Which society is the following report depicting?

… human rights commission intends to use the full range of its new powers to investigate church groups and other organisations engaged in gay conversion practices, including seizing documents and pursuing them in court if they do not comply with orders.

The Andrews government gave the commission wide-ranging powers as part of its ban on gay conversion practices earlier this month, and Ms Hilton said the commission would not be shy about using them …

Under the reforms, anyone can make a report to the commission about change and suppression practices from any member of the community.

The commission can then investigate that complaint, but it also has significant power to conduct “own-motion” investigations where there is indication of serious or systemic problems.

This could involve forcing a person or organisation to take, or refrain from taking, certain actions to comply with the Equal Opportunity Act. Such undertakings and notices will be enforceable at VCAT. The commission will also have the power to compel documents and other information, and will educate the community to prevent such practices from occurring.

If I had removed references to Victoria and Daniel Andrews, one could be forgiven for thinking the report was describing an authoritarian State like China or Iran. Surely this story in The Age  isn’t talking about a free and democratic society where the people have the right to discuss, debate, persuade, and even to help one another; sadly, this is Victoria.

A Cultural Revolution

In Victoria, the State will subject its citizens to new invasive and intrusive laws designed to strip people of basic freedoms with regard to conscience, speech and association.

Sinicization is the regime of cultural and ideological conformity currently being forced upon the Chinese people by an authoritarian regime. Soon we will have our own version here in Victoria: the State will subject its citizens to new invasive and intrusive laws designed to strip people of basic freedoms with regard to conscience, speech and association. Perhaps we should call it, Victorianization.

The instrument of this program is the “Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020,” passed by the Victorian Parliament last month. This act, as discussed previously on this website, seeks to prevent any person or institution making any attempt to change (or possibly question) a person’s own feelings about their sexuality or gender. The Act provides for criminal charges and penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and fines of $200,000. There is also a civil avenue for people wishing to make complaints against fellow Victorians. Even an anonymous complaint will be a sufficient reason for VCAT to open an investigation, compel you to produce personal documents and information, and force you to attend reeducation programs that will teach you what to believe about sexuality and gender.

Even an anonymous complaint will be a sufficient reason for the The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to open an investigation and compel you to attend a reeducation program.

These are the new powers given to The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission which are the focus of The Age’s story.

Dishonesty and Misinformation

Dishonesty and misinformation have sadly controlled much of the recent debate. First of all, Government reports glaringly avoided the historical reality of how conversion therapy came from mainstream psychology, and not from religious groups. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that aversion therapies were taught at a university here in Melbourne and practised by doctors. Second, contrary to rhetoric offered by the Government and activist groups, conversion practices (e.g. aversion therapy) were always rare and unusual in religious settings.

However, instead of  limiting legislation to banning an archaic practice that everyone agrees is wrong, the Parliament has outlawed praying and even talking with another person about sexuality and gender. People are free to discuss, pray, and counsel so long as their view of sexuality and gender conforms to the current set of theories being preached by activists. One problem is that these theories are so fluid, that even activists can’t keep up with the latest moral rights and wrongs.  It is worth highlighting that gay, lesbian and feminist representatives have all expressed concerns that these new laws will prevent people from seeking the care and support that they have every right to find.

What would Jesus do? How were early Christians encouraged to respond to questions about sexuality? Certainly with grace and kindness, to love and serve others, and to affirm the pattern given by God in Scripture. Indeed, all these factors belong together.

Clear Principles

For example, on one occasion Jesus was asked a question about marriage and divorce. He responded to the questioner by affirming that the basis for marriage is the way humans are created:

Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. (Matt 19:1-9)

The Apostle Paul, with equal clarity, called out the sexual practices of the Corinthians and called for change:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God … Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies”. (1 Cor 6:10-11; 18-19)

Jesus Christ was the most complete human being to ever live and he never had sex. To encourage a person to follow Jesus’ example is now apparently illegal.

One of the assumptions attached to today’s sexual ethics—and enshrined in this legislation—is the idea that orientations ought to be expressed sexually. If you feel a certain way, that feeling ought to be affirmed and lived. For Christians, the Bible points the way to a more fulfilling identity. The Bible describes Jesus Christ as the most complete human being to ever live and he never had sex with anyone. To encourage a person to follow Jesus’ example is now anathema and yes, apparently illegal, in Victoria.

Should people be free to talk about sexuality and gender, even encouraging a Christian view, without fear of the State hauling them before a tribunal?

Should churches have the freedom to encourage their members to live in accord with Christian beliefs on marriage, sex, and gender?

In case readers assume that these laws are only targeting clergy, anyone can be investigated, and anyone charged.

The Government told The Age that they are willing to discuss things with the faith community. Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton holds out an olive branch (poison ivy, to be accurate),

We’ll be working with survivor groups but will also be working with faith leaders because it’s an opportunity to create an understanding…

Kristen Hilton told The Age her office also wanted to educate faith leaders and the broader community about the harm caused to LGBTI people by suggesting there is something wrong with homosexuality.

The State is not God, the Premier is not Archbishop, and VCAT is not the board of Elders.

The State, with all its spiritual insight and theological astuteness, is going to educate Churches about what we can and cannot say and pray? I don’t think so. Can we not coexist as good neighbours despite holding onto a different worldview? The State is not God, the Premier is not Archbishop, and VCAT is not the board of Elders. Let the reader understand, we are not talking about the law prohibiting invasive and harmful treatments that doctors were once trained to deliver; we are talking about banning consensual conversations and praying with people who are wanting to engage.

Activists have lobbied for Victorian society to be radically rewired and the Government has done their bidding. The average Victorian ought to be familiar with this imposition and overreach. Religious Victorians are now faced with a decision, will we obey Caesar or will  we follow God? This is not a choice that should ever be forced on people’s but it is the position in which many Victorians now find themselves.

First published at murraycampbell.net

Editor’s note: An earlier draft wrongly stated that the new powers described in this post were given to VCAT rather than  The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.