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Australia: Churches could be banned from teaching biblical sexual ethics

February 2021

Victoria’s Attorney General Jill Hennessy
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The Australian state of Victoria is seeking to ban churches from teaching worshippers to follow the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics.

Under the proposals, a religious leader could be sent to prison for encouraging someone with feelings of same-sex attraction to ‘live a celibate life’.

Neil Foster, an Australian Associate Professor of Law, has described the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 as ‘unrealistic in practice’, seriously affecting religious freedom.

The bill, currently making its way through the State legislature, seeks to outlaw any practice – including prayer – that suggests a person can change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a speech introducing the proposed law, Victoria’s Attorney General Jill Hennessy claimed it would not prevent a religious leader giving freely-sought advice on feelings of same-sex attraction.

However, this would be restricted to informing the person ‘that they consider such feelings to be contrary to the teachings of their faith’, and ‘not to change or suppress the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity’.

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