Protestors take on Albany Church over ‘Real Lives’ event

Albany residents have protested an event being held by the town’s Baptist Church that has been labeled as promotion of conversion therapy.

Attempts to change or alter the sexuality or gender identity have been condemned by LGBTQIA+ advocates and health professionals, and survivors are leading an international movement against such practices with the SOGICE Survivor Statement.

The peaceful protest saw people holding rainbow filled signs stating “Born This Way”, “You Can’t Pray Away Gay”, and “Perfect As You Are”.

Local organisation Albany Pride said they had been “genuinely overwhelmed and delighted with the amount of people who came, and more importantly, that everyone conducted themselves with dignity and civility.”

Albany Baptist Church denies the event promotes conversion therapy

The ‘Real Lives’ presentation is a talk delivered by West Australian based ex-gay organisation True Identity. The organisation is headed by James Parker, who speaks about his own experiences. In his presentation Parker says he was able to leave his homosexual relationship, marry and have children, after he embraced Christianity.

The church’s leader Pastor Phil Beeck spoke to the ABC and denied the event was promoting conversion therapy.

“I’ve never had any part with gay conversion therapy; we’ve made a statement that we’re against such practices,” he said.

“I actually don’t know anyone who’s had gay conversion therapy. Never heard of a church who does it.

“So I’m not actually sure what that looks like, or would look like or could look like in a church, but certainly not this.”

In an article for right-wing news site Caldron Pool host James Parker said opposition to his presentation was “oppression that threatens democratic freedoms of speech, assembly, association, conscience, religious practice, therapeutic choice, and even of opinion.”

Parker says the event features people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, drug addiction, sex work and poor mental health, but had turned their lives around by embracing religion and turning away from homosexuality or being transgender.

On Friday night the church had also scheduled a youth version of the talk. Albany Pride have scheduled a screening of the film But I’m a Cheerleader to play at the same time as the youth event.

The comedy film, which was first released in 1999, sees Natasha Lyonne playing a naïve teenager who is sent to rehab camp when her straitlaced parents and friends suspect her of being a lesbian.

Equal Voices say “churches need fixing not people”

Western Australian organisation Equal Voices, which advocates that churches should embrace and welcome their LGBTIQ+ parishioners has spoken on the issue saying their is not a place for programs that aim to counsel people to resist being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

“We were horrified to learn that Albany Baptist Church planned to offer a workshop based on ‘conversion ideology’ which teaches that LGBT+ people are fundamentally disordered. This ideology has been repudiated by Christian Counselling Association Australia as well as every professional medical body, and is widely recognised as causing significant and lasting harm.” the group said on their Facebook page.

The organisation said it was time for the Western Australian government to address the issue, and follow in the footsteps of Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria who have introduced laws to stop similar practices.

Equal Voices also has a message for people of faith who are LGBTIQ+.

“There are so many Christians who love you and want you to flourish. There are more and more churches that will affirm you and your relationships. We will do this because we follow Jesus, and the Holy Spirit compels us to stand alongside you and fight for justice with you.

“You don’t need to be fixed. It’s the church that needs fixing,” the group said.

Graeme Watson

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