New Victorian Liberal candidate’s link to ‘right-wing’ Christian church raises concerns

Another Victorian Liberal shortlist, ahead of the November state election, was engulfed in controversy over the candidate’s ties to a conservative Christian church with historical ties to gay conversion practices.

The Liberals voted for the candidates for the safe upper house seat in the Eastern Victoria region on Sunday – meaning the winning candidate is virtually guaranteed a seat in the upper house of parliament. Renee Heath, a Gippsland-based restorative massage therapist turned chiropractor beat Catherine-Burnett Wake 55-53.

Renee’s father, Brian Heath, is senior pastor at City Builders Church, which has in the past been accused of encouraging its members to participate in a now closed gay conversion therapy program run by Living Waters. Both the church and Heath have denied approving so-called gay conversion therapy.

The Church’s website features blogs supporting rugby player Israel Folau, who was expelled from Rugby Australia in 2019, after his homophobic social media posts. In the 2017 marriage equality vote, two pastors of the church had placed an advertisement in the Gippsland times against same-sex marriages.

“Curious Strategy”

The choice of some Liberal candidates has raised concerns both inside and outside the party. He is the second controversial candidate, after the Liberals shortlisted anti-trans and anti-abortion adviser Moira Deeming last month to replace Bernie Finn in the Metropolitan West Upper House seat in parliament.

“Becoming a coalition party hall that has even less in common with the Victorian community than it does today. Curious strategy,” Jaala Pulford, Labor MP for Victoria, tweeted after Renee was selected.

Last week, the former Liberal MP Andrew Elsbury resigned from the party on his decision to endorse Deeming.

In October 2021, age reported growing unease within the Victorian Liberal Party over the ‘right-wing’ church pushing to enter Victorian politics. The Church in a statement said at the time that some of its members had joined the Victorian Nationals.

Victoria Nationals leader Peter Walsh in October 2021 told the ABC that some church members in his party favored so-called gay conversion therapy.

Matthew Guy defends Liberal candidates

Victorian Liberal Opposition Leader Matthew Guy

Victorian Opposition leader Matthew Guy came out to defend the candidate, telling the media that Reene, who is also a church member, could not be blamed for her family’s views.

“Renée is not her father, Renée is not her uncle, Renée is not her family, Renée is herself. She’s a professional woman, she’s in the health field, she’s a professional person. I will ask people to judge Renée by Renée and not by someone else. age newspaper quoted Guy.

Guy had defended his choice of Deeming, saying his opinions belonged to the “past”. This obviously wasn’t true as Deeming’s Facebook page has a pinned post dated December 15, 2021 – a video of her asking council members about trans people having access to bathrooms that match their gender identity .

Ironclad guarantee on banning gay conversion practices

In February 2021, the Legislative Council of Victoria passed The Prohibition of Altering or Deleting Practices (Conversion) Bill 2020 27-9 in February with Labour, Greens, Crusader MPs and some Liberal MPs voting for the law.

The bill to ban so-called conversion therapy passed the Lower House on December 10, 2020, with Liberal MPs abstaining in the vote.

In October 2021, Liberal MP James Newbury, spokesperson for Equality, had given an “ironclad guarantee” that the party would not backtrack on a ban on gay conversion therapy if elected.

This followed reports that former opposition leader Michael O’Brien had promised the Australian Christian Lobby that the party would reverse a ban on gay conversion practices if they were able to defeat the Labor-led government. by Daniel Andrews during the national elections.

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