Key legislation on hold … at present

NSW Parliament is yet to consider two pieces of legislation that have been a major concern for Christians in the state.

The Government has promised to introduce “Anti-Conversion” legislation last year. This legislation is presented as outlawing cruel and abusive practices. If that is all that it did, Christians would have no problem. However, there is a real risk that it will censor and even criminalise good-faith Christian speech and behaviour.

The initial discussion paper released by the Government suggested the NSW bill would be much like the Victorian legislation (or even worse in some respects). If the Government went down this path, normal Christian pastoral care and support with sexuality and gender would be open to formal complaints. Parents and pastoral workers would be prohibited from presenting the Biblical, traditional Christian view to people who are questioning their gender and sexuality. Medical practitioners would be required to exercise the “affirming” approach for patients who wish to change genders and prohibited from offering other, better therapy.

Last year, many faith groups and others raised their concerns about this legislation with the Government. Christians contacted their MPs, including many who used the website. Politicians from all sides have said the feedback alerted them to community concerns and problems with the proposed legislation.

The result so far is the Government has continued to review the legislation and has not released a draft version.

Proponents of the Bill are also very active, so Christians must continue to remind our elected members that we are concerned about this issue. Every email, letter and conversation makes a difference. If and when a draft Bill is released, Christians will need to assess it carefully.

Greenwich Equality Bill

Meanwhile, Alex Greenwich, the Independent Member for North Sydney, released his  “Equality Bill”. This lengthy piece of proposed legislation would remove protections for faith-based schools and other institutions to teach Christian doctrine on sex, gender and marriage, and to hire employees who adhere to their beliefs and values; legalise commercial surrogacy; give sex work protection under anti-discrimination laws; lower the age of consent for sex-change procedures to 16 years and even allow children under 16 to access these procedures in certain cases.

As with the anti-conversion legislation, concerns raised by faith leaders and individual citizens have alerted the Government and Opposition to the many worrying implications of this legislation. The debate on the Bill was slated for February but has been delayed at least until 14 March. A spokesperson for Attorney-General Michael Daley said the Government is working  “with a range of stakeholders to address the issues involved in this complex policy area.”

Mike Southon from Freedom for Faith said, “We are encouraged that the government is not rushing this bill through and are taking the time to consider the implications and consult broadly, including with faith communities. Part of the reason they are listening to us is that we have taken the time to talk to them. Thousands of people have written to their MP, and they are starting to listen.”

What can you do?

Both these pieces of concerning legislation are on hold but could be dealt with by the Parliament in the next few weeks or months.

It is still appropriate to contact your local MP to raise your concerns about the bills. The website  will help with that.

It is important to stay alert for movement on either bill and be ready to contact your MP again, especially if the Anti-conversion Bill remains problematic.

Please pray for Chris Minns, the Premier and for members of Parliament that they will have wisdom and respond well to concerns expressed by Christians and other people of faith. Pray the Christian MPs will have courage to express their own concerns and will be able to do that well. Pray for religious leaders and other advocates who are working to communicate concerns about the legislation. Ask the Lord to provide our state with good laws which truly protect the weak and vulnerable.

John McClean

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