Queer students and activists protest anti-gay preacher
A group of queer students and activists gathered in protest outside a talk organised by the Catholic Society titled “Men + Women = Made for each other?”. The event was the subject of heavy criticism on social media prior to its taking place at 1pm today on Eastern Avenue. The protest was organised by the Student Representative Council’s Queer Action Collective after the Facebook event led many students to believe the talk was going to be promoting gay conversion therapy.
The Catholic Society’s Facebook event described Parker as a “once gay man and activist… now an international speaker on matters of life and sexuality as a husband, father and Christian”, causing alarm amongst LGBTQI students and allies.
In response to the criticism leading up to the event, the Catholic Society stated on the event page that the “event, society and speaker do not and will not promote or endorse gay conversion therapy in any way.”
Many on the event page said that those who criticised the event were making assumptions about what Parker would speak about. A bystander expressed the view that “People should just come and listen. If they don’t like what he says, they can challenge him”.
Inside the tent, James Parker struggled to deliver his talk over the chants of protesters, who competed with Parker’s supporters screaming ‘YAS’ and ‘Praise’ right outside the thin plastic tent.
James Parker addressed a small audience on the topic “Men + Women = Made for each other?”.
He stood in front of a hand-made sign that read “God loves gays (& everybody else: LBTQQIAAP,OSA)”.
While Parker explicitly told the audience that he did not believe in conversion therapy, he delivered a passionate and emotional personal story of his journey from being in a same-sex relationship to “finding Jesus Christ” through “average therapy”.
Through an “exploratory journey alongside reparative prayers”, Parker discovered that he was sexually abused by a primary school teacher for over 3 years.
Student Will Edwards expressed the view that while Parker didn’t explicitly advocate for conversion therapy, his story implied “that gay people are intrinsically disordered because of sexual abuse... That same-sex relationships are inherently unable to be fulfilling.”
“While he hasn’t explicitly said that he dislikes gay people, his speech was full of homophobic implications. I expected him to be very anodyne... but his speech was ten times worse than I expected, and I’m disgusted.”
At the end of the talk, Edwards questioned Parker on his stance on same-sex marriage. Parker told the audience that same-sex marriage was “selling a lie”. In his talk, he expressed the view that “There’s a complimentality (sic) between men and women that, within same sex relationships… is just not there”.
Another student challenged Parker with a series of questions, telling him that “Free speech is one thing, but saying I don’t believe you exist or have the right to marry or adopt is harmful”.
Student Georg Tamm expressed their view that “preaching conversion therapy is not only dangerous, but unethical. We don’t support the USU or any management on campus tolerating hate speech. University should be a place for people to learn.”
Two hours before the event, the USU Board issued a statement on their position, clarifying that they did not support the event:
"Whilst we are supportive of free speech, events premised on the entertainment of the suggestion that diverse genders and sexualities are illegitimate or worthy of conversion are inconsistent with the principles of the Union as enunciated in our Constitution.”
However, Tamm expressed disappointment in the USU’s lack of decisive action: “They didn’t shut the funding down yesterday.”
“I would’ve liked it to not have been this type of speaker. The question (“Men + Women = Made for each other?”) doesn't make it a discussion. It’s a total contradiction of what (the USU) stands for. Freedom of speech should be tolerated but shouldn’t be preaching that someone doesn't have the right to exist, that they are sick or ill.”