Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says Liberal candidate Renee Heath – a lifelong member of an ultra-conservative church who is opposed to gay, trans and reproductive rights – will not sit in the Liberal Party room if she is elected on November 26.
An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes published on Saturday unearthed fresh evidence of disturbing conduct within City Builders and closely affiliated churches in Victoria, which are part of a global network of Pentecostal churches.
Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.Credit:Joe Armao
This includes the alleged use of “deliverance” prayers on parishioners to rid them of their “demonic” gay sexual orientation, as well as a violent exorcism on a 12-year-old boy because he was wearing a T-shirt with a skull on it.
Heath, 36, is all but guaranteed to win an upper house seat at next week’s Victoria election, as she was preselected at the top of the Liberal Party’s ballot in the Eastern Victoria Region.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, Guy said while it was “too late” to disendorse Heath as a Liberal Party candidate, she would not sit his party room if she is elected.
“She will be a party member. I haven’t got the ability to expel someone from the Liberal Party. That’s not within my purview … But I do have the control over the party room.”
“[If elected] she would be a Liberal independent in the parliament … She will express [her constituents’ views] through the parliament like all of us, that’s what all members of parliament do.
The opposition leader described gay conversion therapy as “abhorrent” and said he would not have the Liberal Party “supportive of or tacitly supporting” the practice, which is illegal in Victoria.
“When it’s issues like conversion therapy for instance – which we have voted against – I don’t want the party linked to that because we don’t agree with it,” Guy said.
In June last year, Heath attended an online workshop by the church’s global leader, Jonathan David, a Malaysian preacher who is called “Papa” by the City Builders flock and heads the global ISAAC network of ultra-conservative Pentecostal churches that includes City Builders.
Renee Heath, right, speaking with Jonathan David, left, and Patrick and Clare McIvor’s sister-in-law Heidi McIvor, who became the face of Australia’s anti-same sex marriage campaign, in 2014.
Ms Heath, a chiropractor, first travelled to Malaysia in the early 2000s. In 2005, she joined an International Youth Conference led by David, who preaches that homosexuality and abortion are demonic. She travelled to Malaysia again in 2007 for an ISAAC internship. In May 2019, she attended David’s “global leader summit”.
Guy said on Saturday while the “vast majority” of Ms Heath’s views were on the public record, he was not aware of her repeated trips overseas connected to the ultra-conservative church.
“Some of those views were not known during the candidate review process,” he said.
Earlier this year, Guy had defended the upper house Liberal candidate, declaring “Renee is not her family”.
City Builders Church and its most senior Australian pastor, Brian Heath (Renee’s father), have denied repeated requests for comment.
In a letter sent Friday, lawyers for the church and Heath “categorically denied” support for gay conversion therapy, discrimination against non-heterosexual people or engaging improperly in politics.
Gay conversation therapy was outlawed in Victoria in February 2021. Under the legislation, anyone found trying to suppress or change another person’s sexuality or gender identity faces up to 10 years’ jail or fines of almost $10,000, if it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that their actions caused serious injury.
Premier Daniel Andrews said while Ms Heath’s views were a matter for the Liberal Party, the opposition’s preferencing decisions needed to be explained.
“That’s a matter for [Guy], just as the Liberal Party’s preferences are a matter for him,” he said.
“The Liberal Party are preferencing racists, they’re preferencing extremists, they’re preferencing black-shirted women haters, they are preferencing Nazis. All of that all of it needs to be explained by the alternative government.
“This is the multicultural capital of our nation and there’s no place for some of those extreme views.”
With Charlotte Grieve and Clair Weaver
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