Why are ‘Conversion Practices’ in the news?

The NSW Parliament passed the “Conversion Practices Ban Act” on March 22nd. It seeks to ban ‘conversion practices’ which it defines as anything directed to changing or suppressing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

When does it take effect?

The bill is now law. However, it only comes into effect one year after the date of assent (Apr 3, 2024), and it is not retrospective, so any activity before April 3, 2025 would not fall under the new law.

What practices are banned?

This has yet to be tested but, in theory, to be dealt with under this law a practice must involve sustained pressure directed towards ‘changing or suppressing’ someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Does this mean Christians cannot comment or speak to anyone about same-sex or gender issues?

No. Religious teaching, encouraging someone to follow religious teaching and parents speaking to their children about same-sex attraction or gender issues are part of the exemptions to the laws. Prayer is also exempt.

Freedom for Faith has listed the exemptions here.

There have been reports that church leaders were happy with this bill, is that true?

No. Church leaders were part of the consultations but wanted further changes. These include clarification of the term ‘suppression’ and the extension of family exemptions beyond parental ‘discussion’. 

A set of requested changes were written as soon as the final legislation was available, and send to all NSW MPs.

Did the Anglican Church speak out about this law?

Bishop Michael Stead (who chairs the Freedom for Faith alliance) was part of the closed-door discussions organised by the government. Bishop Stead made media comments as did Archbishop Raffel. The Archbishop’s comments in the Daily Telegraph are reproduced here.

Bishop Stead also helped write the amendments and an open letter that was signed by a wide range of faith leaders and sent to all MPs. Churches and individuals were also encouraged to write to their local MP asking for the changes.

What has the Sydney Diocese said about conversion practices?

Sydney Synod in 2018 expressed its opposition to harmful 'conversion therapies' that had occurred in the past. It noted that the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney does not practise, recommend or endorse ‘gay conversion therapy’. However, the initial consultation paper for the new laws provided no direct evidence of conversion practices, such as these, continuing in NSW.