaints about the Rip and Roll ad here. They’re all pretty much the same: seeing a picture of two men hugging will “pre-sexualise” children; there shouldn’t be any condom ads in public places because children might see them; the image of the condom is “huge”; it promotes an “unhealthy lifestyle choice” to children; it shows two men “in the act of foreplay” (men hugging is foreplay? In that case, men playing cricket, rugby league, rugby union, AFL and soccer should be ejaculating all over the field).
Most of the wording is the same, so it’s clearly an organised campaign. We don’t know if it was the Australian Christian Lobby behind the complaints, but well-organised anti-gay complainers do tend to be connected to the ACL.
Why does the ACL have so much power? According to the 2006 census, 64 per cent of the population claims to be nominally Christian, but less than a quarter of those go to church each week. So, less than 16 per cent of the Australian population goes to a Christian church weekly. That’s less than the number who marked “no religion” (18.7 per cent), but a little more than the number who left the religion question blank (11.2 per cent).
When I was little, we filled out the census form as a family. When it came to the religion question, we all helpfully said “Anglican” (or was it Uniting? I don’t remember. The one without the guitars). We’d never been to church and as far as I know, none of us believed in God, but after a scripture class we asked our parents what religion we were and they said “Anglican/Uniting, I guess”. We weren’t interested in the religion, just the identifer – something that was about us, a label, which I understand is pretty normal child behaviour. (I wonder what my non-religious parents thought about their five kids insisting we fill in the religion question. I’d ask them but they’re in Turkmenistan.)
Anyway, my long-winded point is that I doubt the number of people who believe in a Christian god is as high as the census figures suggest. But we won’t know for sure unless the census includes a “do you believe in god/s” question.
As to whether the ACL deserves to be taken seriously at the moment, the ACL leadership has said some pretty disgusting things lately. The managing director of ACL is Jim Wallace, who tweeted on Anzac Day “Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!” He apologised for the timing of his comment but not the content. Earlier this year, he said a church school should have the right to expel an openly gay student.
In November, the Victorian director Rob Ward called the funding of a committee to advise the Government on issues affecting the gay community a “disgraceful act of undemocratic process”. Huh? How is giving a range of people a voice “undemocratic”?
And in August, the Queensland director of ACL Wendy Francis tweeted “Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse”.
Regular readers will know I have no religious beliefs, but I respect that others do. But what we have here is a small group of people blocking an important public health campaign, presumably because children might become gay if they know that gay exists. And once some children are gay, the rest will catch it from them. Or maybe they’re just homophobic.
Update: Adshel has reinstated the ads. Apparently receiving 40 or so complaints with the same wording didn’t tip them off to the fact that it was a coordinated campaign from a very small group.