The newly elected leader of New South Wales (NSW) has pledged not to pass a broad ‘conversion therapy’ ban, which would threaten the ordinary work of churches.
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns has assured faith leaders that although he intends to ban ‘conversion therapy’, he would not copy neighbour Victoria’s law, which he called “too broad”.
Victoria’s law, which came into force last year, criminalises prayer deemed not to affirm a person’s sexuality or gender identity.
Minns said: “Taking offence at the teachings of a religious leader will not be banned, expressing a religious belief through a sermon will not be banned, and an individual, with their own consent, seeking guidance through prayer will not be banned either.”
Prior to the election, NSW’s outgoing Premier Dominic Perrottet emphasised his desire to outlaw practices such as electroshock therapy, but said “we will not ban prayer; we will not ban preaching. That is fundamental to freedom of religion in this State and in this country”.
His assurance was made in response to a question from Monica Doumit of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, who pressed for clarity that a ban “isn’t going to touch what people can pray, who they can ask to pray for them, and what can be preached”.
In Victoria, the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission stated that it would be illegal for church leaders to encourage celibacy or warn a person they would be ‘excommunicated’ if they continued a same-sex relationship.
Last year, The Christian Institute spoke to Australian pastor Murray Campbell of Mentone Baptist Church in Melbourne, Victoria, who explained the ban’s impact on gospel freedom.
He said: “If someone comes to me for advice and says, for example, ‘I’m same-sex attracted, I love Jesus, I want to follow Jesus, I want to be godly with my life, can you walk alongside me and help me and disciple me’, and if I do so, I will be breaking the law.
“And even in a Bible-study setting, so you’re opening the Bible with say eight other people and maybe you’re working through Romans chapter one, and someone puts up their hand and says ‘actually, I now identify as gay’. If we were to continue with the Bible study on Romans chapter one, we will be breaking the law because an individual has highlighted the fact that they identify as gay.”
Murray said that these scenarios could result in either civil complaints or criminal charges, with prison sentences ranging between five and ten years.
Earlier this year, the Westminster Government announced its proposals for banning so-called conversion therapy, with a draft Bill expected later this year.
Activists have been demanding a ban that criminalises repentance, preaching, ‘gentle, non-coercive prayer’, pastoral advice and parenting that fails to endorse liberal theology.
The Institute’s Ciarán Kelly responded: “Westminster must not introduce a totalitarian ban that criminalises everyday church activity. It must be crystal clear that it will respect religious freedom and not cave in to demands to ban prayer, preaching, pastoral care and Christian parenting.”