Vic extremist jailed for LGBT church abuse

Neil Erikson has been jailed for abusing members of a queer-friendly Melbourne church.
Neil Erikson has been jailed for abusing members of a queer-friendly Melbourne church.

Far-right extremist Neil Erikson has been jailed for 10 weeks after he marched into a queer-friendly Melbourne church and hurled homophobic abuse.

Erikson, 36, on Friday was sentenced in an online hearing at Melbourne Magistrates Court, after being found guilty of disturbing a religious service at the Metropolitan Community Church, at Hawthorn, in May 2019.

He walked into the church, with two women, about 20 minutes after the congregation had convened and briefly took a seat before standing up to ask if they "married Sodomites".

Erikson, who live-streamed the incident, also said: "You're not Christians you're a bunch of f*****s".

He was immediately asked to leave but refused to do so.

Magistrate Angela Bolger described Erikson's incursion as "confronting", "provocative" and "insulting".

She said while he had the right to be as "wilfully ignorant as he chooses", he didn't have the right to disturb a lawful religious gathering.

"It's appalling and shameful conduct, but I suspect you might be beyond shame, because you've done this before," Ms Bolger told Erikson.

"To place people gathered together in quiet, prayerful contemplation in such abuse is awful.

"There's no justification that can be offered to excuse it. And Mr Erikson doesn't really offer any excuse or justification."

Ms Bolger said Erikson's motivations for the offence appeared to be "self-aggrandisement".

"I can only assume the audience Mr Erikson tried to capture is vanishingly small, as not even his companions at the conclusion were fully supportive of him."

When Ms Bolger asked Erikson, who represented himself in court, if he had any relevant prior convictions, the builder's labourer said he had this year served one month in prison after being found guilty of disturbing a separate religious worship.

"I'm happy to do prison again, but I would prefer a fine," Erikson told the magistrate.

Ms Bolger responded: "Well, I bet you do."

Erikson, who described himself in court as a retired "nationalist and religious activist", had in his defence referred to verses from the Old Testament's Book of Leviticus.

He argued that the Metropolitan Community Church could not be construed as a religious gathering as its views regarding same-sex marriage contravened sections of the Bible.

"Have you any legal training at all?" Ms Bolger asked him.

Erikson responded: "I've been to court a lot and I've won a couple of cases."

He later added that it was better to defend himself than spend "$15,000 to $20,000" on legal representation.

Ms Bolger responded: "I would suggest that it's probably more cost-effective, ultimately, not to engage in this kind of behaviour which would see you charged and brought before the court."

The court previously heard church members were "shaken" by Erikson's incursion, didn't know if he was armed, and that his live-stream video caused increased distress to some of them who had not yet "come out" to friends and families.

Erikson, who lives in Wonthaggi, was directed to surrender himself at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday.

Australian Associated Press