A Sydney RSL club has cancelled a pro-life forum involving NSW Liberal MPs, citing the need to “protect the club from any potential damage to its brand”.  The North Ryde RSL club canned the inaugural Conservative Q&A Pro-Life Edition function, hosted by the Marsfield Liberal Party branch, over security fears and claims that the club was “non-political”.  Amid a heated clash in NSW over abortion laws and a wider debate over religious freedom, the function, featuring former NSW attorney-general Greg Smith, Life­Choice Australia director Rebecca Gosper and Liberal MPs Lou Amato and Nathaniel Smith, was shifted to an Eastwood parish hall.

Mr Smith, the Wollondilly MP, said he was disappointed the function had been cancelled on the grounds of the RSL club being “non-political”, given clubs regularly hosted political functions.  He said it was a concern that some pubs and clubs were attempting to censor the right of citizens, as was seen during the marriage equality debate, to host private functions.  “I am absolutely disgusted that an RSL club, a place whose members fought overseas to defend our right to freedom of speech and religion would do this. It is outrageous,” Mr Smith said.

“Parents and grandparents have fought for the freedoms we now enjoy.  For an RSL club to restrict freedom of speech is against the principles of what our veterans fought for.”  The Club said it had been alerted “through a phone call” that the topic of discussion for the event would include the “NSW abortion bill”.  “Certain political and advocacy groups are not permitted to host events at North Ryde RSL in an effort to protect the club from any potential damage to its brand and due to past incidents, which threatened the safety and security of attendees and other club patrons,” the email said.  “Based on this, the general manager has decided to cancel your event.”

Ms Gosper said it was “very disappointing” that the RSL club was “refusing to host a pro-life event”.  “Being against late-term abortions is not a marginal view, neither is disagreeing with sex-selective abortions, or women being coerced into abortions and so on.  These are the views of hundreds of thousands of people in NSW,” Ms Gosper said.  “We’ve seen this expressed in public rallies and in letters to politicians and online.  So why is the Club bowing to pressure to limit discussion on an important community issue?  I’m very grateful that a local church is allowing the event to be held in their hall, however this is not a religious issue.  This is a human rights issue.”

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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