The Christian Institute: Lord’s Prayer ‘illegal’ in Australian conversion therapy ban guidance

31, August 2023

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been warned that a new law banning ‘conversion therapy’ could lead to Christians being told how to pray and practise their faith.

The Christian Institute (which is spearheading the Let Us Pray campaign) points to the ‘conversion therapy’ ban in Victoria, Australia (described as the “gold standard” by those calling for a ban in the UK).

In Victoria, updated official guidance claims that prayers that “talk about a person’s … need to repent” or “ask for a person not to act on their attractions” can now be investigated as illegal actions.

The result is that even the Lord’s Prayer would fall foul of the guidance, if used with an LGBT person.

The CI explains: “When the Lord’s Prayer asks God to ‘forgive us our sins’, it defies the guidance that you cannot pray about someone’s need to repent. ‘Lead us not into temptation’ defies the guidance that you cannot pray for a person to not act on their attractions.”

Simon Calvert, a Deputy Director at The Christian Institute and official supporter of the Let Us Pray campaign, said:

A whole plethora of Christian creeds and teachings would be found wanting when compared to the guidance. Because right at the heart of the Christian Gospel is a message that all people are sinners who need to repent and be forgiven, and that we all need to seek God’s help in avoiding all sorts of temptation.

“If what the official guidance says was upheld in the law courts, whole swathes of scripture could not be read with LGBT people and every church would have to rethink their hymnbooks and prayers.”

The guidance in Victoria goes further still. It says that, under the conversion therapy ban, LGBT people are to be “reassured” that “everyone has a different path” and that they are “perfect as they are”. It claims religious leaders are carrying out an illegal act if they tell people “that their gender identity is not real”.

When the ban in Victoria first came into force a year ago, the official guidance explained that “not affirming someone’s gender identity” was now illegal. Parents refusing to support their children receiving experimental puberty blocking medication was also deemed unlawful.

Let Us Pray wrote at the time:

“The guidance says this ‘gold standard’ legislation also criminalises encouraging celibacy or abstinence for those who are same-sex attracted. And it is apparently illegal to tell a church member they will be ‘excommunicated if they continue their same-sex relationship’.

“It offers as an example of a ‘real story’ of conversion therapy practices: ‘I was told that my homosexuality was a sin’.”

New South Wales

The Christian Institute also highlights concerns raised in the Australian state of New South Wales. Christians and other groups there have expressed fears that their Government could renege on pre-election commitments not to copy Victoria’s conversion therapy ban.

A secretive consultation by one Government department there aims to protect religious freedom, but does not go nearly far enough. Instead the proposals appear to be modelled on Victoria’s dangerously illiberal laws.

At the same time, the Government of New South Wales had proposed new regulations against religious discrimination, which some claimed were in conflict with the conversion therapy proposals.

(A separate, more extreme, Bill has been proposed in New South Wales by one independent politician, Alex Greenwich. We took a look at it in a previous blog.)

The CI wrote to Rishi Sunak:

“Under the NSW proposals, religious believers could still face arrest, interrogation or prosecution over their prayers and conversations with LGBT people. The police and the courts would decide which conversations and prayers are acceptable and which are forbidden.”

“Gender-critical feminists in NSW are also up in arms, warning that the proposals are ill-defined.

“Your own Government is likely to face the same problem. It is almost certainly impossible to placate the demands of pro-ban activists whilst also protecting the freedom of religious people to live out their faith, and the freedom of parents to protect their children from radical gender ideology in their own homes.”

Read The Christian Institute’s press release here.

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