Aussies making it a crime to pray

A proposed law before Victoria’s state parliament seeks to criminalise any practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including prayer.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli said any coercive practice “is an affront to human dignity.”

He said he firmly rejects such harmful acts but added that “nobody is protected when governments seek to determine what prayers are OK to say, or what faith reasonably proposes.”

“Who I pray to, how I pray, what I pray for, and most particularly, who I pray with is not of concern to any government,” Comensoli says.

“Most mainstream Christian churches reject coercive practices or activities that do harm to LGBT people, and we’re ready to work with government to find ways of ensuring that people are protected.

“But the bill goes well and truly beyond that.”

Banning and criminalising “conversion therapy” is the most egregious attack on religious freedom the country has ever seen, Australian faith leaders and legal experts say.

Their assessment is the bill’s definitions are so broad they could crush any Christian expression of human sexuality.

As it’s drafted, homilists, Scripture teachers and parents will face penalties of over US$148,600 or individuals could spend up to 10 years in jail if they fall foul of the new law.

It’s not about praying for people who have neither asked for nor wanted conversion therapy.

Any religious practice, including praying for a person at their request in relation to issues concerning their sexual orientation or gender, is included in the draft bill as a criminal offence.

Activities relating to gender transitioning from a person’s biological sex to a new gender identity are exempt.

The new law would also empower Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to respond to reports of change or suppression practices from any person, not only those directly involved. The Commission would be empowered to launch its own investigations, too.

Any coercive practice “is an affront to human dignity,” says Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne (pictured) says.

Not only does he firmly reject such harmful acts, he says “nobody is protected when governments seek to determine what prayers are OK to say, or what faith reasonably proposes.”

John Steenhoff, managing director of the Human Rights Law Alliance also spoke out strongly against the proposal.

The bill is “a direct attack on religion beliefs, and in particular Christianity, and will target those who hold to traditional convictions on sexual orientation and gender identity issues,” he says.

“It is far too broad and will legislate extreme ideology, particularly around gender ideology,” he says.

In his opinion, the bill represents “thinly veiled ideological compulsion.”

Professor of Law Michael Quinlan, also has strong views about the proposal.

Quinlan is the dean of the School of Law, Sydney, at the University of Notre Dame.

Victoria is taking a “very draconian and authoritarian approach which no government should take,” he says.

“The proposed Victorian legislation is not only an affront to freedom of religion, it is also an affront to freedom of choice.

“I don’t think it should ever be a crime to pray.”


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , ,