Tasmanian church voices support for conversion practices

conversion practices

A Tasmanian church has voiced its support for conversion practices and vowed to continue delivering the practices regardless of any law reform in the state.

The Tasmanian Law Reform institute is preparing a report for the state’s parliament looking into the issue of practices that aim to change or suppress a person’s sexuality and gender identity. Laws banning conversion practices have already been introduced in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.

The Tasmanian law body defines conversion practices as “acts or statements that are aimed at changing, suppressing, or eradicating the sexual orientation or gender identity of another person and are based on a claim, assertion or notion, either express or implied, that non-conforming sexual orientation or gender identity is a physical or psychological dysfunction that can be suppressed or changed”.

One Launceston Church has sent in a submission admitting they follow the practice and believe any attempts to outlaw conversion practices are an attack on religious freedom.

Reverend Wes Bredenhof from the Free Reformed Church of South Launceston said people should be able to access Bible related help if they had concerns about their sexuality or being transgender, comparing himself to a medical doctor.

“My calling is to show love to everyone I can by first explaining the serious trouble all of us are in,” Dr Bredenhof said in the submission. “I am like a medical doctor who explains the disease so the patient can understand the need for treatment and be persuaded to take it.”

The religious leader said churches around Australia would not be dissuaded if laws were brought in to outlaw the practice.

“Christian churches like ours will not change our practices. Our ultimate commitment is to God and our ultimate authority is the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant and infallible Word.” Dr Bredenhof said.

The church argues that limits on conversion ideology should only include the use of torture such as electroshock treatment or aversion therapy, and the definitions being put forward by the review are too broad. Dr Bredenhof said under the current definitions his church was definitely carrying out conversion practices.

“We are involved in SOGI conversion practices. We make no apologies for that.” he wrote in the submission.

The church also argues that laws banning conversion practices should be held off until the federal government introduce their Religious Freedom legislation, arguing that the federal government’s legislation might override conversion bans.

Attorney General Michaelia Cash has promised to introduce the third draft of the long delayed legislation before the end of 2021.

Speaking to Tasmanian newspaper The Examiner Rodney Croome from Equality Tasmania said the admission from the church had exploded the claim often put forward by religious groups that the practices no longer occur in Australia.

“Many people will be surprised conversion practices are still being inflicted on young LGBTQIA+ Tasmanians, but as I’ve become familiar with the stories of Tasmanian survivors I’ve learnt just how prevalent conversion practices continue to be,” Croome said.

“The Free Reformed Church’s admission that it conducts conversion practices explodes the myth that these practices don’t happen any longer, or happen elsewhere, and adds weight to our call for legislation to stop these practices.”

OIP Staff

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