Will parents face jail time? Will churches face crippling fines?

The Andrews Government has unveiled its Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill.

The bill purports to ban so-called “gay conversion therapy”, both in secular and faith-based settings.

But there is no evidence of any problem that needs fixing.

So-called “conversion therapy” is a name that conjures up images of violence and harm – but, in reality, is nothing more than a convenient label by which to attack freedom of religion and belief.

If passed, this shocking legislation would ban any “practice or conduct” towards a person even if undertaken with the person’s consent aimed at “changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person”.

BUT, people would still be permitted to participate in any practice that “supportive of or affirms a person's gender identity or sexual orientation”. This includes conduct aimed at supporting gender transitions and expression of “gender identity”.

Similar legislation elsewhere has been described as a “stay gay bill” – but in opening the Pandora’s box of “gender identity”, this bill goes much further.

Parents should be alarmed. Any attempt to even counsel or pray with their own children over matters of their sexuality or gender could see them charged with an offence.

And churches and faith organisations are specifically targeted.

Aside from secular services such as psychiatric therapy, the bill prohibits “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.”

The penalties for breaching the legislation are serious.

For more serious offences, individuals face up to 10 years’ jail, a fine of up to $198,264, or both. For organisations, the fine rises to a maximum of $991,320.

And it gets even worse. People outside Victoria can commit an offence if they counsel or pray for a Victorian over any matter of sexuality or gender.

Ultimately, the bill is less about preventing the “suppression” of sexuality and gender identity than it is about suppressing churches.

It will potentially make criminals of parents if they discuss, counsel or even pray with their own children on matters of sexuality or gender. This is abhorrent.

It also begs the question: if the Government feels it can intrude so deeply into the practice of faith – and into the very family home – what will it feel game to do next?

We MUST take urgent action.

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