A church in Tasmania has told a state inquiry they “make no apologies” for conducting forms of “conversion therapy” on gay and lesbian Tasmanians.
The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute is conducting an inquiry into the discredited and dangerous practices.
The TLRI define “sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) conversion practices” as “acts or statements aimed at changing, suppressing, or eradicating the sexual orientation or gender identity of another person.”
Reverend Wes Bredenhof of the Free Reform Church in Launceston penned a submission to the inquiry.
In it, he explained under TRLI’s definition, “we are involved in SOGI conversion practices.”
“We make no apologies for that,” he wrote.
“Our church preaches and teaches what the Bible says, including what it says about sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Rev Bredenhof rejected “extreme acts” that could be described as “torture, such as non-consensual electroshock or aversion therapy.”
However he opposed any law stopping people seeking “Christian, Bible-based help with their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
He claimed “many individuals who identified as gay or lesbian” had become Christians and “found a different identity”.
Rev Bredenhof also warned Christian churches like his “will not change our practices” even after a legislative ban.
“Our ultimate commitment is to God and our ultimate authority is the Bible,” he wrote.
“The Bible teaches us to submit to our government. We do this gladly.
“However if there is a conflict between what God teaches and what the state legislates, we will always follow the Bible. We cannot compromise on that.”
Banning ‘conversion therapy’ will save lives
Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome has said Rev Bredenhof’s “deeply alarming” submission shows conversion practices are continuing.
“Until now, many Tasmanians thought conversion practices were a thing of the past, or took place in other states,” he said.
“But submissions to [the] inquiry show they are happening right here, right now.”
All major medical bodies around the world have condemned the practices as harmful and linked to poor mental health outcomes.
“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,” Croome said.
Croome said banning conversion practices in the state will save young Tasmanian lives.
Tasmanian survivor recalls years of trauma
A Tasmanian survivor of the practices, known under the pseudonym John, has also made a confidential submission to the inquiry.
John told the Examiner he undertook hours-long prayer sessions, including a “terrifying” exorcism.
“The group still exists in Tasmania and I met with them three times,” he said.
“The first time I had nine hours of prayer ministry that included an exorcism. My second was five, and my last was two-and-a-half hours.
“I did experience an exorcism which was terrifying to be told, ‘This is what’s going on’.
“Afterwards when you’re not healed, there’s a lot of blame. ‘Oh, I don’t have enough faith’, or ‘does God even love me?'”
Years later, in 2018, John recalled still dealing with the trauma and reaching a crisis point.
“You feel a lot of shame, you feel worthless. There’s a lot of blame that’s going on, like I’m at fault or there’s something wrong with me,” he said.
“There’s this danger that if you know about my secret, or who I really am, they will turn their back on me and leave me.
“That sense of abandonment and rejection, that runs pretty deep as well.”
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