In a shocking admission, a Tasmanian church group has said that they practice conversion practices and “make no apologies” about it. 

The statement was made in the submission to the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute, which is undertaking an inquiry into a ban on conversion practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The public submission was made by Launceston pastor Dr. Wes Bredenhof of the Free Reformed Church of Launceston. 

LGBTQI advocacy and rights organisations like Equality Tasmania pointed to the submission as proof that people are being blatantly subjected to the heinous and harmful conversion practices in Australia. 

“Until now, many Tasmanians thought conversion practices were a thing of the past, or took place in other states, but submissions to the Law Reform Institute inquiry show they are happening right here, right now,” said Rodney Croome, spokesperson Equality Tasmania in a statement. 

“This is deeply alarming because we know from national and international studies that LGBTIQ+ people upon whom conversion practices have been inflicted are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and PTSD, and to attempt suicide. Banning conversion practices will save young Tasmanian lives,” added Croome.

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Dr Bredenhof in his submission made no attempt to hide that conversion practices were being offered. 

“Our church preaches and teaches what the Bible says, including what it says about sexual orientation and gender identity. We do this out of our ultimate commitment to God, our love for him, and out of love for the people around us. We counsel accordingly. We pray publicly and privately accordingly. According to the working definition the Issues Paper provides, we are involved in SOGI conversion practices. We make no apologies for that. Moreover, as stated above, this is non-negotiable for our church since we believe what the Bible says. For us to do otherwise would be unloving and disingenuous,” the pastor said in his statement. 

The Pastor opposed a law in Tasmania to ban conversion practices. “No, not if it will prevent people who want to seek Christian, Bible-based help with their sexual orientation and gender identity from getting the help they desire… Also, Tasmanian law should not be changed if it will conflict with the sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of people like me and the members of my church.” 

Before enacting any such law, Dr Bredenhoff said that the state should wait for the Federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill. The pastor also raised questions about a law against conversion practices impacting Christian education in schools. 

The pastor further claimed that there were “many examples” of persons who identified as gay and lebian finding a different identity when they became Christians. 

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Earlier this month the Victorian Parliament had passed a law that banned conversion practices, following bans in Queensland and ACT.

The Victorian law against conversion practices had been welcomed by survivors as a “world-leading legislation” and was passed in the face of opposition from some conservative and church groups.

The Victorian law says that anyone who subjects a person to conversion practices that causes serious injury can face up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $200,000. In case of injury the offender if convicted can be punished with a maximum prison term of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

The law covers conversion practices in all settings, including health and religious organisations. Those who think they can take a person outside Victoria to subject them to conversion practices won’t escape criminal liability either – if convicted of the offence they face a jail term of up to two years. Advertising harmful conversion practices will invite criminal prosecution and fines of up to $10,000.

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