Religious Discrimination Bill could encourage LGBTIQ+ ‘conversion therapy’

The federal government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill will allow anti-LGBTIQ+ church groups to promote “conversion therapy.”

A special provision in the draft legislation that protects “statements of belief” (section 41.1.c) would allow the Attorney General to override future state laws prohibiting the promotion of the harmful and discredited practices.

Sections 15 and 16 of the Bill could also make it harder to deregister a counsellor who engages in conversion practices based on their religious beliefs.

Spokesperson for just.equal, Brian Greig (pictured), said while states could still legislate to ban conversion practices the draft federal bill would permit anti-LGBTIQ+ religious organisations to advocate for the practices.

“Conversion practices were invented by U.S. churches that believe being LGBTIQ+ people are broken”, Mr Greig said.

“They have been denounced by psychological associations worldwide as misleading, harmful and damaging.”

“Allowing religious organisations to continue to claim that LGBTIQ+ people are ‘broken’ and can be ‘fixed’ is not freedom, it is cruelty, especially when inflicted on children,” Greig said.

“Freedom of religion must not be twisted to permit freedom to torture and torment.”

Nathan Despott, a spokesperson for the conversion practices survivor group, Brave Network, added that the Bill would give heart to conversion practice supporters and could re-legitimise the movement.

“This is because ‘conversion ideology’, the pseudoscience behind conversion practices, is frequently being claimed by religious groups as theologically central to their faith. We dispute this claim,” Despott said.

“Many people have been traumatised by the experience of conversion practices and it has been directly linked to depression, anxiety and suicide by LGBTIQ+ people who have suffered under its false premise and delusional claims.”

“Opening up a wider space for conversion practices is deeply irresponsible.”

Section 41(1)(c) of the draft Bill gives express permission for the federal Attorney General to override state laws that limit “statements of belief” which could include statements in favour of conversion practices.

Section 15 and 16 prevent professional bodies from de-registering members on the basis of religious belief, which could also include belief in conversion practices.

Members of Labor, The Greens and Jacqui Lambie have all raised concerns about the Bill, with Senator Lambie being particularly concerned about overriding Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws.

OIP Staff