Venue rejects Anika Moa over sexuality

ANIKA MOA: Lighthouse Church was "unhappy" with her "lifestyle". Pictured here, left, with her civil union partner Azaria Universe.
ANIKA MOA: Lighthouse Church was "unhappy" with her "lifestyle". Pictured here, left, with her civil union partner Azaria Universe.

Singer Anika Moa has had to switch venues for her Wairarapa concert because an evangelical church objected to her sexuality.

She was due to perform at Masterton's Lighthouse Church on March 23, but promoter Mark Rogers said it became clear after the booking was made that some members of the church were not comfortable with hosting her.

Moa came out as a lesbian in 2007 and has been in a civil union with Australian burlesque dancer Azaria Universe since 2010.

Mr Rogers said the church was suffering from "sapphic paranoia" and was "unhappy" with what it called Moa's "lifestyle".

"It's not as though, by ‘life-style', the church meant she went skiing every weekend," he said. "I just couldn't face having a concert in a location where one of the performers was not welcome."

Moa will now perform at St Mark's Anglican Church in Carterton instead.

Lighthouse pastor Russell Embling said Mr Rogers had decided to move the gig after discussions with church leadership.

He would not comment on whether some of his flock were opposed to having a lesbian singer perform. He said the church held to "traditional biblical values regarding marriage and the family".

The church had offered, in good faith, to pay for some of the costs incurred, including new concert posters and tickets, and had given the money to Mr Rogers, he said.

Mr Rogers confirmed it was his decision to pull the show.

"In no way were we forced out - we just didn't think it was appropriate to hold an event there, given the views and beliefs of a number of its congregation."

Green Party "rainbow issues" spokesman Kevin Hague said it was a shame that the "small-minded attitudes of the Lighthouse Church are denying the people of Masterton the opportunity to see Anika Moa, who is a fantastic performer".

Mr Hague, a veteran gay rights activist, said the church had arguably "created a situation where the promoter feels he has no choice but to shift the venue - it could be classified as constructive discrimination, which would be illegal".

St Mark's vicar Jenny Chalmers said she regretted the attitudes of some within the Lighthouse congregation.

"I'm really sorry for that, because sexuality is such a small part of a person's makeup."

Moa, who is touring in Australia, could not be contacted.

The Dominion Post