Messages are being circulated in local church groups about a protest planned by the Australian Christian Lobby against Victoria’s Bill against Conversion practices aimed at changing a person’s sexuality and gender identity. 

The email message by Jasmine Yuen, State Coordinator of the Victorian branch of the Lobby has called for a gathering of “trusted Christian friends” on January 30, 2021 at 10 am at the south-east corner of Carlton Gardens. 

We sought comments and confirmation from the Lobby in an email and will update the story when we receive a response. 

Yuen in the message asks people receiving the message to “please be thoughtful about who you forward this email to. Trusted Christian friends only.” It also asks people to delete the unsubscribe link before forwarding the email. 

The Lobby’s Campaign Against Victorian Bill

The Lobby has an ongoing campaign against the Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 that was passed by the Lower House of the Victorian Parliament in December, 2020. The law is scheduled to be taken up for voting by members of the Legislative Council in February 2021. 

 Terming the Bill as the “most dangerous and draconian bill we have ever seen in Australia,” the Lobby has asked its followers to write letters to their local Member of Parliament to vote against the law.

The Lobby also addressed a letter In January to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to retract the Bill, claiming among other things that the new law would “make some consensual prayers into criminal acts, if they pertain to a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” The organisation has positioned the Bill as the “the most serious threat to religious freedom in Australia’s history.”

“A Victorian parent who does not think irreversible hormone replacement therapy is best for their child is not a bigoted quack, yet that is what the Bill bans, on the threat of jail,” ACL managing director Martyn Iles had stated in a press statement.

Faith Leaders Call For Global Ban On Conversion Practices

Many have called the Lobby’s characterisation of the Bill as unfounded. The Uniting Church is among a number of organisations that have backed the Bill saying that they “support the intention of the legislation to protect vulnerable people from the harm of coercive practices.” 

“The debate has also triggered painful memories for faithful Christian people who have first-hand experience of the harm that some of these practices have wrought in their lives and in those of their families and loved ones. Some live with the ongoing and deep impact of this harm,” said Rev Denise Liersch of the Uniting Church. 

 In December around 370 faith leaders from different religious organisations had come together calling for a global ban on conversion practices.

Victoria’s World-Leading Law

The Victorian Bill against conversion practices has been called a “world leading legislation” by activists and survivors. 

The Bill was passed in the Lower House with support from the Labor and Greens, with the Liberals abstaining. The law makes it a criminal offence to subject others to practices aimed at changing or suppressing their sexual orientation or gender identity that cause injury or serious injury. If these practices cause serious injury the offender can face up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $200,000. In case of injury the maximum prison term is five years and/or a fine of up to $100,000. 

The Victorian law will cover all settings, including health and religious organisations. There are penalties for people who may try and take someone outside Victoria to subject them to conversion practices. Advertising such harmful practices will invite criminal prosecution and fines of up to $10,000. 

The Bill now heads to the Legislative Council which has 17 Labor MPs, 11 opposition MPs and 12 crossbenchers. 

Equality Australia has an online resource which you can use to write to your local MP to support the Bill.

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