Conversion bans must apply in religious settings, RSA tells Tasmanian inquiry

Si Gladman / 21 February 2024

The Rationalist Society of Australia has urged the Tasmanian government to expand its proposed laws on conversion practices to also apply to religious settings.

In a submission to the consultation draft for the Justice Miscellaneous (Conversion Practices) Bill 2024 last week, the RSA raised concerns that the proposed legislation did “not get the balance right”.

Now, with the Tasmanian Liberal government having called an election, LGBTIQ rights campaigners are seeking a commitment from all parties to enact a “comprehensive ban” on conversion practices.

According to a fact sheet for the Rockliff government’s proposed legislation, conduct that would likely not constitute a conversion practice includes: “Support or guidance that may be provided to a person…in religious or spiritual settings.” Also, the proposed bill would “not limit ordinary faith-based practices, such as prayer or sermons.”

While the RSA acknowledged there should be some protection for an expression of “an opinion, idea or belief, including a statement of religious principle or parental guidance”, allowing a range of conversion practices in religious settings would only serve to perpetuate serious harms and inflict further trauma on LGBTIQ people.

See full submission here.

“Of course, we acknowledge that most religious people reject these practices and support LGBTIQ rights… But there remain some religious groups that hold ‘conversion ideology’ and conduct activities that specifically target LGBTIQ people through practices beyond formal therapy,” the submission said.

According to Amnesty International, people who hold this ideology view LGBTIQ people as ‘broken’ and fixable ‘through celibacy, heterosexual marriage, consistent long-term devotion, spiritual mentoring, avoidance or suppression of all LGBTQA+ influences and ongoing conversion practices’.

“…we are concerned that the legislation does not provide enough protection for LGBTIQ people in religious settings where an intent to change or suppress their LGBTIQ identity is present.”

The New South Wales government has promised to introduce laws banning conversion practice. But, as the RSA reported last month, it appears to have given religious communities a guarantee that its proposed conversion therapy laws will not impact “religious counselling”.

In South Australia, upper house Labor member Ian Hunter is urging his own government to introduce bans on conversion practices, telling parliament late last year that a “strong religious narrative” characterises many of the practices. 

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Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

All the more reason.