Religious organisations have slammed the Queensland government’s proposed legislation to criminalise harmful “conversion therapy” in the state.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles introduced the bill in November to ban practices “attempting to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” Penalties would include fines and up to 12 months jail.
However, Christian Schools Australia have told a parliamentary committee the “unclear” laws may stop them from counselling people on sexuality and gender based on orthodox Christian teaching.
“The proposed definition of ‘conversion practices’ is dangerously imprecise for legislation involving criminal sanctions,” the submission reads.
“It risks, in effect, directly impacting Christian schools and their wellbeing and pastoral care programs.
“Students must be able to seek advice from school staff about their sexuality or gender identity… School staff must be able to respond to those questions.”
The submission states faith schools are “overt and particular about the beliefs and values that underpin curriculum, culture and practice.”
“This includes orthodox Christian teaching on personhood, identity and sexuality,” it reads.
“It would be a grave infringement of these fundamental rights if [the Bill] had the result, directly or indirectly, of impacting what is taught within a Christian of other faith-based school.”
Christian Schools Australia argues “genuine questioning and advice” of sexuality and gender identity must be permitted.
“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.”
Australian Psychological Society ‘strongly opposes’ conversion therapy
Christian organisation Renew Ministries also made a submission to the committee. They claim to guide same-sex attracted Australians to “sexual and relational wholeness” through “repentance from sin”.
Renew Ministries claims people come to them “voluntarily” and they “don’t support or practice shock treatment [or] aversion therapy”.
Instead, they counsel “people who by their own free choice are moving away from same sex attraction.”
“[This Bill] 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 submission reads.
However the Australian Psychological Society said they “strongly oppose” any form of mental health practice seeking to change sexual orientation.
They warn there is “considerable evidence documenting the negative effects of stigma associated with homosexuality, including higher rates of depression.”
Last November, the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health’s president Peter Black welcomed the proposed legislation.
“This ban sends a clear message to Queenslanders that conversion therapy is harmful in all contexts and that people should be nurtured and protected so they can live and love without fear of abuse, ridicule or exclusion,” he said.
Queensland Law Society concerned about bill
However the Queensland Law Society also expressed concerns with the drafting of the legislation.
They state there is a “lack of cogent data” on conversion practices, and the bill could have unintended consequences.
“QLS agrees that conversion therapy is a reprehensible practice,” they wrote in the submission. However they warn the current drafting is “extremely broad”.
“[It] does not provide sufficient certainty as to what conduct is targeted and what practices are excluded.
“QLS is concerned that the prospect of criminal prosecution may fetter otherwise legitimate aspects of psychological and psychiatric treatment.”
As a result, they said, the definition of conversion therapy may capture “reasonable clinical interventions.”
The parliamentary committee will deliver its report by February 21.
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