Legal Prayer vs. Illegal Prayer

Legal Prayer vs. Illegal Prayer January 9, 2024

The Australian state of Victoria has passed a law that regulates prayer, specifying what kinds of prayer are illegal and what kinds of prayer are legal.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act forbids any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or self-affirmed gender identity.  Among the prohibited practices is “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism.”

The “prayer-based practice” apparently includes silently praying for a person.

Victoria’s  Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has published to guide to make clear what kinds of prayer are forbidden and what kinds are allowed.

Tyler O’Neil reports on the law in The Daily Signal in an article entitled Australian Law Forbids Prayers, Revealing the Religious Freedom Threat of Bans on ‘Conversion Therapy’.  In his article, he quotes from the Commission, which we cite here.

Forbidden are certain “Prayer practices:  With or Without an LGBT person.”  Notice that the LGBT person does not have to be present.  An individual praying for someone in private is subject to the law.  The guidelines disallow not only praying for a person to change his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, but also praying that the person receive the gift of chastity.  Also, the law applies even when the LGBT person wants to change and consents to the prayer.

The regulations say of the outlawed “Prayer practices,”

These include praying:

    • with or for an LGBT person that they might change their sexual orientation or gender identity
    • with or for an LGBT person to be celibate.

The regulations get more detailed, specifying prayers that are “likely to cause harm and be a change or suppression practice”:

Prayers that are directed at a person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity cause harm and are prohibited.

These could include:

    • ask for healing
    • ask for a person to change
    • ask for a person not to act on their attractions
    • talk about a person’s brokenness and need to repent
    • ask for long-term celibacy

But don’t worry!  The Commission helpfully details what it will allow you to say to God.  Under the heading “Ways to continue practicing your faith without causing harm,” it says:

There is a broad range of prayers that would be acceptable and supportive.

These include prayers:

    • for guidance
    • that are supportive and reassuring that the person is created in their God’s image and perfect the way they are.
    • that acknowledge their God loves the individual.

The Commission also gives some helpful guidance for pastors.  As O’Neil reports,

According to the commission, a pastor or priest would violate the law if he encourages a person to remain celibate if that person confesses that he or she struggles with same-sex attraction. The pastor would not violate the law if he merely told the person that the Bible “considers such feelings to be sinful, but does so only to convey the text’s teachings and not to change or suppress the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The state here is requiring Christians to drastically change not just their ethics but their theology.  LGBT people are “perfect the way they are”?  No other human being is perfect, save Christ alone.  LGBT people do not need to repent?  Everyone else does.  What the Bible says does not apply to LGBT people?

The Commission’s regulations require churches to carve out a special category of unfallen, uniquely holy saints.  They do not need the Gospel because, unlike every other mortal, they perfectly follow the moral law.  They do not need to be forgiven because they have not done anything wrong.

The state is not only dictating what morality the church must teach and what theology the church must follow.  It is policing and criminalizing people’s inmost thoughts.  Even worse, it is presuming to regulate what a person is allowed to say to God.

Such a violation of religious freedom is more invasive, more tyrannical than putting Christians to death.

UPDATE:  For a link to the state of Victoria’s guidelines, go here (HT:  Heidi).

Photo by RDNE Stock project: via Pexels, free photo


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