Catholic and Islamic leaders have written to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warning that his “Conversion Practices” Bill targets people of faith “in an unprecedented way”.
“We write on behalf of the Muslim and Catholic communities in Victoria in solidarity with other people of faith, expressing profound concern over the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020,” the letter begins.
“Every day we are working alongside our fellow Victorians to celebrate our diversity, care for the vulnerable and serve one another. We value our freedom to do so responsibly, by supporting and caring for people in their searching and questioning, with honesty, attentiveness, and compassion.
“Unfortunately, this Bill doesn’t just ban out-dated and insidious practices of coercion and harm, which we firmly reject. The bill also criminalises conversation between children and parents, interferes with sound professional advice, and silences ministers of religion from providing personal attention for individuals freely seeking pastoral care for complex personal situations. It includes ill-conceived concepts of faith and conversation, vague definitions, and scientifically and medically flawed approaches. It places arbitrary limitations on parents, families and people of faith. People change for all kinds of reasons, and should feel free to do so, whether it be on matters of personal identity, gender, sexuality, family association, or religion. Contrary to its intent, this Bill obstructs people’s freedom by limiting, restricting and removing options for their good, thereby creating undesirable possibilities of harm.”
The open letter is signed by Mr Mohamed Mohideen, President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Catholic Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, and other Catholic leaders.
“At present the Bill appears to target people of faith in an unprecedented way, puts limits on ordinary conversations in families, and legislates for what prayer is legal and what prayer is not.”
The letter ends with an urgent request for a pause on the bill.
Last week’s article about Australia Day got me thinking some more about its meaning.
The date, 26 January, comes from the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip, along with the crew of his ship the Supply, gathered on the shore of Sydney Cove to hoist the British flag. They had anchored off the cove, now called Circular Quay, the day before.
This historic event is depicted in the famous 1937 oil painting by Algernon Talmage, below:
By raising the flag, Phillip was claiming British sovereignty over the eastern part of Australia, then known as New Holland. He thereby brought to our land the English common law, with its protections of individual rights and freedoms.
A central element of the common law is that the law should apply equally to everyone. This Judaeo‑Christian principle comes from Genesis 1:27 – God created all people in his own image. His laws applied equally to the people of Israel, and to strangers who were living among them (e.g. Exodus 12:49).
The apostle Paul expressed the same notion when he spoke in Athens: “The God who made the world and everything in it ... made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” (Acts 17:24-26)
The British government intended to treat colonists and natives equally as British subjects. The Proclamation of South Australia, read out under the Old Gum Tree at Glenelg on 28 December 1836, stated Governor Hindmarsh’s resolve: “to take every lawful means for extending the same protection to the Native Population as to the rest of His Majesty’s Subjects”.
However, the lived experience of indigenous Australians has fallen far short of this aim. The often‑tragic story is documented by John Harris in his monumental work, One Blood: 200 Years Of Aboriginal Encounter With Christianity: A Story Of Hope.
Nevertheless, significant progress has been made towards equal treatment of indigenous Australians since colonisation.
When Australia became a nation at federation on 1 January 1901, all Australians – including indigenous people – were considered British subjects.
This changed when federal parliament passed the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. It came into effect on Australia Day, 26 January 1949. Australians, including indigenous Australians, were now Australian citizens who could carry Australian rather than British passports.
Today, indigenous Australians have taken their place in many different areas of Australian society. There are now six indigenous MPs in federal parliament, including Ken Wyatt (Lib), Minister for Indigenous Australians, Pat Dodson (ALP) and Jacqui Lambie (JLN). They make up 2.6% of federal MPs, approaching the 3.3% of indigenous people in Australia.
Over the past 50 years, eight indigenous people, including Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Cathy Freeman and Adam Goodes, have been honoured as Australian of the Year – 16% of recipients.
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, indigenous activist and Alice Springs deputy mayor, has called on those fighting for indigenous rights to “invest their energy into supporting practical outcomes to overcome family violence, child sexual abuse, youth suicide, alcohol and substance abuse in our indigenous communities.”
Much more is needed to address disadvantage and enable indigenous Australians to fully participate in Australian society. In doing so we would do well to uphold the Judaeo-Christian principle that we are all “one blood”, made in God’s image, under one law applying equally to all.
