Victoria investigates ‘ex-gay’ church groups

 

The Melbourne Age reports…

“Brian Coogan spent much of his life searching for answers.

He knew from an early age he was attracted to men, but as a devout Christian, he’d been led to believe homosexuality was wrong; an illness that could be cured by “conversion therapy” or “praying away the gay.”

Coogan estimates he spent $50,000 over 15 years on religious counselling sessions attempting to do just that. He attended conferences by Exodus International – a now defunct organisation that turned to Jesus to curb same-sex attraction – took part in seminars and sermons, and remained convinced, for more than two decades, “that there was something wrong with me and that I needed to be fixed.”

“You’ve probably heard the saying: love the sinner, hate the sin. The problem is, when the sin is your sexuality, and it’s something you can’t switch off, you end up disliking yourself more and more, which is why a lot of people become quite suicidal,” he says.

“It wasn’t until I realised that the case for inclusion in the Bible is about 10 times stronger than the case for exclusion that my life started knocking into place.”

While Coogan, 55, is now openly gay, he knows all too well that conversion therapy and the “ex-gay” movement – which essentially views homosexuality as a disorder – remains an insidious part of Evangelical church culture in Australia, keeping many vulnerable people trapped in a world of denial and shame.

It’s a problem that the Andrews government and others are also trying to address. Alarmed by the mental health impacts, Equality Minister Martin Foley has ordered his department to investigate “the extent of any underground activity of this kind in Victoria and see what can be done to minimise the damage caused by these abhorrent practices”.

Tighter regulations are also on the way, with the Health Services Commissioner set to be granted broader powers to probe or sanction people conducting unregulated and unproven therapies such as gay conversion.

And new research is also being conducted by the Human Rights Law Centre and Latrobe University into the prevalence of ex-gay practices, and what kind of reforms may be required.

“So called gay conversion or ‘ex-gay’ therapy is alive and well in Australia,” says Anna Brown, the Human Rights Law Centre’s director of advocacy. 

“Recently other countries have introduced laws banning these types of therapies, but ex-gay counselling and so-called treatments remain largely unregulated in Australia. So there is an urgent need to better understand the nature and prevalence of these sorts of practices in Australia and develop an adequate response to ensure young, same-sex attracted people, who are often already having quite a hard time finding their place in the world, aren’t subjected to misguided and damaging practices.”

Part of the problem is that the size and scope of the ex-gay movement is unclear. About three years ago, when The Sunday Age reported on the death of Damien Christie, a former member of the Pentecostal church who took his life after years of struggling with his sexuality and faith, it was estimated that there were fewer than 15 conversion programs operating around the country at that time.

Nathan Despott​, who runs an advocacy network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of faith, says there are fewer groups now, but the ex-gay ideology remains deeply entrenched through the “messaging” conveyed by some churches and synagogues, through Christian radio programs, or via online courses attached to religious ministries.

The Living Hope Ministries, for instance, offer people support groups, pastoral counselling and online forums centred around a “Biblical world view of sexual expression rooted in one man and one woman in a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage for life”.

“Anything less than this ideal falls short of God’s best for humanity,” its website claims.

But therein lies the heart of the problem. Boiled down, the ex-gay movement doesn’t just try to make gay people straight. It attempts to link their homosexuality to issues or trauma from their past and convince them they are fundamentally damaged, needing be “healed” in order to be accepted by their community and God.

Some survivors have told The Sunday Age of group meetings that sought to shame participants by forcing them to confess to others how many times they had watched gay pornography or fantasised about the same sex.

Rowena Allen, the government’s handpicked Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, recalls being 17 when a minister at an Evangelical church in Melbourne attempted an exorcism designed to rid her of homosexual “demons”.

And Joe Cotteril, the openly gay son of Pentecostal ministers, remembers his own personal struggle: the homophobic schools, the lack of acceptance among his fellow Christians, the fog of depression that he fought for years.

“I was often encouraged, when I came out, to be a part of one of the men’s courses that they would do at church,” says the 34-year-old. “They would do a section on sexuality for a few weeks and you knew that the gay thing would come up as part of a discussion on sexual addiction. It would be lumped in the same thing as alcoholism or pornography – something that you need to get over by a practice of ‘right’ thinking and the ‘right’ behaviour.”

