A popular Australian beer company has brewed up major controversty over a video debate it sponsored about marriage equality.
The South Australian beer company, Coopers, hosted a video debate at the federal Parliament House between two conservative Members of Parliament.
Openly gay and pro-marriage equality MP, Tim Wilson, debated his very religious colleague from the governing Liberal Party, Andrew Hastie, about the issue while sipping on Coopers beers.
The controversy around the video comes from the fact the debate was promoting the limited edition range of ‘Live Light’ beers. Coopers released 10,000 cases of the beer which was emblazoned with different Bible verses.
The limited edition beers were made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society, a Christian non-profit organisation whose goal is to create ‘new ways to advocate for the Bible, to promote it, and offer people new ways to engage with it’.
Released last week the video slowly started getting attention online as people were outraged Coopers were supporting the anti-marriage equality Bible Society.
Cue the backlash
People vowed to boycott the company. Many bars and pubs – including a number of LGBTI venues – saying they would no longer stock Coopers’ beers.
Melbourne’s The Old Bar said it was sad day for the venue as it had built a good relationship with Coopers over the years, but it would not keep stocking its beers.
‘Yet after recent events it is very obvious that our values are at odds,’ it said in a Facebook post.
Coopers tries to backtrack
Coopers released an initial statement reinforcing that the video was a ‘light hearted but balanced debate about an important topic within Australia’.
‘As a mature community it’s a debate we need to have but in a good spirited and good natured way. That’s how we’ve done business for a 154 years,’ it said.
However, as the public backlash intensified Coopers released a second statement saying it did not give permission for its beer to be used in the video.
This was despite the Bible Society saying it ‘has teamed up with Coopers Premium Light to ask Australians to try “Keeping it Light” – a creative campaign to reach even more Australians with God’s word – and this time we’re doing so in a rather unexpected way,’ the organisation said on its website.
Coopers defended its limited edition range saying it was not trying to send a religious message but to commemorate the charitable work the Bible Society has done in 200 years.
‘We respect the beliefs of our community and do not wish to try and change them,’ Coopers said in the second statement.
‘Our family brewery is made up of individuals from a number of different backgrounds, all of whom hold differing views on politics and religion, which we think is reflective of the wider community.
‘We would like all Coopers fans to know that we support and embrace all of our beer drinking community.’
The Christian beer
Coopers has a long history as a Christian brand. The mission statement of its charity arm, The Coopers Foundation, says it ‘aims to improve and protect the quality of life of Australians… in fostering family and community support based on Christian values’.
The company has also donated thousands of dollars to the conservative Liberal Party in South Australia.
It is unclear yet whether the boycott will affect Coopers greatly, but given it is the go to beer for many Australians it might make a dent on its profits.
Seeing as a large section of the Coopers market are hipsters on a budget, using brand to spread the ‘word of god’ is a marketing disaster.
— Real Wyn Richards (@WynRichards) March 13, 2017
The video may have also breached parliament rules.
Watch the video that started the controversy here: