Faith

Australian Brewery Drops Bible Society Beer After Gay Marriage Backlash

Twitter screenshot of Coopers Premium Light with the Bible Society logo. Credit @RJSalmond.

The breakdown of debate surrounding LGBT issues is a global phenomenon. Coopers Brewery in Australia cancelled the release of a limited-edition light beer commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society, after a “light-hearted” video debate about gay marriage caused outrage. Yes, activists object even to the idea of debate, it seems.

“On behalf of the Coopers board and senior staff, we are incredibly saddened by the impact our involvement with the Bible Society has had on our valued Coopers drinkers and our extended family,” the brewery’s managing director, Tim Cooper, said in a statement. He added that “our company’s guiding principles have centered around respect for others, and as such the recent activity surrounding the video made by the Bible Society has conflicted with our core values.”

“Our company supports marriage equality,” declared Melanie Cooper, director of corporate affairs. “We’ve consequently cancelled the release of our Bible Society commemorative cans, and will be taking steps to show our further support for our community, including joining Marriage Equality Australia.”

https://twitter.com/coopersbrewery/status/841541620088561664

This utter surrender to pressure from the LGBT movement did not even make sense. “The recent activity surrounding the video made by the Bible Society has conflicted with our core values” — what does that even mean? It sounds like Tim Cooper is trying to say the Bible Society video disrespected gay people, without actually saying it.

But the video included nothing inherently offensive — unless the idea of a “light-hearted” conversation about the “heavy issue” of gay marriage is itself insulting. The video featured Liberal Member of Parliament Tim Wilson and his fellow Liberal MP Andrew Hastie having a conversation about gay marriage, drinking Coopers light beer, for a “Keeping it Light” ad. Wilson argued for gay marriage, while Hastie argued against it.

“Relationships should be recognised as marriage if they’re long-term and committed, because they provide the foundations of a society going from individual to forming family, building community and ultimately country,” Wilson argued. “That’s how we make a strong country and whether people are heterosexual or homosexual, we should want people committed to that.”

He claimed that “marriage equality” was necessary to be inclusive about marriage, featuring “two people regardless of their gender.”

Hastie, on the other hand, argued for “retaining the current definition of marriage, which is between a man and a woman.” He added that “it’s equal, and it’s diverse, it’s got both genders.” Perhaps more importantly, “it’s an institution that’s grown up organically prior to politics. My view is the state shouldn’t be redefining something that exists prior to the state.”

“That’s not to say that Tim and Ryan, his partner, shouldn’t be afforded the same rights before the law as a married couple, I just think the definition is distinct and important,” Hastie, who is a conservative Christian, explained. So on the one side is full “marriage equality,” on the other side, civil unions (which used to be a liberal position…).

This allegedly offensive debate led people to reject the beer. That, or the announcement that Coopers planned to mark the Bible Society’s 200th birthday with a 10,000-strong batch of beer featuring the society’s logo on cans and Bible verses on the carton packaging. This campaign aimed “to reach even more Australians with God’s word.” Is the Bible itself to be considered offensive?

Apparently so. Either the very concept of debate on gay marriage (as opposed to unthinking acceptance), or the idea that such debate can be kept “light-hearted,” or the Bible itself is utterly unacceptable to many Australians.

The Old Bar in Melbourne announced it would boycott Coopers, declaring, “Unfortunately we will no longer be purchasing any stock from Coopers. It’s a sad day for us as over the many years we have built a strong relationship, yet after recent events it is very obvious that our values are at odds.”

Unfortunately we will no longer be purchasing any stock from Coopers. It's a sad day for us as over the many years we…

Posted by The Old Bar on Sunday, March 12, 2017

“We just refuse to stock something that doesn’t align with our values and has now actively pushed an agenda we don’t agree with,” the bar added. The Old Bar did announce that Coopers would be available for a short time, until the bar ran out.

Another bar in Melbourne, Sircuit, actually threw out the Coopers it had in stock, sharing footage of the disposal online.

https://www.facebook.com/SircuitBar/posts/10154801614776273

Mollies Bar & Diner in Fitzroy did the same thing. (Which is perhaps not surprising, as it features “Drag Bingo” every Wednesday.)

From our GM…

Posted by Mollie's Bar and Diner on Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Hollywood Hotel in Surry Hills announced, “We apologize but we are not serving Coopers Beer until a positive message is received to the Marriage Equality Debate.”

Posted by Hollywood Hotel on Sunday, March 12, 2017

Shortly afterward, the Hollywood Hotel noticed that “Coopers has seen the light!” The pub did not say whether or not it would be serving Coopers beer due to this change of heart.

Coopers has seen the light! As a community we can rally together and demand change, now we shall use the same energy for our politicians to listen to our demands for #MarriageEquality xx HH

Posted by Hollywood Hotel on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

All this despite Coopers Brewery’s clear statement that it was not trying to push a “religious message.”

An Australian LGBT activist, Michael Barnett, angrily shot back, “So you’re saying it’s acceptable to debate the merit of supporting discrimination?”

“Your statement is bullsh*t. My life is not up for a light hearted debate. F**k you. F**K YOU @coopersbrewery. And p**s off,” the activist added.

There was some confusion as to whether the brewery partnered with the Bible Society on the “Keeping it Light” video.

The brewery later insisted that “Coopers did not give permission for our Premium Light beer to feature in, or ‘sponsor’ the Bible Society’s ‘Keeping It Light’ video featuring Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson.” Coopers added, “We respect the beliefs of our community and do not wish to try and change them.”

Others argued that this statement seemed to contradict the Bible Society’s website, which said the society “has teamed up with Cooper’s Premium Light to ask Australians to try ‘Keeping It Light.’

Later, the society released a statement, saying it “is entirely responsible for the ‘Keeping it Light’ video,” which “was not sponsored by Coopers. No money has changed hands between Bible Society and Coopers in regards to this campaign.”

“Bible Society remains grateful to Coopers for both the release of light beer commemorating our bicentenary and their support through their foundation for the distribution of bibles to the Defence Force and those who need them,” the statement added.

Unlike Coopers, the Bible Society did not back down. “The interest from the public in this campaign reinforces the message of the video — that it is important for Australians to have respectful conversations about serious issues — ‘keeping it light.'”

What kind of society rejects debate on a public issue? Do people really find the Bible so offensive that any beer partnering with the Bible Society must be opposed at all costs? Will the bars which swore off Coopers now take them back, or was their capitulation for nothing?