NEWCASTLE — A member of parliament in Australia says she plans to talk to authorities as she took to social media on Tuesday to accuse a local church of distributing “hate flyers” as members conducted their weekly distribution of gospel tracts — with last weekend being the Newcastle Pride Festival.
Sonia Hornery, who represents the Wallsend area, takes issue with the tracts that Grace Baptist Church in Fletcher offered to the public while residents “celebrated diversity” during the event.
“Unfortunately, members of a local church thought it appropriate to put out hate flyers targeting people attending the festival,” she wrote to Facebook. “These flyers were handed out to people attending the festival and placed all over cars parked nearby.”
“I understand everyone has different beliefs, views and ideas but we also don’t have the right to force these on other people,” Hornery continued. “I will be following this matter up further with a number of authorities.”
However, Charlie Haddad, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, told the outlet Pellow Talk that the church regularly distributes tracts every weekend no matter who is on the streets as they simply wish to reach people with the gospel.
“If you look at this gospel tract, you will notice that there was no one specifically targeted. It was a message for everybody, including ourselves. As a matter of fact, it says here, ‘We are all guilty before God,” Haddad noted.
“We weren’t out there targeting a specific people. We were just out there ‘targeting’ anyone we can came across and telling them the good news that they could be saved, they could be forgiven, and … they could take it or leave it.”
He explained that the church conducts outreach at a number of events throughout the city because they are opportunities to share the gospel with large numbers of people — and the Pride Festival is no different.
“We’ve been to the city light show several times distributing tracts because that’s where the people are,” Haddad outlined. “We went there because there were people there … and this is an opportunity to tell people about Jesus.”
He said that the church has distributed tracts for years, and last weekend’s outreach was the first time his group has ever been accused of hate speech — even though the tract doesn’t mention homosexuality.
“We’re all sinners; that’s the truth. But these people somehow felt victimized and now they’re attacking us saying that we hated on them on that day,” Haddad lamented.
Hornery asserted to one commenter that she believes the Pride Festival was targeted because she has never seen the tracts distributed at sporting events in Newcastle. Haddad said that he would love to attend games as well.
“She’s given us a good idea to go and reach more people,” he remarked.
Haddad also rebuffed Hornery’s claim that Grace Baptist Church called attendees names, noting that name-calling is opposite of their mission.
“[She] has not even given one phone call to verify this accusation,” he sorrowed. “The Bible actually says not to be unkind to any man. It says to be truthful [and] firm in your beliefs, but nowhere in the world does the Bible tells us in any way to belittle and undermine people in any way and call them names. That’s bullying.”
He said that while his church never engaged in such behavior, conversely, members of the public are now bullying and bad-mouthing them on social media.
Hornery argues that tract distribution should be kept within church activities, and that it crosses the line into “hate speech” when the Bible is used to disseminate “hate and fear.”
“It’s about shoving it in people’s faces,” she wrote. “If you want to read the Bible with a group, you have church and church-based events to do that. It becomes hate speech when you use an interpretation of the Bible to spread hate and fear across the community.”
“Telling people the truth about a Heaven and a Hell is not hate speech,” Haddad countered. “It’s just the truth that we’re sharing with people that we believe is absolutely true. We believe when Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life [and] no man cometh to the Father but by Me.’ … Now, if someone wants to call that ‘hate speech’ …
Haddad said that it is his church that is rather experiencing hate for telling others about God’s love in sending Jesus to die for their sins. He stated that Hornery is even seeking to have Grace Bible Baptist Church thrown out of the community center it rents.
“[I]t’s a message of love. It’s not in any way, shape or form a message of hate. God is inviting men to come to Him,” Haddad explained. “God said in 2 Peter 3 [that] God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. God wants to see people forgiven and saved and come to Him.”
“This is our message message and this is what we share. But because people don’t agree with our message, therefore they label it as ‘hate speech’ and they want to shut us up.”