A World Congress of Families event in Melbourne this week was supposed to feature speeches by three Australian government officials, including social services minister Kevin Andrews. Instead, all three have backed out in the face of criticism of the Illinois-based group’s promotion of harsh anti-gay and anti-choice laws around the world.
In addition, the Australian politicians had come under fire for the conference’s sponsorship by Catch the Fire ministries, a group run by far-right politician Danny Nalliah who has blamed wildfires on abortion rights and frequently lashes out against "multiculturalism." (Nalliah also happens to be an ally of bizarre birther WND columnist and RWW favorite Lord Monckton).
Andrews’ decision to back out of the WCF event is especially galling since the group had been planning to present him with its “Natural Family Man of the Year” award. In a somewhat confusing statement, Andrews criticized those asking him to back out of trying to “shut down debate” while agreeing with them that the WCF summit represented “intolerance.” The Sydney Morning Herald:
Mr Andrews issued a statement on Friday announcing he had decided not to attend the conference after learning it would be hosted by the far-right Catch the Fire Ministries.
"Tolerance is a critical value in a western liberal democracy like Australia. It was for this reason that I intended to address the World Congress of Families meeting in Melbourne tomorrow," Mr Andrews said in the statement.
"The calls for me not to attend demonstrate the intolerance of the Greens and the left - instead of arguing their case in the public arena they seek to shut down debate."
"Equally, I cannot support intolerance from other quarters. As I have been informed today that the event is now to be hosted by Catch the Fire, I have decided not to attend."
The World Congress of Families will be holding its next big conference in Salt Lake City next year. It will be interesting to see whether American politicians also choose to stay away.