Extremist Baptist pastor Steven Anderson has just been blocked from entering New Zealand, making us the 34th country to reject his hate speech-filled sermons.
American pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church has been denied entry to New Zealand on character grounds, putting a stop to his plans to preach sermons in Christchurch and Auckland. His past sermons have included diatribes against Jewish people, pro-choice women, Barack Obama, and the French.
Following the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed 49 people, he recorded a video calling the victims “sodomites” and “paedophiles”. He said he believed homosexuality should be made a crime subject to capital punishment so that homosexuals could be “killed through the proper channels” instead of gunned down in public.
The letter from Immigration New Zealand, dated 17th October, reads:
“We’ve declined your application for a visitor visa because you do not meet the requirements set out in our visitor visa immigration instructions. We have made this decision because: As part of our assessment we have considered whether you meet character requirements. However, our records show that you were excluded or deported from countries such as South Africa, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, etc. This means you are subject to Section 15 of New Zealand’s immigration act (a5.20.b.iv) unless it is granted by special direction.
We sent a letter outlining our concern on 9 September 2019, and received evidence that is not sufficient to justify granting a special direction.
We have considered if requiring a bond or granting a limited visa would lessen our concerns or if there are any special circumstances to justify an exception to immigration instructions, but can find no reason for any of these.”
Section 15 of the Immigration Act states that any person previously excluded or deported from another country can’t be granted a visa unless a special direction is given. Anderson has previously been excluded from 33 countries.
In a video response to his rejected New Zealand visa, Anderson said: “When someone’s coming to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they block that, you know what, they are going to be under the wrath of God.”
He went on to say that countries who reject “soul-winners” like him would be punished by God.
“God is not gonna bless these countries for that. If I were you and I were living in New Zealand or Australia, I’d be on my knees praying to God that he would be merciful and that he would forgive your country for doing this.”
Anderson has been denied entry to most of the 34 counties on the basis that he is a danger to public order and/or public interest. Other countries to ban his visits include Australia, the Netherlands, Botswana, and even Ireland – a country more Christian than most. In fact, he’s the first person Ireland has banned under its 1999 Immigration Act, which states a person can be blocked from entry “in the interest of national security or public policy”.
Preachers like Anderson can have a massive negative impact on young people, even without the added threat of gun violence that exists in places like the US, said Toni Duder of Rainbow Youth, a support organisation for young LGBTIQ+ people.
“These types of views have such a ripple effect which works to isolate LGBTIQ+ youth and embeds a deep sense of shame in them,” said Duder. “This can impact enormously on their mental health, their ability to have healthy relationships with those close to them and just generally their ability to live a safe and happy life.”
While progress is being made, homophobia remains a widespread issue in New Zealand. Only yesterday the Justice Select Committee failed to ban conversion therapy, a practice that is widely regarded as psychologically traumatic to LGBTIQ+ people.
New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD, and queer youth are disproportionally represented in these statistics.
“We know that conversion therapy is practiced actively by some religious organisations here in Aotearoa. We know people who have been told at their churches that being gay is as bad as being a murderer,” said Duder.
“Whether or not it’s growing is hard to say, but it’s important that we acknowledge it is out there, and work to educate people about the reality of people who are LGBTIQ+ and also that it is very possible to be queer, or trans or intersex and still have a really strong connection to your faith and a relationship to God. These things can co-exist.”
If you are struggling with your sexual or gender identity, you can get in touch with Rainbow Youth by emailing email@example.com or calling them on 09-376 4155. They even have information on queer-friendly churches.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.