I would welcome any thoughts you have on these important matters. And, if you are able, a donation to this ministry would be greatly appreciated.
Peter Downie - National Director
Religious groups have written an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews voicing their "strong and unequivocal opposition" to his controversial "Conversion Practices" Bill.
The open letter calls on the Andrews' government to suspend passage of the extreme legislation.
While we in no way support coercive and harmful practises that force someone to attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we are united in support of the human rights of any Victorian to have the freedom of choice to seek assistance to adhere to their religious convictions on matters of gender and sexuality.
The Bill legislates ideological constructs around sexual orientation and gender identity. The Bill, therefore, overreaches by imposing constraints on the individual freedom of choice, parental rights and responsibilities, and the ability for religious leaders to offer support, prayer, and resources to same sex attracted and gender dysphoric individuals seeking faith-based assistance to adhere to religiously sanctioned constructs of gender and sexuality.
The rushed nature with which this Bill was introduced and passed in the Legislative Assembly does not provide any assurances or clarity to a significant part of the various religious communities who lacked proper consultation in this process. While it was claimed that consultation with communities took place in 2019, through Engage Victoria, the few who were consulted noted that the survey used was biased in its construction. Additionally, the subsequent summary report compiled from this ‘consultation’ failed to report on the contrary materials that were presented to the survey.
The letter ends with the 31 religious groups calling for the Victorian government to suspend the passage of the Bill immediately, initiate a public enquiry and ensure all faith communities are properly consulted.
The honoured place of the Queen’s portrait in the Hobart City Council chamber will be diminished by accompanying artwork, argues FamilyVoice Australia.
“Hobart City Council yesterday voted to retain the portrait of the Queen’s portrait, but will symbolically marginalise Her Majesty, by cluttering the wall with artwork,” said FamilyVoice Australia spokesman David d'Lima.
“The additional artwork is likely to make for a very shabby scene,” he said.
FamilyVoice Australia recommends any additional artwork should be placed elsewhere in the chamber so the importance of the Queen is not undermined.
“It’s important to carefully acknowledge the Queen’s important constitutional role, such as appointing the State Governor of Tasmania along with the nation’s Governor-General, and approving the awarding of the Victoria Cross for Australia,” David d'Lima said.
“Every State MP promises to serve the Queen of Australia, and since local government is a creation of the State, it is completely inappropriate for the Council to diminish the honour due to Her Majesty.”
Portraits of the Queen remind public officials to maintain constancy of purpose, with gracious behaviour, following the remarkable example set by Queen Elizabeth, who will soon reach 70 years of service, David d'Lima said.
“Instead of disrespecting the Queen, honourable councillors would better serve the City of Hobart by considering how best to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Accession Anniversary that is just over 12 months away.”
The Christian promises of service and devotion made by Queen Elizabeth, to whom Tasmanian MPs must pledge their allegiance (as do Australian military personnel and the federal police) are part of Australia’s constitutional arrangements and Christian heritage, that should never be disrespected.
In a remarkably disrespectful proposal, the Hobart City Council may tonight consider repositioning the Queen’s portrait, to make room for a display of artwork.
Hobart City Council should not dishonour the Queen of Tasmania, but should continue to recognise her important constitutional role, such as appointing the State Governor of Tasmania along with the nation’s Governor-General, and approving the award of the Victoria Cross for Australia.
Every State MP promises to serve the Queen of Australia, and since local government is a creation of the State, it is completely inappropriate for the Council to consider removing the Monarch’s picture.
Portraits of the Queen also provide a helpful reminder that public officials do well to serve with constancy of purpose, and with gracious behaviour, following the remarkable example set by Queen Elizabeth.
Instead of disrespecting the Queen, honourable councillors would better serve the city of Hobart by considering how best to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Accession Anniversary that is just over 12 months away.
The extraordinary service and example set by Queen Elizabeth, as she approaches a remarkable 70 years as our sovereign, deserves honour and celebration.
FamilyVoice Australia upholds Christian values and the family: permanence of marriage, sanctity of human life, primacy of parenthood and limited government.
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