Legislation introduced in the Victorian Government today could see Christians hit with heavy fines and lengthy jail times for attempting to convert LGBTQ people to Christianity or teaching certain portions of the Bible.
The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 will empower the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of “conversion therapy” practices which may include activities as simple as prayer.
In a report released with the legislation, the government quoted an anonymous “survivor” who said he had suffered mentally, physically, and spiritually after attending a prayer session with a small group of Christians associated with a church in New South Wales.
The anonymous witness suggested he suffered “suicidal ideation” and a “complete breakdown” as a result of the group encouraging repentance from what the Bible defines as “sexual immorality.”
According to The Guardian: “Practitioners of conversion therapy seeking to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity and found to have caused serious injury could face up to 10 years jail under the criminal sanctions proposed in the legislation. Those who try to avoid the law in Victoria by sending people to conversion therapy out of the state would also face criminal sanctions and fines to a maximum of close to $10,000.”
Former-homosexual Ken Williams, now co-founder of Equipped to Love, has opposed similar legislation in the United States, saying not only does it deny his experience, and others like him, but it also removes the rights of others to even question their sexuality.
According to Williams, there are a number of reasons why anti-conversion legislation should be opposed.
First, it lumps all efforts to change “sexual orientation” into the same demonised category, regardless of how benign and helpful they might be.
Williams uses the example of a 12-year-old boy who believes he is a female after being sexually assaulted for years. According to such legislation, “the prescribed treatment for that child would be a personal embracing of femininity and would likely include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, the surgical removal of his penis and testicles, and permanent sterilization.”
“Should this child not be afforded a right to explore potential causes of his gender confusion and potential pathways that might allow him to reintegrate with his biological/birth sex?”
Second, such legislation incorrectly suggests that no therapy or help from religious institutions has proven helpful or effective for people desiring to change.
According to Williams: “Last year when California proposed the bill which would have banned therapy from those desiring to leave homosexuality, people came out of the woodworks to oppose it. And as a result, we know hundreds of people from across the country and around the world who were dramatically helped by religious groups and therapists.”
Third, such legislation blames therapists and religious groups alone for high rates of depression and suicide among LGBTQ people, despite the fact that countless individuals have credited therapists and religious groups for lifting them out of their struggles and easing their suicidal tendencies.
And fourth, such legislation elevates government ideology above an individual’s right to religious freedom.
Williams notes that under anti-conversion laws “individuals, leaders, and even therapists and religious institutions are commanded to embrace homosexuality as something to be applauded, given no thought to potential ramifications to a person’s spouse, children, or to a person whose own religious or personal convictions do not align with that ideology.”
Victoria’s attorney general, Jill Hennessy said of the new legislation, “We’re sending a clear message: no one is ‘broken’ because of their sexuality or gender identity.”
“These views won’t be tolerated in Victoria and neither will these abhorrent practices,” she added.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has been preaching this message for years. In 2018, the Premier said converting LGBTQ people would not be tolerated in Victoria, suggesting instead that it is the Christians who “need fixing.”