Uniting Church’s LGBTIQ Group Calls On Churches To Denounce Conversion Therapy


Uniting Network conversion therapy

Uniting Network Australia, the LGBTIQ group within the Uniting Church of Australia, has denounced harmful “gay conversion” therapy and called on other religious organisations to do the same.

“Gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapy is the discredited practice of trying to change sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual means, and it’s been widely condemned by numerous bodies around the world.

A report released this week La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre revealed the shocking extent of the harm caused by conversion therapy, including disturbing testimonies from those who went through the practices past and present.

Responding to the report, the Uniting Network said, “We call on all religious organisations in Australia to explicitly state their rejection of LGBT conversion therapy, and any statements along the lines that LGBTQ people are disordered, broken or otherwise not whole individuals.

“It is our view that involvements in activities such as ‘conversion therapy’ and these types of statements fail to uphold the fundamental premise and hope provided by Jesus Christ, who calls all of us to ‘Love God and to Love one another,’ with no exceptions.”

The network said it was “not surprised by the horrendous impact” of the practices on LGBTIQ people documented in the report and endorsed its recommendations calling for action.

Legislation should be introduced “prohibiting both professionals and other people from processes that aim to change, suppress, cure, heal or repair a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” the group said.

Clauses should be introduced to federal government chaplaincy funding agreements prohibiting any attempt to change a school student’s sexual orientation or gender identity either directly or by referral, the group said.

Additionally, the group recommended training programs for those chaplains outlining the potential harm to children through such therapies and failure to validate their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Counsellors should also be made a protected title under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, requiring them to be registered with an appropriate oversight body.

“A code of practice should state that providing LGBT conversion therapy and not supporting a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a breach of professional standards,” the Network said.

“Further, and outside of the report, we call on all religious organisations to denounce the ‘call to celibacy’ for LGBT people.

“[It is] another form of abuse being instituted by some religious organisations as they have realised the unacceptability of conversion therapy.”

Ten organisations still advertising conversion therapy

The report documents the history of conversion therapy in Australia, from its emergence in conservative Christian communities in the 1970s through to today, and claims the practices continue to be promoted “in the messages and teachings of many churches, mosques and synagogues, through print and digital media and through some Christian radio programs.”

It states there are currently at least ten organisations still publicly advertising the provision of ex-gay and ex-transgender therapies in Australia and New Zealand.

Two films this year, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased, tell the stories of adolescents undergoing conversion therapy in the US.

The spotlight on “gay conversion” therapy comes at the same time as a nationwide debate about LGBT discrimination in religious schools following the leaking of the Ruddock religious freedom review.

If this story has brought up issues for you, support is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

(Photo courtesy of Uniting Network Australia)