Numerous jurisdictions in the Western world are going down the road of banning “conversion therapies” or “conversion practices”. I recently wrote about how the Australian state of Victoria has just introduced a bill which will ban such things. It includes draconian penalties, such as ten years in prison and hefty fines.
Many others have been commenting on this frightful bill, and rightly so. It is a terrible bill and promises to target even those offering prayer for someone who seeks some help with their unwanted sexual attractions. Let me draw upon some of these commentators, who range from legal experts to former homosexuals.
Let me begin with Neil Foster, who is an evangelical Christian and an Associate Professor in law. He is of great help here since it is so easy to get lost in lengthy bills and their quite dense legalese. So we need folks like Foster to unpack things and make them understandable. As he says in a recent article concerning what is really at stake here:
Let’s take a concrete example. A young Christian reads the Bible and discovers that the Bible says that the only appropriate context for sexual activity is between husband and wife within marriage. He knows that he experiences sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. He approaches his Bible study leader and asks for advice on how he should live to please God. Is the Bible study leader in giving such advice, and counselling the young man to be chaste (not to have sex outside a man/woman marriage), engaged in a “change or suppression practice”?
The leader is not trying to “change” the “sexual orientation” of the person. But by counselling chastity would he fall foul of the prohibition on “suppressing the sexual orientation”? It is likely that some would argue that any attempt to not freely indulge sexual desires is “suppression”. And note the jaw-dropping fact that it is completely irrelevant that this is all being done with the consent of the young person! Even if they genuinely and freely want to change because of their own religious conviction on the matter, offering counselling seems to be regarded as an unlawful “change or suppression practice”.
But can that be right? Is offering counselling based on the Bible a “practice”? Well, under cl 5(3) we read:
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), a practice includes, but is not limited to the following— …
(b) carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism;
It is clear that a “religious practice” is caught. Conversations around the meaning of the Bible and its application to a person’s life are not explicitly mentioned, but we are (twice!) told that the meaning of the term “includes, but is not limited to” the specific examples of prayer, deliverance or exorcism.
Sadly however many concerned Christians who are commenting on this bill are taking an approach that is almost certain to fail: they are calling for some adjustments here and there, some amendments, or some minor changes. But they fail to understand how the left and politicians like Andrews play the game.
It is called an ambit claim. Andrews is an expert at this, and we saw it played out recently with his demand for an extra 12 months of emergency powers. The so-called independents in the upper house demurred a bit, so a compromise of 6 months was the result – which was just fine for Andrews anyway.
The same here: they have made extravagant demands in this bill which are sure to upset some, knowing that if they do shave off a few of the more radical elements, they will still have everything they wanted in the first place. They might make a minor change or revision here and there, but then they can come back and proudly state that they ‘listened to the people’ and took some of their advice.
‘See, we heard what you said, and we made some compromises.’ Yeah right, the overwhelming bulk of a bad bill will remain, and it will be just as dangerous and onerous for those offering help as before. So nothing will have changed, and it will just make the passage of their bill all the more easy. We should not be seeking to slightly rejig this bad bill, but oppose it altogether.
What Law Professor Patrick Parkinson said earlier this year about similar legislation in Queensland is worth offering here: “This is not a bill which can be fixed. I’m sorry I’m not going to propose amendments. The problem is, that it would drive away good therapists from helping very needy children and young people. It will increase mental health problems in Queensland. It will increase youth suicide in Queensland….”
And as I mentioned in my earlier piece on this, the sorts of draconian therapies and practices that this bill pretends exist simply do not. There is no shock therapy and the like on offer here in Victoria. As one legal expert that I know from overseas has said about this in private correspondence with me:
Bill is unnecessary because harmful acts are already banned
The Bill references the definitions of “injury” and “serious injury” under the Crimes Act 1958. As is evident from the Crimes Act 1958, the various types of harm that the Bill seeks to address have long been part of the laws of Victoria. Acts causing injury or serious injury, whether intentional, reckless or negligent have all been criminalised under Sections 15 to 26 of the Crimes Act 1958.
