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.
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. See here for details on this.
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.