Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that he doesn’t believe gay people go to hell, clarifying his own ambiguity on the matter.
Morrison, leader of the center-right Liberal Party, was asked by a reporter on Monday whether he believes that gay people go to hell, but declined to directly answer the question.
Australia’s federal elections take place on Saturday, May 18, and religion has increasingly become a topic on the campaign, as Morrison became all too aware of when a journalist directly asked him, “What’s your belief, do gay people go to Hell?”
“I support the law of the country,” Morrison responded, presumably referencing same-sex marriage, which was legalized in 2017, “and I always don’t mix my religion with politics and my faith with politics. It’s law, and I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives, that’s what I’m happy about.”
But that answer failed to satisfy Morrison’s main political opponent, Labor Party leader Bill Shorten, who slammed the response and said Morrison should have emphatically ruled out the idea.
“I cannot believe that the prime minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to Hell,” Shorten told reporters.
Shorten himself had rejected the idea that a person could go to hell for being gay in a press conference held before Morrison made his comments.
“No, I don’t believe that gay people, because they’re gay, should go to hell,” Shorten said. “I don’t need a law to tell me that. I don’t believe it. And I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia, you have to be prime minister for all people.”
However, Morrison has now clarified that he also doesn’t believe gay people are going to hell.
“No, I do not believe that,” Morrison said in a statement. “It was a desperate, cheap shot from Bill Shorten, who is looking to distract attention from his housing tax that will undermine the value of people’s homes.”
Morrison elaborated further in a press conference, saying, “It is not my view that’s the case. My faith is about the – God’s love is for everybody. That is what I have always believed.”
Asked why he didn’t say no when first asked, Morrison said he didn’t want “to see those controversial topics being brought into the political debate. I don’t see how that helps anybody.”
Though Morrison now claims to support same-sex marriage, the prime minister was a vocal opponent of it during the country’s landmark 2017 postal survey on the issue.
In 2016, he claimed that opponents of marriage equality face “hate speech and bigotry” in similar fashion to LGBTQ people.
And last year, Morrison noted the “strong character” of Australian rugby player Israel Folau, who said that gay people would go to hell unless they repented for their sins.
Shortly after being elected Prime Minister on August 24, 2018, Morrison also said that conversion therapy was “not an issue” for him, and agreed that the thought of a pro-LGBTQ school curriculum made his “skin curl.”
“I don’t want the values of others being imposed on my children in my school and I don’t think that should be happening in a public school or a private schools,” he said.