The Albany Baptist Church in Western Australia is hosting an event this Thursday called ‘Real Lives’ that features gay and trans speakers. LGBTQI+ activists have dubbed it an event that promotes  “conversion therapy” – a practice that is now banned in Victoria, Queensland and ACT. 

Conversion practices are not illegal in Western Australia, though Premier Mark McGowan  had in March promised that the state would ban the unscientific gay conversion practices if Labor was re-elected.

The news about the event, which features speakers who have “previously lived or identified as LGBTQ+, but who are now finding a new life in Jesus Christ”, was reported by ABC. 

Protests Planned Against Event

Local LGBTQI+ advocacy group Albany Pride announced on Facebook that they will be supporting those who protest the event outside the Church

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“Although the church is denying this is “conversion” practice, it most certainly is just perhaps less obvious to the untrained eye,” the organization said.

Albany Pride, which cannot protest because they are not covered by insurance, said they would have a stall outside the church “providing information and a non-judgmental space to anyone that requires it.”

Church Says Will Go Ahead With Event

Despite criticism coming their way for hosting a homophobic event, the church in a post on Facebook last Saturday, said they were going ahead with the event scheduled for May 27.  The Church said they did not condone or support “coercive therapies”. 

“Albany Baptist Church will host an evening called Real Lives where some Christians who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria will share their life stories in the context of the church community,” the statement attributed to a spokesperson from the church said. 

“As Christians, our belief is that God loves every person whatever their sexual attraction or however they identify. All are of equal value and dignity in His sight and in our sight. We do not support or condone the practice of any coercive therapies.”

“We are committed to respectful conversation with people who want to tell their stories. We want to honour the request from some same-sex attracted and gender dysphoric people to share their stories of how the Gospel of Jesus Christ has brought them hope,” the statement added. 

‘Conversion Practices Not Always Coercive’

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Survivors of conversion practices pointed out that part of the problem is the misconception that all so-called conversion therapies are always coercive or violent. Often in religious and informal settings these take the form of “praying the gay away”. 

That is a distinction that was also sought to be drawn by faith-based organisations and conservative organisations while opposing the new law in Victoria that bans conversion practices. The organisations said the law encroaches on their right to religious freedom. 

“Conversion ideology teaches that the nature of LGBTQA+ identities are broken or disordered. It teaches that there is some negative cause to being LGBTQA+, which essentially means it can be ‘healed’, ‘cured’ or at least suppressed. This ideology is extremely common in faith groups all across the country, and is the basis of conversion practices,” Chris Csabs from survivor-led advocacy group SOGICE Survivors told Star Observer. 

Many churches who teach conversion ideology don’t consider themselves as being involved in ‘conversion practices’ because the media has perpetuated the idea that conversion practices are extreme and violent in nature. Most often, conversion practices look very different,” pointed out Csabs. 

WA Premier Promised Law Against ‘Conversion Therapy’

Earlier this year, WA Premier McGowan had promised the LGBTQI community that the state was opposed to unscientific conversion practices, that he termed a “cruel and misinformed practice”.

McGowan had said that his government would ban gay conversion practices by bringing in a law or rules to implement the national code of conduct for unregulated healthcare workers. However, it is not clear whether religious settings, like the event to be hosted by the Albany Baptist Church, would be considered illegal. 

Queensland became the first state or territory in Australia last year to outlaw conversion practices, but invited criticism for expressly leaving out religious settings. ACT passed a law banning conversion practices that covered both health as well as religious settings. 

The Victorian Law passed in February  and makes it a criminal offence to subject others to practices aimed at changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity that cause injury or serious injury. The Victorian law covers all settings, including health and religious organisations.

 

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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