The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) of Victoria has called on the Stonnington Council and the City of Greater Dandenong to review its policies for hiring council-owned facilities following the last-minute cancellation of an ex-gay speaking event last week.
Following community outrage and questioning by the Star Observer last Friday, both councils decided to ban use of council buildings for an event featuring self-described ex-gay Adam Hood from the US who was due to speak to a Melbourne audience to encourage gay men to convert to heterosexuality.
AVP convenor Greg Adkins said he will seek a meeting with both councils about how the content of the event wasn’t considered until the last minute and said the AVP has also written to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship calling for a review of entry visa policies.
“We’ve written to the federal Government today, asking them to take this on board and review the entry processes for people who are coming here to preach homophobia and violence against gays and lesbians,” Adkins told the Star Observer.
“He shouldn’t have been granted a visa to come in the country in the first place. At the end of the day, if he was coming in and attacking the Jewish community or Islamic community or revising history on the Holocaust, they wouldn’t have let him in the country.”
Adkins said the message that gay people can convert to heterosexuality or are an “abomination” in the eyes of God is dangerous for those struggling with their sexuality.
“It has a huge impact on the health and safety of same-sex attracted young people and in fact it’s affecting young heterosexual people killing themselves when they get bullied or harassed for being gay when they’re not gay,” Adkins said.
“So homophobia kills and at the end of the day no freedom of speech allows people to use language that in effect kills other people in society.”
Hood was due to speak at council venues in Prahran and Noble Park and a Catholic school in Caboolture in Queensland as a guest of the Noble Park-based Miracle Christian Centre.
St Columban’s College in Caboolture was the first to ban the event, saying it was not “in line with the college’s Christian values”.
The Miracle Christian Centre told News Ltd it was simply exercising its right to free speech and said it would now be forced to hold the events underground.
The Star Observer understands there were also fears, driven by a Facebook group, that violence could occur if the meetings were to take place in Victoria.
Leading Australian ex-gay movement authority Anthony Venn-Brown praised the decision of the councils and the Catholic school to halt the event.
“I think we’ve sent a really clear message that this sort of message is totally unacceptable in Australian society,” Venn-Brown told the Star Observer.
“[Ex-gay ministries] might see these people for 12 months, six months or a couple of years, but when they leave they have an enormous sense of failure, grief, loss and many of them have been traumatised as well.”
Venn-Brown said his own experiences prove how difficult trying to live a lie is.
“An example of how deep the trauma is, I went to see the movie Save Me, about an ex-gay program,” he said.
“I went through that in 1972. At the end of the movie, I burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably for 10 minutes, 37 years after the event, as I’d seen all the things on the screen of what I went through — that shows how deep it can be.”