Albany Baptist Church in Western Australia has defended an event that local LGBTIQ advocates have called dangerous LGBT “conversion therapy”.
The church is hosting the event “Real Lives” on Thursday (May 27). The promotional flyer (above) promises “stories of hope and vision and dignity beyond LGBTQ+ and ideologies”.
The ad also touts speakers who have “previously lived or identified as LGBTQ+, but who are now finding a new life in Jesus Christ”.
However local group Albany Pride condemned the event as promoting pseudoscientific and discredited so-called “conversion” practices.
“Not only is this kind of practice entrenched with deep-rooted homophobia and transphobia, but it is also incredibly dangerous,” the group said.
“Telling someone they are broken or sick because of who they are is profoundly psychologically damaging.”
To any LGBTIQ people who had suffered “trauma and abuse” from the practices, the group said they “see you, hear you, and recognise you.”
“You are loved and accepted for who you are, sincerely and genuinely, by all of us at Albany Pride and the people that support us,” the group said.
“To those of you who are reading this and facing a conflict between your faith and your sexuality, gender identity, and/or intersex status: know that in reality, there is no conflict.
“Do not let anybody convince you that there is.
“To anyone who is struggling with their sexuality, gender identity and/or intersex status: we are here for you.
“We encourage you to seek support from certified professionals who will genuinely have your best interests at heart. This, of course, applies to anyone who is struggling with anything.”
Albany Baptist Church responds to backlash over event
After the backlash, the church removed online promotional information about the event.
A spokesperson for Albany Baptist Church said in a statement the event would go ahead.
“Some Christians who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria will share their life stories in the context of the church community,” they 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.
The spokesperson went on, “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.”
‘Conversion therapy is not a religious freedom issue’
The terms “gay conversion” or “ex-gay” practices describe attempts to “change” or suppress sexual orientation or gender identity using psychological or spiritual means.
The Australian Psychological Society has condemned such practices as ineffective and psychologically damaging. They state that “no professional practice in Australia supports these approaches”.
In its statement, Albany Pride also rejected proponents’ arguments the practices are a “religious freedom” issue.
“It isn’t. It’s an issue of public health and safety,” they said.
“It’s an issue of protecting the wellbeing of vulnerable people against a practice which has no scientific basis, and is widely condemned and discredited by experts in the field of mental health and psychology.
“It is an issue of protecting people from a damaging con.”
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