A powerful multi-faith lobby group launched by New South Wales Premier Chris Minns last month will urge the state’s new Faith Affairs Council to advocate against gay conversion laws that would affect the freedom of religious communities to practise their faith.
When asked on Christian radio last month what his community-based lobby Faith NSW would recommend in relation to proposed laws on gay conversion practices, the group’s head Murray Norman said members of Faith NSW agreed on the need to be able to practise their faith.
“What we came up with – a 100% commitment of the faith communities – is that each of the faith communities needs to be able to operate their faith in the way that they see fit and be able to conduct that in a free society,” he said.
“There is difference within the faith communities. You’ve got like in the Hindu community, where it is permissible to be with relationships of homosexual relationships. But the family unit is so important that they agreed that every community should be able to make their own decisions and that it’s really important that that family unit is respected, and that the new policies need to meet up with that.
“In New South Wales, it’s not only the Christian community that pray and have teaching. That’s right across all the communities. And the government has made commitments that that will be protected.”
In the interview on 20Twenty show on Christian Vision radio, Mr Norman also explained that Faith NSW would make policy recommendations directly to the Faith Affairs Council, which would then advocate policy positions to government ministers.
As the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) reported last month, Premier Minns and a number of his cabinet colleagues appeared as guest speakers at the launch of Faith NSW, which has been described as the new peak body to advocate the “common interests” of the state’s faith groups.
Also, the RSA has reported in recent weeks that the Minns government has rejected an application from the head of Sydney Atheists, Steve Marton, to be a member of the soon-to-be-established Faith Affairs Council. Instead, the new body will be made up of religious people only and will be stacked with predominantly male religious clerics.
Religious lobbyists such as the Australian Christian Lobby have been demanding that the Minns government’s laws on gay conversion practices allow religious people to engage in prayers to change someone’s sexuality.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich has proposed legislation that would outlaw conversion therapy in all settings, including religious. Greenwich’s bill is modelled after Victoria’s “world-leading” laws that ban so-called conversion therapy in all settings, including religious.
The Minns government, however, is planning to introduce its own bill by the end of the year, but it is not yet clear whether its legislation will affect the small number of religious communities that seek to practise gay conversion therapy.
At budget estimates late last month, education minister Prue Car said she would seek advice from the education department as to how the different bills would impact on the delivery of Special Religious Education in public schools.
One Nation MP Tania Mihailuk told Minister Car there was “some concern” from a number of religious and multicultural organisations that what was being proposed in the bills would “step into the area of religious prayer and instruction”.
“I will get advice from my department. We have to treat all these issues, as I’m sure you will be well aware and well versed in, with extreme care,” Minister Car said.
“We’re talking about people that have very deeply held religious views and also people for whom these are very sensitive issues. I really need to make sure that I manage these issues sensitively on behalf of the education system, but I’ll be participating in those Cabinet discussions, absolutely, with advice from my department.”
Si Gladman is the Campaigns & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.