The Australian Christian Lobby has criticised the ethics of a morning television programme after it publicly supported an equal marriage campaign and said today the way it had been run would do ‘great credit’ to Nazi propagandists.

The ACL accused Channel 7′s Sunrise programme of political activism in contravention of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice for its support of Marie Claire’s ‘I Do’ campaign.

Filing a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Lobby’s director Jim Wallace appeared on Sunrise this morning, telling hosts it was a campaign of which Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, would be proud.

ACL’s complaint reads: “In our view this event, the partnering with activist organisation GetUp! and the associated advertising on its website, compromise Sunrise’s role as a current affairs programme and move it to the realm of overt activism.”

Yesterday, Mr Wallace said: “This is a terrible betrayal of the trust explicit in Sunrise’s role as a current affairs and news programme. That it has aligned itself with GetUp! on an issue so divisive in the community, is simply unacceptable.

“As a current affairs and news programme Sunrise is an essential tool for politicians in communicating with the public, and by becoming activists on this issue it carries an implicit message that access and treatment on the programme will be best served by supporting this campaign.”

Appearing on Sunrise this morning, Mr Wallace faced Dr Kerryn Phelps who said Australia was the only English-speaking democracy in the world whose leader did not support equal marriage rights adding that the movement “is very strong around the world”.

Mr Wallace responded: “That’s an absolute nonsense and you know it. We have 196 countries in the world, ten of them have legislated for same-sex marriage, so we’re not, despite this normal spin put on it by people like you, we are not in a situation falling behind the world. We are right there with the rest of the world in recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I would like to say that I think this whole campaign would do great credit to Joseph Goebbels because what we’ve had is, we’ve had the demonisation of – ”

Mr Wallace was cut off by Sunrise host David Koch who told him the statement was “a bit emotional” and asked him to explain what was wrong with marriage rights for gay couples. “We’re here for a debate. You can’t start accusing people of being Nazis,” he added.

The ACL director said Sunrise had come to the issue as an “activist”, which was “quite wrong”. Mr Koch pointed out that Sunrise had given him a platform to put his view across and asked him to do so without “slagging” the network.

Mr Wallace said marriage was about raising children and denied there was any legal discrimination against gay couples who could form de facto partnerships. He also claimed the European Court of Human Rights said it was “not a human rights issue”.

Dr Phelps responded: “You are misquoting the European Court of Human Rights just like you misquote the Bible consistently.

“The European Court of Human Rights, what they said was this was an issue to be handed to the sovereign nations of Europe.

“If you are truly representative of Christians, why are you not protecting the rights of children who are being raised by same-sex couples whose parents do not have the right to marry currently?”

Mr Wallace raised fears of polygamous unions following on from marriage equality and concern for children involved. Dr Phelps replied: “I’m thrilled that you’ve raised this issue of polygamy, because in every nation where polygamy is legal being gay is illegal. In every country where same-sex marriage is legal, polygamy is illegal.”

Channel Seven’s director of news and public affairs, Peter Meakin told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I admit that we’re being a bit provocative in this, but there’s no attempt to intimidate the audience into one particular viewpoint. I think it’s less than desirable when people try to stifle debate on an important issue.”