Australian ‘conversion therapy’ ban has dangerous flaws say religious leaders

Australian ‘conversion therapy’ ban has dangerous flaws say religious leaders Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia, is pictured during an interview in Rome Photo: CNS

A proposed ban on “conversion therapy” for sexual orientation or gender identity in Australia’s Victoria state is far too broad and could target normal prayer and conversations between children and parents, Catholic bishops and Muslim leaders warned this week.

“Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t just ban outdated and insidious practices of coercion and harm, which we firmly reject,” said the February 1 letter. “The bill also criminalises conversation between children and parents, interferes with sound professional advice, and silences ministers of religion from providing personal attention for individuals freely seeking pastoral care for complex personal situations.”

The letter

The letter to Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews was signed by Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, the other Catholic bishops of the dioceses and eparchies of Victoria state, and Mohamed Mohideen, president of the Islamic Council of Victoria. It appeared in several newspaper advertisements.

“At present the bill appears to target people of faith in an unprecedented way, puts limits on ordinary conversations in families, and legislates for what prayer is legal and what prayer is not,” the joint Catholic-Muslim letter continued.

“Various amendments can be made to rescue the bill from taking Victoria into strange new territory, in which prayerful advice and guidance, freely sought by one adult from another, is criminalised.”

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill bars any therapy that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, the Australian Associated Press reports. The proposal includes in its definition of conversion therapy “carrying out a religious practice including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will investigate alleged conversion practices. The bill is expected to become law after passage in the upper house of the state parliament, the Labour Party-controlled Victorian Legislative Council.


Those who put others through conversion practices would face criminal penalties for injury, up to 10 years in jail. Someone who sends a person out of state to avoid the laws would face criminal sanctions and a fine of up to $7,700.

The Catholic-Muslim letter said the bill uses vague definitions, “ill-conceived concepts of faith and conversation,” and “scientifically and medically flawed approaches”.

“It places arbitrary limitations on parents, families and people of faith,” the statement continued. “People change for all kinds of reasons, and should feel free to do so, whether it be on matters of personal identity, gender, sexuality, family association, or religion. Contrary to its intent, this bill obstructs people’s freedom by limiting, restricting and removing options for their good, thereby creating undesirable possibilities of harm.”