Dapto Pastor Kevin Harris hits back against criticism

Pastor Kevin Harris (inset) of the Illawarra Community Baptist Church in Dapto wants to clarify his views. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Pastor Kevin Harris (inset) of the Illawarra Community Baptist Church in Dapto wants to clarify his views. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Dapto’s Pastor Kevin Harris claims his views on marital rape and violence against women have been ‘’misrepresented’’.

The leader of the Illawarra Community Baptist Church walked out on a 60 Minutes interview which aired on Sunday, after questions turned to the marital rape of his mother by his father.

Queensland-based Pastor Larry Harris is serving five years in prison for two counts of rape against his wife Joy, who told the current affairs program she was raped ‘’six or seven times’’ a day.

On the program, the Dapto pastor said he did not think his father had been justly treated, claiming there had been ‘’disobedience to the Lord on both parts’’.

However in a statement sent to the Mercury, Pastor Harris said he’d been led to believe the segment would be about a particular sermon, and not his family matters.

‘’It seems that the intent was that I would be caught off guard so that I would look guilty,’’ he said. ‘’… Not knowing what the interviewer was getting at with some of his questions, I stumbled to answer some questions clearly.’’

Since the program aired, a number of Illawarra residents have taken to social media to express their concerns about the Bong Bong Road church – which is not affiliated with mainstream Baptist ministries.

A former member told the Mercury that Pastor Harris ran a ‘’cult’’ where preachings were based on a belief that women must submit to their husbands.

When asked about calling authorities for serious issues among his congregation, Pastor Harris told 60 minutes that the scripture ‘’doesn’t say to ring the police’. However he’s since claimed that he would contact police if he had knowledge of a crime.

‘’I have always believed that rape and child abuse are crimes,’’ he said, later adding: ‘’We have never had an allegation of sexual abuse in the history of the Illawarra Community Baptist Church’’.

He also refuted allegations that he believed wives must submit to their husbands. ‘’I do not teach, practise or condone any sort of violence in a marriage. Like most preachers, I preach that husbands must serve, respect and honour their wives.’’

In his statement Pastor Kevin Harris denies other claims made by family members as well as former church members.

His mother Joy told the current affairs show that her son refuses to speak to her after she spoke out about rape within her marriage.

Her other son, Jason, is standing by her and feels so strongly about his brother Kevin’s ‘’devilish doctrines’’ and ‘’oppressive practices’’ he’s set up a website to ‘’warn the Illawarra community’’.

However Pastor Harris states that the estrangement occurred months before the ‘’two incidents between her and dad’’.

‘’Therefore it is incorrect to say that I have turned on my mother because of her recent allegations toward dad. I do love my mother deeply.’’

Pastor Harris said he, and his followers, believed that a husband should live to serve and please their wives.

‘’We do not believe submission to one's husband entitles him to force his wife into some kind of sexual slavery,’’ he said.

He said there was never an excuse to harm a woman, ‘’no matter how much a man may feel provoked’’.

He added: ‘’Any woman who is being battered or abused by her husband should get to a safe place and ring the police.’’

Read Pastor Harris’ full statement here