Media Release 9 February 2021
Family First NZ has released a legal opinion on the proposed law to ban ‘conversion therapy’ which shows that the proposed ban will be yet another attack on parents’ rights and is fundamentally flawed and dangerous.
The opinion by Grant Illingworth QC is based on Labour MP Marja Lubeck’s private members bill which is currently in the ballot but has not been drawn yet. Labour have indicated that this will be the basis of the legislation that they may introduce sometime this year.
The legal opinion says that a ban would criminalise parents who wish to protect their child from the physical, emotional, and psychological harm caused by gender dysphoria. Parents would be criminalised and liable to six months imprisonment simply for affirming that their sons are boys and their daughters are girls. These bans will lock children into transgenderism. The Labour party – and Greens – want to legislate against the discussion and practice of alternatives to hormones, surgery and confusion.
Merely encouraging a gender confused child to wait for the orientating effects of puberty to be worked through may be considered a form of child abuse, or ‘domestic or psychological abuse’ as has been suggested by the Australian Labor party, and is happening in Canada and the U.S.
A parent who promotes biological sex will be criminalised, but an activist who indoctrinates young children with the concept of ‘gender fluidity’ and ‘third gender’ will be celebrated. This is not loving or compassionate towards children.
It will also be illegal for a therapist or other professional to counsel someone with gender dysphoria in a way that affirms their biology. Islamic and Christian schools could be breaking the law for teaching their students that Allah/God made us male and female. Church leaders, youth workers and imams could become criminals for reading and explaining the Quran or the Bible – that is, for doing their job.
The term ‘conversion therapy’ has been coined by activists and the media but not clearly defined – so the rest of us are left trying to work out what it means. If it means practices which are coercive, abusive or involuntary, or includes things like electric shock therapy or ‘anti-gay boot camps’, then we can all agree such things are inhumane and must be condemned. These types of ‘therapy’ should not be part of any community, let alone a faith-based one. Therapy or counselling should never be forced on anyone. Sadly, in the past, many state institutions sanctioned inhumane treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), being stripped naked and being locked in a small room, massive doses of medication, lobotomies and screaming patients chained to chairs. Fortunately, these are not part of current practice and certainly not part of any religious organisation.
In 2019, the Justice Select Committee, consisting of MPs from Labour and National, considered two petitions wanting to ban ‘conversion therapy’. In their report, they rightly declined to support such a ban, stating:
“The Bill of Rights Act affirms, protects, and promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms in New Zealand. It allows all New Zealanders to live free from discrimination, including in relation to their sexual orientation. New Zealanders also have the right to freedom of religion. This protects those who offer and seek out conversion therapy because of their religious views.”
All New Zealanders should be protected from coercive, abusive or involuntary psychological or spiritual practices. However, participation in psychological assessments, counselling sessions, prayer meetings and other therapeutic practices is almost always an expression of voluntary behaviour and personal freedom.
Under this proposed ban, people would be prevented from getting help to live the lifestyle they choose – if that lifestyle is heterosexual or based on their biological sex. While gender and sexuality is supposedly ‘fluid’, activists want the law to stipulate that it can only go in the direction they approve.
Banning practices which bring about positive change for people in pain, changes they genuinely desire for themselves, would be the real crime.
The following information is based on excerpts from a legal opinion obtained by Family First NZ.
In the proposed law, is the definition of “conversion therapy” defined adequately enough to avoid confusion and misinterpretation. Does it give certainty to parents and professionals?
The definition applies to “any therapeutic practice or treatment”. It seems obvious that counselling is a form of therapeutic practice or treatment; but counselling is an amorphous concept. Formal professional counselling would fall within the definition, but it is unclear whether it covers informal counselling such as, for example, parental advice to a child or a pastoral chat between a church youth group leader and a confused teenager. It also seems possible that prayer, in the setting of a church meeting for example, could fall within the concept of “any therapeutic practice”. Thus, if a church pastor were to pray for a teenager to be freed from unwanted sexual thoughts about other persons of the same gender, this could be seen as a “therapeutic practice” intended to “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward persons of the same gender.” This, in turn, could be interpreted to constitute a criminal offence.
Will this Bill, as written, criminalise a parent who encourages their child to maintain their biological gender or who discourages them from changing their biological gender?
If counselling is regarded as a “therapeutic practice” then parental counselling could be deemed to be included in that category… The result could possibly be the criminalisation of the parental conduct…
Will this Bill, as written, criminalise a teacher, counsellor or church pastor who discourages, in any way, a young person from starting the process of changing their biological gender, whether through medication or surgery or both?
If a teacher, counsellor or church pastor provides counselling, the purpose of which is to change the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or to change the person’s gender expression, or to “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward persons of the same gender”, that conduct could well fall within the proposed definition of conversion therapy…
Would the Bill, as written, prevent individuals from voluntarily seeking guidance regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. would it interfere with the right to self-determination)?
A person seeking guidance regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity would not be permitted to ask for conversion therapy to be performed… and it would be unlawful for a requested person to offer or perform conversion therapy in response to such a request, even if the request was entirely voluntary and unsolicited. To that extent, the Bill as written would interfere with the freedom of the individual by effectively eliminating (or at least seriously restricting) any genuine possibility of obtaining counselling or assistance…
If a young person wanted to align their sexuality or gender with the teachings and values of their faith, and sought help to do so, would they effectively criminalise anyone who tried to help them, and would they be able to access that support that they wanted?
It is strongly arguable that to restrict the ability to give or receive counselling and guidance on important personal issues like sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression would constitute a serious interference with the rights and freedoms affirmed in sections 13 to 15 of New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA). Indeed, it seems obvious that the Bill would impair those rights and freedoms in a significant way. It is important to appreciate, however, that BORA does not override laws that have been enacted by Parliament. Thus if a young person wanted to align their sexuality or gender with the teachings and values of their particular faith (be it Muslim or Christian, Jewish or Sikh etc), and sought help to do so from a minister of their particular religion, the proposed statute would make it virtually impossible to access the support they wanted. And, if they were able to find someone prepared to provide counselling of that kind, they could well cause that person to become implicated in a criminal offence, for the reasons outlined above.
Excerpts from Opinion received October 2019.