Speaking God’s Truth in the Public Square


Living out our Christian faith in the public square has become more challenging, especially as evangelical Christians are a relatively-small minority. Australians have been reprimanded, or in some cases faced criminal charges, for offering to pray for someone with permission, for quoting Bible verses and for handing out a flyer explaining the Christian perspective. Respectful discussion where people with different views truly engage is rare. The Bible has been called hate speech and biblical literacy is on the decline.

In this part we:

  • Explore the current environment by reviewing case studies of Christians who have sought to share their faith in the public square.
  • Look at the meaning of hate speech and explore why some people may see the Bible this way.
  • Discern between speech and discrimination.
  • Review the strategies used by others when they disagree with Christians in the public square.

We published two podcast episodes for this part of our study: the first podcast comprises two episodes of The Truth of It by Martyn Iles from the Australian Christian Lobby on Israel Folau and the consequences of his social media posts. We look at this case from the position of evangelism and seek to give you the facts, as there is much misinformation in the media. Special thanks to Australian Christian Lobby for allowing us to republish their material. You can find more about their ministry here.

In the second podcast, Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason ( discusses the strategies used in a post-modern society to silence debate and opposing viewpoints.

You can subscribe to the Christians Engaging Culture podcast here (or by searching for it in your favourite podcast app).

Martyn Iles on the Case of Israel Folau

Podcast duration: 41:28Speaker: Martyn IllesPublisher: Australian Christian Lobby (used with permission)Originally published: here and here Date accessed: 9/9/19

Greg Koukl - The Intolerance of Tolerance

Podcast duration: 57:39Speaker: Greg Koukl (of Stand To Reason Ministries - Biola University (used with permission of Stand to Reason)Originally published: here Date accessed: 9/9/19


I am thankful we live in a democracy where everyone is free to share their views respectfully, even when we disagree. It makes for a better society and better laws.

One of the challenges we face living together in a pluralistic society is the diversity of values and views. The challenge is how can we resolve these and live peacefully.

There are vegans who say things that meat-eaters might find hurtful (e.g. that they are murderers, that what they are doing is as bad as rape, etc. ) Should a vegan be fired from their job for expressing such a ‘hurtful’ view?

A Muslim might find it offensive when a Christian says that Jesus is God. Should the Christian be punished because the Muslim is offended?

The Bible says ‘through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners’ (Rom. 5:19). When it comes to sin, Christians believe we were all ‘born this way’. To many this sounds offensive, but Christians have believed it for 1000s of years. Do you believe that now is the time to stop Christians from sharing this ‘negative’ view of mankind?


As well as saying, ‘through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners’, the Bible also says ‘through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous’ (Rom. 5:19). Have you put your trust in Jesus so that you can be made righteous?

It seems the reason people want to restrict evangelism is because part of the Christian message is about human sin and guilt. I was wondering what you do with your guilt?

When having a conversation about Israel Folau’s blog post, instead of focusing on his right to post it, say something like ‘I’m in that list too. I also deserve hell. I’m so thankful that Jesus paid hell for me so I can go to heaven. Do you know where you will go when you die?’


Here you can find the full episodes of The Truth of It that were used in the podcast, as well as Greg Koul's lecture on the Intolerance of Tolerance.

The Truth of It - Israel Folau - Season 2 Episode 8

Using the Israel Folau case, Martyn Iles illustrates the difference between “speech”, which was exercised by Folau and “discrimination”, which he is personally experiencing from Rugby Australia and the negative comprehensive media campaign. The Folau case provides an interesting case study into the strategies used to discredit someone with whom they disagree. Typically we “fight speech with speech”. Iles states, “This is a question of the very freedoms that we enjoy to live our beliefs, to live our faith, to express that faith, and express those beliefs and be true to the faith that we carry in word and deed and action in life, and to do so without fear. It’s a freedom every Australian wants to enjoy. That is why the principle by its very nature has implications for democracy itself.”

Duration: 15:08 (the relevant material finishes at 15:08 of the video)Speaker: Martyn IlesPublisher: Australian Christian LobbyDate accessed: 4/9/19

The Truth of It - Israel Folau - Season 2 Episode 2

Much of what has been published by the media about the Israel Folau case is deceptive. Iles provides an accurate description of the posts Israel Folau placed on social media and the position of Rugby Australia. Iles reveals the motivations behind the attack on Israel Folau.

There has been much written in Christian circles about whether the text written by Folau was appropriate. Hopefully we can reflect on how best to answer the question directed at him. Regardless, this case remains a current example of what can happen to someone when they share their faith. Iles uses New Testament Scripture to highlight that ancient Rome had some striking similarities to our current culture. He challenges us to ask how we have been impacted by current culture.

Check out the follow-up video by Martyn Illes in Digging Deeper which looks at the alarming statistics on suicide and self-harm among LGBTI people.

