Churches in Australia have been daubed with anti-Christian graffiti amid an increasingly toxic debate about same-sex marriage.

Last weekend Anglican and Baptist churches in Melbourne were defaced with the words “bash bigots” and “Crucify ‘no’ voters” – a reference to those who are voting “no” in a same-sex marriage plebiscite.

Another piece of graffiti equated the cross with the swastika. Graffiti was also found on churches in and around Sydney.

In August the bishops’ conference urged Catholics to vote against changing the law to allow same-sex marriage, but said the debate should be conducted “with a deep sense of reverence and respect for every person in the nation, and for the choices that they are free to make”.

Weeks later a priest reported being spat at and called a “f—ing ‘No’ voter” as he walked through a shopping centre in Brisbane. Writing on Facebook, Fr Morgan Batt said the best he could do was “smile and move on”, adding: “Australia, this is really not us.” The plebiscite, which is non-binding, is in the form of a postal vote that is already underway. The results will be announced on November 15.

A poll last month found that 55 per cent of Australians supported a change to the law while 34 per cent were opposed. Support for same-sex marriage had fallen by four per cent during the voting period.

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