Australian State of Victoria OUTLAWS “Prayer-Based Practices” to “Change or Suppress” Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

A state in Australia recently passed a law that bans “change or suppression practices,” that is, conversion therapy. Although the law may sound innocuous—many US states have banned conversion therapy for minors—there’s more to it than meets the eye.

The newly enacted law, the state of Victoria’s Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, defines a change or suppression practice as a “practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and for the purpose of changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The law then provides a list of practices that fall under this definition. Any psychiatric or psychotherapeutic consultation or treatment that seeks to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is proscribed, but so is “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.”

This means, as theology professor Carl R. Trueman writes, that “if someone asks a pastor, a priest, or a Christian friend to pray for them that their sexual desires or gender dysphoria might be changed, that pastor, priest, or friend runs the risk of committing a criminal offense.”

A practice or conduct does not qualify as a change or suppression practice if it is “supportive of or affirms a person’s identity or sexual orientation,” which includes but is not limited to: helping someone who is undergoing or considering undergoing a gender transition, helping someone “express their gender identity,” and facilitating someone’s “coping skills, social support or identity exploration and development.”

The need to affirm people in their self-professed sexual orientation or gender identity is therefore no longer just a social reality. It’s increasingly becoming a legal reality, and one that seriously treads upon Christian religious freedom.