Duration: 24:12 (the relevant material finishes at 24:12 of the video)Speaker: Martyn IlesPublisher: Australian Christian LobbyDate accessed: 4/9/19

The Intolerance of Tolerance - Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl discusses why there is increasing aggression towards evangelical Christians in the western world as the concept of religious totalitarianism emerged post-9/11.

Koukl states that the post-modern view turns tolerance on its head. The classical view of tolerance is to be egalitarian towards people (treat people kindly) and elitist towards ideas, because some ideas are better than others. The post-modern view of tolerance is to be tolerant of ideas and if someone does not “step in line” with your point of view, feel free to publicly mistreat them, often by calling them names such as bigot, racist or homophobe.

He discusses a common “passive-aggressive tolerance trick” of calling people names and provides an approach that exposes the irrationality in their thinking.

Koukl is concerned about the impact of the new tolerance on our culture – that people feel they have a right to be angry if someone disagrees with them – and how it prevents reasonable, fair tolerant discussions about the things that really matter. He calls us to resist name-calling and to address the issues, consider the facts, weigh the evidence, reflect on the reasons.

Duration: 55:01Speaker: Greg KouklPublisher: Biola UniversityDate accessed: 4/9/19


The Truth Of It - Season 2 - Episode 1 - Kathy Clubb

In April 2019, pro-life activist Kathy Clubb, a mother of 13 children, had her criminal conviction upheld in the High Court of Australia. Clubb became the first person in Victoria to be charged under laws which were formally passed in November 2015 that make it illegal to protest within 150 metres of an abortion clinic. In August 2016 she approached a couple within the exclusion zone and offered them pamphlets. She belongs to a ministry called The Helpers who make offers of help towards women as they approach abortion clinics. As a result of their efforts and practical and counselling support they have seen over 300 babies saved.

Iles highlights the lack of counselling support vulnerable women receive when they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy, and also the lack of a cooling-off period legislated in other countries. He also reflects on the challenges we face as Christians when the law of the land is pitted against God’s law - when there is a reversal of the social compass.

Duration: 11:56Speaker: Martyn IlesPublisher: Australian Christian LobbyDate accessed: 4/9/19

Kathy Clubb and Graham Preston have both lost high court challenges to overturn their convictions for picketing outside abortion clinics. They say that free speech is dead in the wake of a High Court ruling upholding laws in Victoria and Tasmania to prohibit protests near clinics.

Estimated read time: 4:37Author: Elizabeth ByrnePublisher: ABC NewsDate accessed: 4/9/19

In 2015, Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteus became the subject of a complaint to Tasmania’s anti-discrimination commissioner after he authorised the distribution of a booklet advocating for traditional marriage in Catholic churches, agencies and schools. The booklet had been distributed by bishops across the country, at the urging of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Estimated read time: 3:45Author: Kayley PaynePublisher: Eternity NewsDate accessed: 4/9/19

Operation 513 is a global organisation of street preachers. In the 12 months to December 2016, Operation 513 in Queensland were issued with 26 fines amounting to more than $10,000 for sharing the gospel in Queen Street Mall.

Estimated read time: 3:15Author: Tess DelbridgePublisher: Eternity NewsDate accessed: 4/9/19

An advertisement featuring a pregnant woman’s stomach with the tagline “A heart beats at four weeks” has been taken down by Ooh! Media following public complaints that is offensive. O’Rourke, representing Emily’s Voice stated: “We should be able to represent vulnerable women and unborn children in a sensitive and respectful manner without falling victim to political correctness and confected outrage.”

Estimated read time: 2:10Author: Ben MceachenPublisher: Eternity NewsDate accessed: 4/9/19

In Ngole v the University of Sheffield, the English Court of Appeal has decided: “The mere expression of religious views about sin does not necessarily connote discrimination.” As the British appeal court stated: “The university wrongly confused the expression of religious views with the notion of discrimination. The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that "homosexuality is a sin") does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.”

Estimated read time: 2:10Author: John SteehhofPublisher: The Sydney Morning HeraldDate accessed: 4/9/19


Christianity in Politics - Rev. Dr. Mark Durie

Mark Durie provides a biblical framework that commands Christians to speak God’s truth to others and stand-up for justice. Mark explains how a culture of shaming Christians for speaking out and society’s habit of forcing people to align their views on the political spectrum as either right (traditional and conservative) or left (progressive and on the right side of history) challenge our courage and our clarity of standing for God’s truth and justice. We are in a spiritual battle. Durie challenges us to engage with others in the public square by “speaking the truth without embarrassment or looking over our shoulder or worrying about what other people will think, knowing that we will be accountable to the living God who judges the nations.”

