Presbyterian Church Says Victoria’s Gay Conversion Therapy Ban Should Be Ignored
Victoria's parliament passed new legislation this month that banned gay conversion therapy from being practiced in the state.
Operators who tried to change or suppress someone's sexuality could receive a massive fine or a decade behind bars if they're caught.
While the move was celebrated by many, it appears it surprisingly hasn't gone down well in the religious community.
The Presbyterian Church has indicated it shouldn't be forced to follow the new law and declared they don't have to adhere to rules dictated by the state parliament.
The moderator general of the Presbyterian church in Australia, Reverend Peter Barnes, told the Guardian Australia they should be allowed to stick to their own rules.
"Civil authorities have a God-given right to govern, I'm not questioning that, but its authority is not open-ended," he said.
"If the government passes legislation I don't think is wise, that's one thing. You're not going to please all people all the time. If I think they should lower taxes but they raise them, I still pay my taxes.
"But there are limits, and this legislation puts itself very obviously against scripture. It was a declaration of war against scripture."
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Not only does the legislation result in serious penalties if someone is caught, but it also empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of suspected conversion practices.
Victoria also sought to one-up the same legislation introduced in Queensland last year to include religious practices of gay conversion therapy, not just medical ones.
In the wording of the law, people and operators are banned from 'carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism'.
The Presbyterian Church's choice to not abide by the rule isn't surprising considering there were many religious groups who openly opposed it when it was being debated in parliament.
Bishop Brad Billings of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne said in a statement to AAP: "[The bill] has some potentially serious unintended consequences in respect to fundamental human rights such as the freedom of speech, the protection of religious belief and freedom of conscience.
"It potentially criminalises the provision of pastoral care and may limit the ability of parents to guide their children."
When asked whether Reverend Peter Barnes was calling for people to openly flout the law, he remained vague.
"I'm saying that and a lot of people feel the same way," he told the Guardian. "The official policy of the church is to preach the whole counsel of God - I was just saying that's what we signed up for."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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