QUEENSLAND RELIGIOUS GROUPS FIGHT MOVE TO MAKE GAY CONVERSION THERAPY A CRIME

Religious schools and organisations are fighting a move by the Queensland government to make LGBT related conversion therapy a crime in the state.  In late November, the Queensland government introduced legislation that would, among other amendments to health legislation, make the practice of conversion therapy to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity punishable by up to 18 months in jail.  The examples provided in the legislation include aversion therapy, psychoanalysis or hypnotherapy with the aim of changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality, but it also extends to counselling and group activities.

The legislation, which followed a 2018 Human Rights Law Centre review into conversion therapy practices in Australia, has the strong support of medical bodies, such as the Australian Psychological Society, and human rights organisations.  Christian organisations and schools, however, have expressed concerns that the legislation might prevent them from being able to counsel people on sexuality and gender based on their interpretation of Christianity.  Christian Schools Australia, along with three other Christian schools organisations that represent 80 schools in Queensland, told a parliamentary committee the legislation was “dangerously imprecise” and places Christian schools at risk.

The associations argued “genuine” questioning of sexuality and gender identity must be allowed.  “Students must be able to seek advice from school staff about their sexuality or gender identity and school staff must be able to respond to those questions,” they said.  “The Queensland government must guarantee that Christian schools can continue to teach a traditional Biblical sexual ethic and a biologically and medically accurate view of sexuality.”  Associated Christian Schools, which represents 38 schools in Queensland, said that the legislation as drafted could prevent religious counsellors from “communicating the institution’s religious doctrines and beliefs on sexuality and/or gender identity.”

The association also argued that adults giving informed consent should be able to freely participate in counselling regarding their sexuality and gender.  Renew Ministries, which says it is part of the ex-gay conversion therapy group Exodus, told the committee it “does not support or practice shock treatment, aversion therapy, and people who come to Renew do so voluntarily.  “The inference is that Christians may in the future be dictated to as to what they may believe, say, or choose to follow,” the submission states.  “This is looking to be an attack on Christians who are same-sex attracted but want to live according to their own personal definitions of their sexuality.”

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) also expressed concern, stating there was a lack of evidence needed for the new offences, and said it could have unintended consequences.  “QLS is concerned that the prospect of criminal prosecution may fetter otherwise legitimate aspects of psychological and psychiatric treatment.  “Some providers may be concerned that reasonable clinical interventions might be captured within the definition of conversion therapy.”  The legislation does not appear to be in conflict with the federal government’s proposed religious discrimination legislation.  Attorney-general Christian Porter has said the federal legislation would not override state-based criminal law.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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