The Australian Christian Lobby’s director has said that a ban on so-called “gay conversion” therapy is “totalitarian” and parents should be able to “counsel” children out of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“[‘LGBTI conversion therapy’] is an Orwellian phrase. It evokes images of electric shock treatments, bizarre rituals, and abuse,” managing director Martyn Iles (pictured) wrote in an blog post titled They Want Your Children posted to the ACL’s website.
Iles was writing in response to a draft policy from the federal Labor party, to be debated at their upcoming national conference, that states the party “opposes the practice of so-called conversion and reparative therapies on LGBTIQ+ people and seek[s] to criminalise these practices.”
Iles wrote, “The policy statement begins by saying that mere claims about the possibility of a changed gender identity or sexual orientation are false, harmful, and should not continue to be made.
“The truth is that under this ideology, someone’s subjective feelings about their sexuality or gender cannot be questioned, contradicted, counselled, or changed – even if the person were to desire help to change.”
The ACL boss wrote that in the future a young boy who plays with a Barbie doll would be encouraged by school staff to consider if he is transgender, and if a teenage girl thought her “14-year-old best buddy was actually her lesbian girlfriend” parents couldn’t seek counselling for her.
Iles went on to say that such a policy would lead to children being removed from Christian families.
“I hate to say it, but if these proposed laws see the light of day, children will be removed from Christian parents,” Iles said.
“Worse – Christians won’t be fit to parent unless they submit to the State’s teaching on sexuality and gender.
“Christian parents will become criminals and psychological and domestic abusers.”
Iles said the Australian Christian Lobby said it will soon be launching a campaign against policies seeking to ban gay conversion therapy.
“Gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapies have been widely condemned as unethical and dangerous by numerous bodies around the world including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society, and peak psychology bodies in the US and the UK.
But Fairfax Media reported in April that while the practice was less common it had not disappeared and was underground in Australia “hidden in evangelical churches and ministries, taking the form of exorcisms, prayer groups or counselling disguised as pastoral care.”
Labor’s shadow health minister Catherine King told BuzzFeed News that the dangerous “conversion therapy” had been thoroughly discredited and “homosexuality is not some kind of disorder that requires a cure.”
“The Australian Christian Lobby’s claim that Labor’s stance is somehow ‘totalitarian’ is patent nonsense,” she said.
“Their scaremongering on this issue has no more credibility than their failed campaign against same-sex marriage.”
Canberra man Chris endured the dangerous therapy as a teenager from a now-defunct provider and in March started a petition calling on federal health minister Greg Hunt to enact a nationwide ban on the practice that now has close to 41,000 signatures.
“Trying to ‘pray the gay away’ nearly killed me. I’m not the only one,” he said.
“So-called conversion therapy can cause depression, self-loathing and even suicide. I prayed to God asking him to either heal me, or kill me. I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”
A spokesperson for Mr Hunt said in April that a ban on the practice was the responsibility of each state, but he told the ABC in a combative interview at the time that while he personally opposed such therapies, people should be free to debate them.
Greens senator Janet Rice, who shared Chris’ story in parliament last week, said LGBTIQ young people already suffer worse mental health than heterosexual young people and do not need to be “converted”.
“LGBTIQ young people should receive support and understanding, rather than being funnelled into vicious programs that use shame and fear as ‘conversion’ tactics in the name of religion,” she said.
If this story has brought up issues for you, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.