Extremist quotes Old Testament in court

Gus McCubbingAAP
A magistrate has reprimanded Neil Erikson for asking a former reverend if she "promoted sodomy".
Camera IconA magistrate has reprimanded Neil Erikson for asking a former reverend if she "promoted sodomy". Credit: AAP

A far-right extremist has been reprimanded by a magistrate for asking a former reverend in court if she "promoted sodomy" before he went on to quote from the Old Testament's Book of Leviticus.

Neil Erikson, 36, on Thursday faced the second day of an online Melbourne Magistrates Court contest mention after being charged with disturbing a religious service at Hawthorn, in Melbourne's east, in May 2019.

It has been alleged Erikson walked into the queer-friendly Metropolitan Community Church and hurled homophobic abuse before refusing to leave after he was told to do so.

Erikson has pleaded not guilty.

Retired reverend Sue Townsend said the group's members were "very shaken" by the incident, which had left some of them feeling unsafe in the church.

"We had no idea whether he had any weapons on him," Ms Townsend told the court.

"We didn't know if he could be violent as he was certainly very violent in his speech. It's like if someone comes into your home and assaults you - it doesn't feel like a safe space anymore."

Erikson, representing himself in court, was given the opportunity to cross-examine Ms Townsend.

His first was question was: "Does you church promote sodomy?"

"The prosecution have claimed they are a Christian denomination and it is my argument that promoting sin or sodomy is the opposite of a Christian denomination," Erikson continued.

Magistrate Angela Bolger intervened.

"So really it is based off your interpretation of the Bible - what you're doing is proffering your own opinion," she said.

Erikson responded: "It's the Bible - it's not my opinion, it's the word of God."

Ms Bolger said any insulting, demeaning, or deliberately annoying questions could be deemed "improper".

"I've got to say frankly, that question, framed in the way it is, I think I'm going to find it is improper," the magistrate said.

Erikson did not give evidence himself and therefore could not be cross-examined.

But he did read out a submission to the court in which he referred to verse 18:22 of the Book of Leviticus.

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination," he read.

Erikson also referred to verse 20:13 of the same text.

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death," he said.

Later, when referring to the members of the Hawthorn-based Metropolitan Community Church, Erikson said: "They're not a Christian church, they might as well be a football team."

Ms Bolger asked Erikson if he was a Christian himself, but the accused man refused to answer, citing the constitution.

She will hand down her decision on Friday.

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