Police rule out ideological motive for attack on Christian Lobby HQ

Police rule out ideological motive for attack on Christian Lobby HQ

SBS World News Radio: Police have ruled out political or religious links to an explosion outside the Australian Christian Lobby's headquarters in Canberra.  

The controversial lobby group said it was targeted over its opposition to same-sex marriage.

An explosion in the quiet Canberra suburb of Deakin only a few minutes drive from Parliament House has been found to be caused by van packed with gas bottles.

The building, the headquarters of the Australian Christian Lobby was empty at the time but was damaged extensively.

ACL managing director Lyle Shelton flew in from Queensland hours later to inspect the damage.

He says he doesn't know the exact motivation for the attack but believes his organisation was targeted.

"This is not the Australia I grew up in. My team and my staff have had to endure numerous death threats over the course of this year because of our advocacy over as simple as marriage between a man and a woman and because we think children shouldn't be taught that their gender is fluid in schools through the so-called Safe Schools program."

ACL has been outspoken in its opposition to legalising same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools program.

But ACT Deputy Chief Police Officer Commander Mark Walters says that wasn't the reason for the explosion.

"As a result of our conversations with the male individual last night, we are confident in our assessment that the incident is not politically, religiously or idealogically motivated and our inquiries are continuing to fully understand the circumstances of the incident."

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan says people should leave questions of motive to the police.

"Clearly it was a very traumatic incident for the Australian Christian Lobby and we will continue to work with them to make sure that they and all other Australians are kept safe. There's no indications that it's a terrorist act. The police are obviously continuing their investigations. When they have a motivation, when they have something to update the Australian people about, they will do so but there's no indications it's a terrorist attack at this stage."

A 35-year-old man is suspected of packing the van with gas cylinders and igniting them.

Police say he then walked himself to hospital and remains there in a critical condition with serious burns.

"I want to reassure the members of the Canberra community that ACT Policing is working very vigorously to fully understand the circumstances of this incident but we do not believe there is any threat to the community as a result of this particular incident."

The Australian Christian Lobby says it has about 50,000 supporters.

It claims to be a non-partisan movement which tries to bring Christian values to politics.

As well as campaigning against same-sex marriage, it also opposes abortion, prostitution and euthanasia.

It advocates frequently for the rights of children and religious freedom.

It's often criticised by same-sex marriage campaigners and Labor politicians.

Commander Mark Walters says police take any threats againts advocacy groups seriously.

"ACT policing investigators have been in contact with the ACL staff today and our investigations will continue in relation to any threats that have been made towards the ACL."

Windows were blown out in the two-storey building, interiors damaged and concrete scorched from the heat of the fire.

But Lyle Shelton says it won't stop the ACL's work.

"I don't know what we're going to do now after this incident. We have no plans of moving and we're not going to be intimidated by this. Obviously, someone doesn't like our work and wanted to send a message to us and I think that's going to backfire. We'll be as determined as ever to keep going."

 

 

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