Christian bikers slam new laws

Have new anti-bikie laws stigmatised an entire sub-culture? Ashley Goetze talks to Rev Dr John Smith, founder of international Christian motorcycle club, God’s Squad.

Rev Dr John Smith is a biker, and he’s proud of it. Known to many as “Smithy” or “the holy bullfrog”, the legendary God’s Squad figurehead may soon be mistaken for an outlaw under new Queensland legislation passed in a marathon early morning session in October.

The Queensland Government’s anti-bikie laws are now some of the toughest in the world, with 15 years added to the normal penalty for serious gang-related crime and a special bikie-only prison.

Dr Smith is convinced that the new laws clearly violate the United Nations charter of human rights, and that there is little evidence that such laws are effective in dealing with organised crime.

“I believe these laws are absolutely draconian and totally unjust,” he says. “The problem is that out of maybe 40 or 50 different clubs, what you’re getting is the attention given to three or four clubs that make it look like everybody that’s got a patch on his back is a criminal.”

After 42 years of ministry, what Dr Smith finds most distressing is that even men with “God’s Squad” on their back are being stopped and intimidated by Queensland police.

“The majority of guys in almost all outlaw clubs have no criminal records, they’re not involved in criminal activity and yet now by association they are marked,” says Dr Smith.

“One of the reasons Jesus was prosecuted and crucified was because of association―because he was a friend of public sinners and outcasts,” says Dr Smith. “Being a friend with someone doesn’t mean that I support everything in their lifestyle.”

According to Dr Smith there are few clubhouses in the world where God’s Squad members are not welcome. Everybody in the bike scene knows who they are, what they stand for and that they can come to them for help.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover … I mean that’s supposed to be a Christian value—God looks on the heart and man looks on the outward appearance,” says Dr Smith.

With a doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology behind him, Dr Smith says there are many reasons men choose to join bikie clubs.

“Some people are in bike clubs, because—shock horror!—would you believe it, they actually like riding motorcycles. And they like having a sense of corporate identity with others. One size does not fit all.”

When asked how the new laws would affect God’s Squad Dr Smith replies, “Our ministry will never change. We believe that Jesus was a friend of outcasts and we intend following Jesus, whatever Campbell Newman suggests we should do.”

Look out for John Smith’s feature length, biographical documentary Smithy: Something in every hue, currently in production.


2 thoughts on “Christian bikers slam new laws

  1. First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    This is a populous move by the Newman government designed to smokescreen the rollback of workers compensation entitlements which was passed at the same time.

    Interestingly the act targetted at Bikers makes no distinction between other community organisations.

    Your eccentric aunt, Laura Norder, has recently started a new relationship with Jarrod, a member of the Finks Motorcycle Club. You have met Jarrod and a couple of his mates, also members of the Finks Motorcycle Club, on one occasion before.

    You head out to the park with all the other members of the family. As you are enjoying your steak and beverage Fred’s friends arrive on their motorcycles and join in the fun. You have a chat with them about the football game last weekend.

    Under the new so called “Anti-Bikie” laws you and possibly other members of your family have committed an offence for which you could all be gaoled for a minimum of six months. On top of that, you could be potentially liable to being hauled before the CMC to answer questions about Jarrod and his two mates.

    This is what happens when governments pass laws that make people liable not for what they have done but for who they associate with — innocent people get hurt.

    These laws make no mention whatsoever of Bikies. They apply to any association.

    You are a member of the local bowls or golf club. You get involved in a scuffle trying to throw a misbehaving member out of the club. You are convicted of wounding, which simply requires that the true skin of the other person is broken. Under these laws, you get an extra 15 years added to your gaol sentence.

    You are involved in a union picket. You are protesting in a group against coal seam gas. You are protesting in a group against a new toll road being driven through your suburb. You get involved in a scuffle in which a person is wounded. You may get an extra 15 years added to your gaol sentence.

    Laws which make it a criminal offence to be a member of an organisation or to associate with members of an organisation violate fundamental rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech.

    There is nothing criminal about being in a gang.

    The crime is the violence and intimidation which some gang members may engage in. Gang members who commit offences should be arrested, charged, tried and if convicted, punished.

    The problem is compounded by the fact that the decision about which organisations are to be declared criminal organisations is made by the parliament or the executive. There is no hearing before an independent tribunal, such as a Judge, where all the evidence is heard and assessed on a rational basis. Consequently the fundamental right to a fair trial before an independent tribunal is also violated by these laws.

    The government will also make it illegal for embers of criminal motorbike gangs from operating a tattoo parlour and wearing their colours in one.

    Where are all these bikers going to be held? In a special biker prison in their cells for 23 hours a day.

    Oh and if you leave the state and are seen on video with 2 other members of a criminal motorcycle gang you will be arrested as well on return to Qld.

    The ramifications of this could go on:

    being a member of a union
    a member of the clergy (who have more records of sexual assault than bikers)
    a member of a pentecostal church

    Rev John Smith addressed this when legislation was being introduced some time ago.

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