A Melbourne court on Friday sentenced Neil Erikson, a 36-year-old far-right extremist, to 10 weeks in jail for entering an LGBTQI+ friendly church and hurling homophobic abuse at church-goers. 

Erikson was charged with deliberately disturbing a religious service by the Metropolitan Community Church at Hawthorn in Melbourne in May 2019. Erikson had pleaded not guilty to making homophobic slurs at the LGBTQI+ friendly Victorian church.

Erikson, with two other women were allowed to enter the Church. In a live stream of the video, he said: “apparently they marry transgender, gays and lesbians”.

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Around  15 minutes into the service He stood and started using homophobic slurs, and asking why the group “married sodomites.” The confrontation was live-streamed by Erikson, who shouted: “You’re not Christians you’re a bunch of faggots!”. 

‘Shameful And Appalling’

Metropolitan Community Church, Hawthorn.

The three-day hearing was held online from the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Erikson, who represented himself, had reportedly appeared for the online hearing seated in front of an Australian flag on his wall in his room. 

According to an Australian Associated Press report, magistrate Angela Bolger had termed Erikson’s conduct as “shameful and appalling”. The magistrate added that he might be “beyond shame” as he had done this before.

Earlier this year, Erikson had served a month in prison for disrupting another place of worship. He reportedly told the magistrate that he was “happy to do prison again”, but preferred a fine.

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Matt Pepall a member of the church had told the court during the trial that Erikson was asked to leave the premised but he had refused to do so. 

Church Members Left Shaken

“Many of them have been through gay bashing, hurled insults, and pushed out of their communities and social groups because of their sexuality,” Pepall told the court adding that elderly members of the church were left shaking from the incident. The church members called the police when they found that Erikson had live-streamed the hate-filled video to his followers. Many members were not out to their families and were shocked to find that the video was public. 

Erikson is no stranger publicising his far-right beliefs. He is the founder of United Patriots Front, an Australian group of self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and fundamentalist Christians. In April 2019, he disrupted a Muslim Peace Festival at Federation Square in Melbourne while yelling slurs into a megaphone and being filmed by a friend. 

On the second day of the court hearing, Erikson while representing himself asked former reverend Sue Townsend, “does your church promote sodomy?”. He quoted passages from the Old Testament’s Book of Leviticus as his defence.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

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