Organisers of Coffs Harbour’s first gay and lesbian festival remain unperturbed in the face of a religious letter-writing campaign to stop the event.

Lifehouse Church, a Coffs Harbour-based religious organisation, has initiated a letter-writing campaign to stop council from providing support for CoastOut, a gay and lesbian beach festival scheduled for October.

In an email to followers, senior pastor Steve Slater encouraged people to “flood council with letters stating opposition to the festival”.

“We believe such a festival and the lifestyle it promotes would deter families from coming to Coffs as a holiday destination,” he wrote.

“The lifestyle that gay and lesbian festivals promote is not one we wish Coffs to be known for and is not representative of our population.

“We do not want the city’s young people subjected to this type of influence … and do not believe any significant part of the local population would support the festival or council’s support of it.

“Homosexuals seek to normalise their lifestyle and promote it as a viable alternative to traditional heterosexual relationships.”

Slater urged others who chose to write to council not to come across as anti-gay or “too Christian”.

In spite of Slater’s efforts, Coffs Harbour Council reported receiving only six signed letters from Lifehouse members, and had not received complaints from any other parts of the community.

“Is it going to be cancelled? Absolutely not. We support them financially and physically, and it will go ahead no matter what,” Coffs Harbour Council’s manager of economic development Jenny Oloman told Southern Star.

“Council cannot discriminate. We have a process of evaluation for events. Its criteria are social and economic and what the benefits are to the area. We judge everything by those same criteria and CoastOut passed with flying colours.

“We evaluate everything equally, and you can’t discriminate. We’re in the 21st century, for Christ’s sake, you just don’t discriminate.”

CoastOut organiser Todd Buttery said there were concerns but nothing about the festival would be changed.
“We always expected some people to take issue — it’s a new gay and lesbian festival in a country town,” he said.

“It’s not going to change anything about the plans we’ve made. We’ve always planned for the events to have security. We’re working with police and security staff to ensure the safety of all participants.

“It is concerning that this [letter-writing campaign] has been organised by a particular church, who haven’t made any attempts to get in touch with us.

“From what I can gather, they don’t actually know what’s involved with the festival, yet they’re prepared to start a letter-writing campaign.

“CoastOut is an inclusive event. Anybody who wants to attend is welcome — any colour, creed or background is welcome.

“But it’s not compulsory, so if you don’t want to be involved you don’t have to.”

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