Sex Party volunteers at a St Peter's Catholic Church polling booth have been ordered by the priest in charge of the venue to pull their posters down for most of a New South Wales polling day.
No other parties were ordered to take down their signage.
Sex Party President Fiona Patten said the Catholic Church was being paid by the NSW Electoral Commission to hold the election in the Parish Hall and that included hosting signage on the property.
The actions of the church's representative in unfairly discriminating against the Sex Party for its political views, represents an offence under the Discrimination Act. He has also jeopardised our chances of getting a fair
and legitimate vote at this booth which could constitute an offence under the Electoral Act. We will be pursuing this issue with the Electoral Commission on Monday and see what our options are, she said.
At the polling station set up at St Catherine's Catholic Church, Gymea, Monsignor Brian Rayner ordered a Greens party volunteer remove himself and his political posters from his property because of ideological differences.
Monsignor Rayner, whose Gymea church was paid $550 by the Electoral Commission to be leased as a polling booth for the day, told The Sun-Herald he would not have let the Sex Party or the Communist Party on church premises either.
I am environmental ... But why would I allow a group who are pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-same-sex marriage and anti-Catholic teaching on private property?
Instead, Monsignor Rayner told Greens volunteer Colin Ryan he could stand on the adjacent footpath.
Ryan said he had never encountered anything like this. I thought it was a joke at first .
Greens MP John Kaye called it a violation of free speech.
The church has to make up its mind. If it wants to be part of the democratic process then it has to allow for freedom of expression. If not, then it should remove itself from elections and miss out on the public funding.
An Electoral Commission spokesman claimed it was powerless to intervene. Such disputes were matters ... between the parties concerned .
Sex Party president Fiona Patten said that religious organisations were paid good money to use their tax-exempt premises for a public service and they had abused that relationship. These two examples of intimidation and favouritism being
evinced by clergy at polling booths, are clear indications of a breach of Section 151 of the NSW Electoral Act which expressly forbids this sort of behaviour under threat of 100 penalty points or 3 years jail , she said. The fact that an
alleged Electoral Commission official has even come out in the Southern Courier backing the priest's actions and telling the Sex Party to Stop trying to blame the Catholic Church for all your woes , is highly irregular and shows bias on
this issue .
She said that the Electoral Commission was very strict about what could be displayed on the perimeter of a polling place and the Sex Party and the Greens had adhered to these conditions. The NSW Electoral Commission must have a role to play to
ensure that conditions are respected , she said. They need to clarify for the public whether these instances of interference are acceptable or not. If the priests had ordered Labor and Liberal posters taken down this would be under
investigation now .
She said that it was incredibly hypocritical of church officials to take aim at Sex Party and Greens' policies on sex and gender, when their own backyard was littered with the broken lives of thousands of sexually abused children and they still
would not allow women as priests.
The Sex Party has formally written to the NSW Electoral Commission asking for an investigation of the matter.