In short, if someone asks a pastor, a priest, or a Christian friend to pray for him that his sexual desires or gender dysphoria might be changed, that pastor, priest, or friend runs the risk of committing a criminal offense. Presumably this also applies to parents praying for their children—or perhaps even parents teaching their children that untrammeled expressions of sexual desire (at least within the canons of contemporary bourgeois taste) are inappropriate.
Conversion therapy—the use of psychological or spiritual interventions to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity—has proved controversial in the U.S. It is banned in the case of minors in some twenty American states. The District of Columbia bans such therapies completely, regardless of age. Such laws could be viewed as government support for the LGBTQ+ cause, but they do not need to be seen entirely cynically. They could well reflect a desire to protect the vulnerable from paying for treatments that legislators consider to be bogus.
The state of Victoria in Australia, however, just passed a bill that will considerably intensify the conflict between religious freedom, individual choice, and identity politics. And it might well become a model for laws elsewhere in the democratic world.
The legislation that just passed is the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020. Its basic intention is “to ensure that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feel welcome and valued in Victoria and are able to live authentically and with pride.” It is hard to argue with that, both because the aim seems laudable enough (who wants to live in a place where she does not feel valued?) and because it embodies the nebulous jello-speak of our current therapeutic age. Feeling valued and living authentically are useful, empty phrases that sound wonderfully reassuring but can be given whatever content the month dictates. I assume, or at least hope, that those whose “sexual orientation” leads them to abuse underage minors are unlikely to feel welcome and valued in Victoria despite this new legislation.
The law defines a change or suppression practice as follows:
a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and for the purpose of changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Note that the consent of the person is immaterial to the legal point: The change or suppression practice is illegal regardless of the attitude of the person involved.
But the really important part of the bill from a religious perspective is its list of “change or suppression practices.” This includes: “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.”