“Almost illegal even to teach traditional Christian teaching” in Victoria, Australia

25, November 2022

With only hours to go until the election of a new government in Victoria, Australia, a well-known journalist has branded the current leadership there “the most dedicated and consistent anti-Christian government in Australian history”.

Foreign Editor for The Australian, Greg Sheridan, claims that: “In legislation and abusive rhetoric, the Victorian government has acted to restrict Christians from teaching and living their beliefs.”

Are his remarks a last-minute attempt to garner votes for the opposition? Probably not, since the reporter has some harsh words for them too.

Conversion therapy ban

The most striking example of anti-Christian law-making in Victoria is its ‘conversion therapy’ ban. Those calling for a conversion therapy ban here say parliaments around the UK would do well to follow its example.

But Sheridan is clear that the law in Victoria is a mistake:

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill makes it an offence not to affirm someone’s gay identity or desire to change their gender.

Making it illegal to ‘not affirm someone’s gender identity’ is straight out of the Stonewall playbook. It is an illiberal attempt to assert one ideological view over all others. Mere disagreement with what someone claims about their identity can lead to investigation.

It has left many parents frightened for their children’s welfare. Those who know their child’s struggles over their identity have underlying causes, such as autism, depression or trauma, are left with little freedom to seek support. Not automatically agreeing with their child’s declaration exposes them to the threat of heavy-handed state intervention.

The law in Victoria also commands parents to support their children receiving experimental puberty-blocking drugs. It is devastating for parents and worse still for the children who could find themselves medicalised for life.

Christian teaching

Sheridan is clear that his disdain for the ban is not because he supports the horrific practices of the past:

“No Christian that I know of anywhere defends former barbaric practices of gay conversion therapy, but in outlawing a practice no one undertakes, the law has intentionally overshot to make it almost illegal even to teach traditional Christian teaching.”

Guidance from the Equalities watchdog in Victoria is clear that encouraging celibacy or teaching that homosexual practice is sinful, is part of ‘conversion therapy’. It wants to re-educate church ministers, seemingly forcing the acceptance of LGBT ideology on churches.

Calling people to repentance, asking people to live holy lives, and inviting them to see their identity in biblical terms, becomes fraught when those who claim to be LGBT can make the accusation that those actions constitute attempts to ‘change’ or ‘suppress’ them, contrary to the wording of the ban. Even where a person asks for help, if they later change their mind Christians are vulnerable to spurious accusations. 

Sheridan is clear about the result of laws such as these. They limit Christian freedoms, outlawing the ordinary work of churches in certain circumstances:

“It’s not quite a crime to be a traditional Christian in Victoria but it’s not quite legal in lots of contexts either.”

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