The good news, though, is that the tide is turning. In the US, several states have banned ex-gay therapy to minors, while President Barack Obama recently went one step further, calling for an end to conversion practices across America.

The world’s largest ex-gay organisation – Exodus international – has also shut down, and in 2014, Living Waters, one of Australia’s longest running conversion programs, followed suit.

Back in Melbourne, Coogan says he’s encouraged by the shift, as well as the growing number of support groups that are available to LGBTI people of faith. But he says that there’s a lot more to do, because much of  the ex-gay movement “seems to be pushed underground”.

“It would be great to see the government showing some leadership on this. People are generally more accepting but there’s still heartbreaking damage being done.”

* For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit: insideexgay.org/contact/

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42 thoughts on “Victoria investigates ‘ex-gay’ church groups

  1. You can’t stop Evil God from judging you less and you can’t stop Evil God from judging you more.Eternal torture in Hell is the maximal sentence you can get. The fact that there is apparent good in the world is just part of Evil God’s nefarious plan to roll out ultimate evil.

    The fool hath said in his heart, “There is no Evil God”. It is plain obvious that God exists and He is evil.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You can’t stop God loving you and you can’t make God love you – You can’t make God love you any less, nor ca you get God to love you any more either!

    We can follow the law and be sinners or allow grace to fill our hearts and be saints – Jesus wasn’t trying to get us to follow the law to the nth degree hen he told us that any man who even looks at a woman’s backside while pretending to sing a worship song, is an adulterer – he was saying that there is no point trying to live buy the law because we CAN’T! It’s Grace, love and forgiveness, or it’s law, death, and ultimate separation from God.

    Like

  3. Therefore any man who says he is not an adulterer is either a liar or a homosexual.

    And that right there is the whole point of it all! The law was never meant to be obeyed – but to point out the entire futility of TRYING to work at being acceptable to God! It points to the need for God to rescue us.

    It was God who led the people out of Egypt – It was God who led the people through the desert – if they had accepted that God was leading them all the time and did;t argue and try to create their own God’s and complain about things being better in Egypt, I do;t think there would have even ended up being a law! We would have been led by the Spirit from the beginning!

    Trying to legislate against homosexuality is stupid. Trying to tell other people who and how they can love is stupid – DO NOT TRY TO SUGGEST YOUR BULLSHIT “well we just let old men have sex with young boys” argument either – it is NOT the same thing AT ALL. God is love and wherever there is love, THERE IS GOD!

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  4. I mean after you’re saved. Said the sinners prayer and accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. Life is boring without a little bit of sin.

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  5. All men are guilty of sexual sin, however the difference for a hetero is that he can get someone to perform a ritual over him and his girlfriend.. and sim-sa-la-bim, what was sinful is now something beautiful in the eyes of God.

    That is not available to the homosexual, because …… homosexuality is a sexual sin.

    Is this all correct so far?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “Therefore any man who says he is not an adulterer is either a liar or a homosexual”.

    All men may be guilty of sexual sin – but it still does not justify or sanctify homosexuality. All sexual sin (including thoughts in our heart) is sin.

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  7. “Obviously its different in that the married person can get a divorce and marry that third person”.

    Correct. The Bible is clear on this too. The fact that the Church turns a blind eye to this in the present day, does not make it right.

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  8. “How is this different from the situation of a married person who is not sexually satisfied and is strongly sexually attracted to a third person (outside the marriage)?.

    Obviously its different in that the married person can get a divorce and marry that third person.

    Or is divorce a sin too – Jesus said this was the same as adultery. Masturbation is sinful, according to the example of Onan, and Jesus said that anyone who even looks on a woman with lust is guilty of adultery.

    Therefore any man who says he is not an adulterer is either a liar or a homosexual.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Liony has never tried to get rid of gays. I am not sure that it can be “cured” in this life.

    All I am saying is that it is sin and falls short of Gods standard of Holiness.

    As such, it cannot be legitimized.

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  10. How’s Liony going to get rid of gays if reparative therapy is banned?

