State of Victoria: No prayers of repentance because everyone is ‘perfect the way they are’

5, September 2023

Last week The Christian Institute warned the UK Government that it risks copying Victoria’s conversion therapy debacle. Updated guidance from the Australian State of Victoria has claimed that prayers that ‘talk about a person’s need to repent’ are likely to be illegal under its broad conversion therapy ban. Calling an LGBT person to repent for sins is ‘likely to cause harm’, according to the guidance’s authors, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Victoria has one of the most extreme conversion therapy laws in the world. But it is described as the ‘gold standard’ by many activists in the UK.

The Commission insists that “private prayer with your God can continue” under the law. However, shockingly, the guidance designed to help “people of faith” interpret Victoria’s ‘conversion therapy’ law, goes on to produce a table setting out which kinds of prayers are acceptable.

According to the new state-mandated theology, compliant prayers should ‘reassure’ the person they are “perfect the way they are”.

State-approved prayers require Christians to assure people that how they are living is perfectly fine because “everyone has a different path”. They should affirm that anyone can belong in the faith “as they are”, regardless of their lifestyle.

On the other hand, prayers which speak of a person’s “need to repent”, and ask for God’s help to “not act on their attractions”, are banned. This includes prayers which ask for grace for someone to live a celibate life outside of marriage.

The guidance further piles pressure on Christians already experiencing the chilling effect. In February last year, we posted an interview with Melbourne-based pastor Murray Campbell, who attended an official ‘information session’ on the new law.

He tells how he was informed that “no person’s sexuality or gender identity is broken or sinful” and that a lawyer representing the Government told the group that ministers are “to affirm people’s sexual orientation and preferences”.

But when Christians want to know how to pray they turn to Jesus, not the state. In answer to the disciples’ request that Jesus would teach them how to pray, Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer – a model recited by billions of Christians for the last 2,000 years.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians say the familiar words “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” – a sure acknowledgement that, whatever the State of Victoria may say, we are not ‘perfect as we are’.

In fact, thanking God that we are ‘perfect as we are’ sounds rather like the kind of prayer Jesus condemns: the prayer of the proud Pharisee who boasted of his goodness before others (Luke 18:10-14). Such prayers undermine the very essence of prayer, because if we are perfect why do we need to call out and depend on God?

The Lord’s Prayer goes on: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. The guidance states that to “ask for a person to not act on their attractions” likely counts as conversion therapy. Does this mean the Lord’s Prayer is illegal if said with a gay friend?

The Commission has insisted that Christians can express the Bible’s teaching generally on sexual ethics. But if a person struggling with same-sex desire came to believe the Bible’s teaching that sex outside man-woman marriage is sinful, the law would prevent them asking for prayer.

Think of a married man with children who finds himself struggling with same-sex attraction. Should such a man really be prevented from asking for prayer to keep his family together?

In all of this, there is a certain irony. Victoria claims to be a progressive state. Its Diversity and Inclusion Framework states that to “create inclusion and belonging, we all must actively live our values”. Yet this is precisely what the guidance forbids Christians from doing.

Instead, the law enshrines its own quasi-theological values, promoted by radical activists. This preferential treatment of progressive ideology is contrary to religious freedom and fundamentally illiberal.

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