Duration: 28:50Speaker: Rev. Dr. Mark DuriePublisher: Australian Christian LobbyDate accessed: 4/9/19

Campbell asks “Is the Bible really to be considered hate speech? Are we really at the place in Australian society where quoting the Bible can be used as material evidence against an individual?” He claims that as a society we have a Bible comprehension problem and urges that churches focus on biblical literacy.

He argues that ideas stemming from the Bible have built fairer societies, outlawed slavery, established better working conditions for the poor and built homes for orphans and the elderly.

Estimated read time: 5:40Author: Murray CampbellPublisher: murraycampbell.netDate accessed: 4/9/19

The Scotland Police posted a sign on a bus stop: ‘Dear Bigots, you can’t spread your religious hate here. End of sermon. Yours, Scotland.’ They encouraged people to report ‘hate incidents’ to police. David Robertson reported the police’s sign to the police as an incident of hate against religious people. The irony would be hilarious if it were in an Orwell novel. But you can see more of how David responded in this blog post.

Estimated read time: 6:10Author: David RobertsonPublisher: TheWeeFlea.comDate accessed: 4/9/19

Peter Singer is as atheist as they come, yet even he can see the problems with Rugby Australia firing Israel Folau.

‘As this example shows – and as John Stuart Mill argued in his classic On Liberty – once we allow, as a ground for restricting someone’s freedom of speech or action, the claim that someone else has been offended by it, freedom is in grave danger of disappearing entirely. After all, it is very difficult to say anything significant to which no one could possibly take offense.’

Estimated read time: 5:15Author: Peter SingerPublisher: Project SyndicateDate accessed: 4/9/19


Acts 4:19 .But Peter and John replied,”Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”

Psalm 82:3–4 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

John 17:16–17 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.


  1. Formulate the approach you would take if you were asked directly whether homosexuals will go to hell. How would you speak God’s truth in a way that it will be heard by someone who does not have a good understanding of the Bible and its message? What Bible passage(s) could you use?
  2. Formulate the approach you would take if you were told that Christianity is not wanted in the public square and that Christianity and politics don’t mix.
  3. To what extent should Christians be willing to stand up for the most vulnerable in society?
  4. How can you prepare yourself to be more effective speaking about your faith and sharing the gospel with others in the current Australian environment?


Heavenly Father,

As it becomes more challenging to stand up for the vulnerable in our society, to share your good news and to stand up for laws consistent with your good laws for human flourishing, please equip your church and me personally to speak out. May your Holy Spirit give us the courage and equip us with everything necessary to enable us to be effective and loving in all our interactions. We ask you to restrain evil in our society and enable your light to shine through. Help us to be salt and light as we live out our faith in the public square.

In Jesus' name. Amen.


Oppositional Religious Speech: Understanding Hate Speech

This article explores whether Christian preaching can be considered a hate crime or hate speech. Although the article pertains to UK law, it makes some valuable points:

  • Hate preaching is capable of constituting both hate crime and hate speech.
  • The significance arises where religious values clash with state values. Consideration of this clash tends to focus on benefits of expression to the speaker, the cost to the speaker of restricting expression, the costs to targets of such expressions.
  • Pluralism is a dynamic force that can slowly transform and shake the status quo.
  • Religious critique is one way in which the values of a society can be challenged.
  • The status of Scripture will vary even within religious communities.
  • Sometimes the understanding of Scripture from within the religious community may differ considerably from that of an outsider.
  • Hate speech is a communication apt to create hatred in the minds of others in relation to a prohibited ground - e.g. race, sexual-orientation.

Estimated read time: 21:00Author: Peter EdgePublisher: accessed: 4/9/19

There has been much misinformation about what Israel Folau posted on his social media page. This article shows the posting and explains the implications for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Estimated read time: 1:30Author: John SteehhopfPublisher: Human Rights Law AllianceDate accessed: 4/9/19

Everyone wants to flourish and indeed many of our values and actions are designed to help us flourish individually. The motivations of non-Christians in seeking recognition and identity in law is motivated by a desire to flourish. This article describes how human flourishing is a major theme in the Bible.

Estimated read time: 2:50Author: Hugh WhelchelPublisher: Institute for Faith, Work and EconomicsDate accessed: 4/9/19

The Truth of It - Season 2 Episode 8 - Harm and Suicide

Opponents of verses from the Bible on homosexuality often claim that the publication of these verses causes harm and increases the incidence of suicide among the LBGTI community. Iles says that we must always be careful not to cause harm with what we say and do as Christians. Alternatively he quotes comparative statistics on high rates of suicide and self-harm in countries where the LGBTI community have been supported for some years and shows that these rates among the LGBTI community are still far too high, despite them being more LGBTI-friendly.

Duration: 11:00Speaker: Martyn IlesPublisher: Australian Christian LobbyDate accessed: 4/9/19

This page was posted on: 16/9/19