Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The NSW government is moving to introduce laws to stop attempts to change someone’s sexaulity or gender — these could prohibit and criminalise faithful Christian speech and behaviour.
Contact your local MP and tell them about your concerns about the proposed legislation. The website http://contactyourmp.org.au has tools and guides to help you contact your MP with how-to guides, talking points, and hand-outs to give your MP.
The NSW government will probably move quite quickly to introduce anti-conversion legislation much like the Victorian version (or even worse in some respects). The Government has released a discussion paper for their legislation. Alex Greenwich, the independent MP for Sydney, has introduced his ‘conversion therapy’ bill as well. The danger is that this legislation will criminalise and censor good-faith Christian speech and behaviour.
Both proposals are modelled on the Victorian legislation that severely restricts religious freedoms to teach, pray and counsel on matters of gender and sexuality. This is despite explicit commitments from Labor before the election that they would not use Victoria’s or Greenwich’s legislation in NSW and would protect prayer, religious teaching, and consensual requests for support.
If the current consultation document is enacted as law, it would prohibit normal Christian pastoral care in relation to sexuality and gender. Parents, pastoral workers and medical professionals would not be able to present the Biblical, traditional Christian view of gender and sexuality to people questioning their own gender and sexuality. The result is likely to be that vulnerable people with genuine questions and struggles will be isolated from the help they need.
The proposed legislation would exempt medical treatment that enabled someone to change their physical features to align with their gender identity (so called “affirming care”). At the same time it may prohibit more cautious responses to gender dysphoria since they may be considered to ‘surpress’ gender identity. This is also likely to harm people. There is growing concern of the damage done to young people by promoting gender transition.
This kind of legislation seeks to outlaw abusive practices. Christians have no desire to deceive, coerce, or abuse anyone. We recognise that there have been some such practices, even in Christian circles, in the past, though these were not common. We want to commit to caring for vulnerable people well.
The danger is that a broad definition will mean that the legislation overreaches. Currently, the consultation paper proposes to prohibit “any practices (or a collection of practices) directed to a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and with the purpose of changing or suppressing that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”. This opens the possibility that any attempt to help someone regulate their sexual activity could be prohibited. The paper recognises that problem by suggesting a series of exemptions. It would, however, be far better to have a narrower definition targeted at harmful practices.
The Victorian legislation has provided a basis for the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to give explicit warnings about church activities, as illustrated in this recent video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MTIvNbMdu4&t=20s
We need to tell the government that Christians (and others) are seriously concerned about the same thing happening in NSW.
The government has consulted with church leaders, faith leaders and other groups and those groups have till the end of this week to make written submissions. The Presbyterian Church will sign on to a major faith leaders’ submission and make a complementary submission. We have been working together closely to express our concerns to the government and to call on Chris Minns and the Government to honour their promises. We are also talking to the Opposition and cross-bench MPs to reject any bill that undermines religious freedom.
It is important that Christians contact their local MP and tell them:
- Christians have no desire to abuse or coerce anyone;
- We agree that the law should protect vulnerable people from being harmed;
- We are concerned that the bill in its current form will do more harm than good;
- The harm we are concerned about is the censorship of good-faith religious speech and behaviour;
- Censorship of good-faith religious speech and behaviour contradicts the principles of freedom of speech and behaviour which characterise a free and democratic nation.
Convenor, GS&C Committee, Presbyterian Church of NSW