    Some guy in the US reckons he can cure gays by horse stroking….I take it Frank Houston’s methods weren’t successful……

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is an argument against using the bible as a basis for civil norms. Why the unwarranted trust in a very human and flawed ancient artifact? Not to denigrate the bible but it is not an appropriate source of public ethics.

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  12. Justification of homesexual behaviour on the basis that some animals practice it is the weakest argument put forward to date.

    Some animals have fits of rage, some murder their own kind, others will eat their own young.

    These are all ‘natural’ behaviours in the animal kingdom and are not morally right by either Christian or by secular standards.

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  13. 1) Re: Unnatural hair. The context of Paul’s comment is best illustrated in the video below: https://youtu.be/c-K29F3WU5Q

    2) Just because some animals in some situations practice homosexual behavior does not make it ‘natural’ in an ideal sense – as per St Paul’s commentary. The world was corrupted when sin entered the world.

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  14. “The bible is scientifically uninformed about homosexuality, calling it “unnatural”…..”

    Well to be fair David, Paul does say men having long hair is unnatural…..

    “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him…..”

    Ummm no.

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  15. “Coogan estimates he spent $50,000 over 15 years on religious counselling sessions attempting to do just that.”

    You have to pay to be told there’s something wrong with you???????????

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “Is this site even Christian?”

    Well it’s probably more Christian than people who advocate reparative therapy, chemical castration, electric shock treatment and pickaxe lobotomies to get rid of the gays.

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  17. “I never heard of a gay animal and homosexuality doesn’t make sense in evolution.”

    I’ve got gay budgies…..

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  18. I never heard of a gay animal and homosexuality doesn’t make sense in evolution.

    Can you pray away bisexuality?
    Maybe they can’t choose their orientation either, but unless we approve three person marriage they will have to choose.
    As do pedofiles who can’t stop their orientation,but who must choose behavior.

    Is this site even Christian?

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  19. The bible is scientifically uninformed about homosexuality, calling it “unnatural” when it is widespread among other animal species. It makes evolutionary sense that it occurs in homo sapiens.

    How can civilized people get their morals from the ancient and crude social norms documented in the bible. Shame on you Lionfish for recommending this.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What does the Bible say about Windows 10 or Android v ipad?

    Do you believe everything the Bible doesn’t say.

    Bonhoeffer would not agree with you.

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  21. It is possible to engage in homosexual behaviour without having homosexual orientation.

    YES – Finally someone get it – you are spot on – and it is for those people who are not gay who engage in unnatural sexual relations that Paul is talking about in Romans 1.

    However it is entirely a different thing to be engaging in gay sex when you ARE gay!

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  22. How is this different from the situation of a married person who is not sexually satisfied and is strongly sexually attracted to a third person (outside the marriage)?.

    Uhm…totally. What your referring to in the case of a married person is a case of what they’d like to do – not an intrinsic part of who they are – you’re comparing apples with pineapples – being similar sounding words doesn’t make them the same thing.

    Surely what is morally right takes precedence over the (right) of sexual gratification.

    Being Gay is not just about sex! It is an intrinsic part of who a person is – just like skin colour, just like being right or left handed – what we do as a left handed person is where morality kicks in – for a gay person, the same levels of morality apply as for a heterosexual person – except that currently they aren’t allowed to get married – so they are forced to seek sexual union with the one they love outside normative relationships as defined by our moral codes.

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  23. Can you stop taking Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words out of context?

    His Cost of Discipleship had nothing to do with gay sex and everything to do with the Sermon on the Mount in the context of a totalitarian regime..

    I don’t know why Evangelicals clamber after Bonhoeffer. He was extremely liberal in his theology and stated that the New Testament was full of myths.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. No. Unless you categorize orientation as sin, I was discussing behavior.

    It is possible to engage in homosexual behaviour without having homosexual orientation.

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  25. Re:
    “The problem is, when the sin is your sexuality, and it’s something you can’t switch off”,

    Is this really a justification? How is this different from the situation of a married person who is not sexually satisfied and is strongly sexually attracted to a third person (outside the marriage)?.

    Surely what is morally right takes precedence over the (right) of sexual gratification. Is not this what discipleship is all about? Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me!

    Like

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