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ACL 'car bomb not religious or political'

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016

Christian groups are reviewing their security after a suspected car bomb was set off outside an Australian Christian Lobby office, although police don't believe it was motivated by religious or political issues.

Windows were blown out and furnishings destroyed at the building in Canberra's Deakin after a van stocked with gas cylinders was ignited out front and exploded about 9.35pm on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Australian driver took himself to the Canberra Hospital suffering serious burns and remains there in a critical condition.

"As a result of our conversations with the man, we have been able to establish that his actions were not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated," Deputy Chief Police Officer Commander Mark Walters told reporters.

However, ACL director Lyle Shelton says the attack follows a year of death threats against the group because of its opposition to same-sex marriage and the so-called Safe Schools program aimed at stopping the bullying of gay students.

"It was obviously someone who doesn't like what we're saying and wanted to send us a message in the most violent of forms," he told AAP, before the police played down that prospect.

The threats had been so bad the ACL and other tenants in the Eternity House building on Campion Street keep it locked during the day, with visitors needing to phone ahead.

"This has been a very intimidating year in terms of threats and intimidation to our staff," Mr Shelton said.

"That's been unsettling enough and having a bomb go off outside your office just takes that to a whole new level."

One of threat was traced to a person in Tasmania but the rest were unable to be tracked.

Police have now been in contact with ACL staff and investigations will continue into threats.

An emotional Mr Shelton arrived at the building on Thursday morning, after breaking off his family holiday in Brisbane, to find a scene worse than he expected.

"This is not the Australia that I grew up in," he said.

He blamed the left side of politics for potentially fuelling the attack, saying its "name calling" during the same-sex marriage debate was unhelpful.

"When members of parliament, particularly on the extreme left, refer to us in the parliament as hate groups, as bigots, I'm sure that doesn't help the situation," he said.

"As a society we've got to have civil debate, we've got to stop the name calling and the slurs."

Mr Shelton is determined the ACL remains at the building but says extra security measures will be considered.

Christian advocacy group FamilyVoice is also reviewing security at its offices around the country after what it described as the "terror" attack in Canberra.

"We are witnessing increased hostilities towards Christianity and pro-family values," national director Ashley Saunders said.

There have been condolences from all sides of politics, including NSW independent MP and marriage equality campaigner Alex Greenwich.

"Thoughts and prayers are with everyone at the Australian Christian Lobby, shocking and saddening incident," he tweeted.

One Nation senator Pauline Hanson described it as a "cowardly attack" while coalition backbencher George Christensen also took to Twitter saying if the attack was politically motivated, "it is disgraceful and should be denounced".

Acting opposition leader Penny Wong condemned the violence and urged people not to rush to attribute blame or motive.

ACL, which claims more than 80,000 members, and FamilyVoice say they stand for family and Christian values in public policy debates.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who has been briefed on the incident, said there was no indication it was a terrorist act or ideologically motivated.

"But clearly it was very traumatic incident for the Australian Christian Lobby," he told reporters in Perth.

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