He goes on to say this:
Commission’s role in “re-education”
Even if acts are consensual and even in the absence of any relevant harm, Part 3 of the Bill empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to conduct investigations into alleged change or suppression practices. Part 3 Division 2 concerns reporting of change or suppression practices. Among other things, in response to a report that a person or organisation is engaging in, or has engaged in, a change or suppression practice, the Commission may “offer targeted education to persons or organisations reported to have engaged in change or suppression practices” (Clause 28(1)(a)).
And let me present the voice of someone who has been there and done that. James Parker is an ex-homosexual who now helps others who are struggling with their sexual attractions. He says this in a new article:
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton welcomed the introduction of the bill. It seeks to penalise talking therapy – even saying a prayer — when related to human sexuality, unless it assists a person to transition from their biological sex to a new, self-declared “gender identity”, or to help a person who has previously identified as heterosexual to explore anything non-heterosexual….
I assume that Commissioner Hilton has not been neglected, adopted, incessantly abused, molested, raped, pornographied during her childhood, or affected by trauma that has left her with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. All of these transpired in my childhood and led me to becoming a gay rights activist.
And Hilton has the nerve to say that people with my life experiences aren’t disordered? Without therapy and prayer, I would likely have eventually become another suicide statistic. This bill is going to increase suicides, depression, and anxiety. It will leave people trapped in their trauma. What gives Hilton the right to deny her fellow Australians their human right to face the crippling effects of their histories in a therapeutic, prayerful or even basic conversation? Her demeanour screams inequality.
Who will speak for people with unwanted same-sex attraction?
Hilton and Hennessy should have done their research. They should have listened to those with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. They should have taken on board the numerous success stories of change. They simply have not done their homework. How can they propose a law banning therapy and prayer based on a 21-page consultative report which features a mere four undated and anonymous “survivor” stories, all of which involve Christians with same-sex attraction, none with gender identity issues, and with no reference to a single story where therapy or prayer has proven to be highly successful?
Dated, accessible, stories of 70-plus individuals – some of them named – who have each experienced positive and often enduring change since leaving the LGBTQ+ community, are available at the Free To Change website. The results of this research are phenomenal and need to become widely known.
He offers some moving stories of those who have sought change and have experienced genuine change. He then says this:
Are Hilton and Hennessey, under Andrews’ authority, going to deny these men an opportunity to improve their lives, each one of whom was seriously damaged whilst in Victoria? Each one admits in some way to still being disordered, dis-eased, ill and with shortcomings. But with therapy and prayer they are making progress.
More community consultation is needed. People need to be given the opportunity to make their stories known to a Standing Committee which takes public submissions. To fail to do so, to suppress practices which bring about positive change for people in pain, is criminal. Such a lockdown should not be tolerated by any civilised society.
Thankfully in other parts of the world, these sorts of bills are coming up against some stiff opposition, and some of them are being overturned. Here is just one such case of this:
A divided federal appeals court on Friday declared unconstitutional two south Florida laws that banned therapists from offering conversion therapy to children struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with two therapists who said the laws in the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County violated their free speech rights.
That is good news. And other forms of opposition are now coming from unexpected quarters:
A global wave of criminal laws against any attempt to change someone’s “gender identity” may end up putting young people who struggle with same-sex attraction on the path to risky hormone drugs and surgery, according to a new group LGB Alliance Australia. The alliance’s Kat Karena, a gay woman, said Victoria’s draft criminal law unveiled on Thursday, with maximum penalties of $10,000 fines and 10 years in prison, followed the international pattern of confusing mostly bygone “gay conversion therapy” with the live issue of how best to help under-18s diagnosed with distressing “gender dysphoria”.
The truth is, these sorts of bills are dangerous, draconian, and totally unnecessary – unless of course, you have a bigger agenda you are working toward. And if that agenda includes silencing ALL opposition to the homosexual narrative and shutting down ALL faith-based and other groups from offering much-needed help to those who are pleading for it, then bills like this are just perfect.