Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill
To Members of Parliament,
I write to express my deep concern at the proposed Conversion Practices Prohibition bill currently before you. Please VOTE NO to this proposed law. I write as a New Zealand permanent resident, an attorney, a military officer, and a pastor. I live in Dunedin with my wife and our five children.
I urge you to consider the following eight points:
There is no demonstrated need for this bill in New Zealand. This bill addresses a problem that does not exist to any significant degree, when looked at objectively and empirically. New Zealand doesn’t have a current problem in the area of conversion practices. The sponsors of the bill have not met their burden of demonstrating a need for this bill.
Current laws and professional guidelines already protect the vulnerable. Other laws, like ones for assault and battery and child abuse, sufficiently protect the vulnerable this bill intends to help. Also, professional guidelines for psychologists, doctors, ministers, and counsellors also provide protection. We don’t need more legislation in this area. It is wise to keep our nation’s laws simple and few.
The bill is vague and overly broad. As currently worded, it is very unclear what conversations would be criminal. This vagueness prevents citizens/parents/counsellors/ministers/therapists from acting with certainty on issues of great personal importance. The bill also delves into the area of psychological harm, an area where criminal law up to now fears to tread. This is because psychological harm is so difficult to define and is by its very nature very subjective.
The bill is socially divisive. This bill appears to cater to a relatively small, but vocal special interest group that has an axe to grind with those it doesn’t agree with on ethical and moral issues. It seems to be motivated by animus towards people with whom the special-interest group disagrees and a desire to shut down teaching, counselling, and prayer of Christians and others. This group seems to want to impose a certain view of the world upon all New Zealanders as a sort of dogma, using the awesome power of the law to force conformity. This is not in accord with the free society New Zealand is and and always has been. As statesmen and stateswoman who represent all New Zealanders, not just some, please enact laws that are ethically and morally neutral, not ones that tip the playing field against a significant segment of the population. Divisive laws like this create cultural/societal conflict and decrease trust in our institutions.
The bill criminalises a well-established viewpoint on a disputed philosophical-ethical-moral issue. Some communities of faith, particularly Christian and Muslim, have a deep, sincerely-held religious belief that certain LGBTQ sexual behaviours are theologically, ethically, and morally wrong/sinful and that they violate God’s design for sex and our human sexual organs. They sincerely believe the LGBTQ lifestyle often leads to personal disappointment, regret, guilt, depression, and ultimately away from a relationship with God, which they believe is the purpose of our existence. This belief is a traditional one that has been in existence for centuries. It is based off the common experience of humanity. Whether one disagrees with it or not, it is not wise to simply dismiss it out of existence by the force of law. Many in the LGBTQ community understandably disagree with this viewpoint, but like everyone else, they must tolerate the viewpoints of others. It is our government’s responsibility to remain neutral on hotly-debated issues of ethics, morality, and philosophy. A democracy like ours is not immune from becoming a tyranny. Parliament must refrain from criminalising viewpoints it does not agree with. This is very dangerous ground.
The law would infringe on New Zealanders’ right to freedom of thought, religion, and speech. As New Zealanders, we have the right: (1) to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form; (2) to manifest a person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice or teaching either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private; and (3) to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form. This bill directly and significantly infringes on citizens' ability to exercise these rights in matters of sexuality and gender.
The law would also infringe on parental rights. Under New Zealand law, a child’s care, development, and upbringing is primarily the responsibility of his or her parents and guardians. This law would severely interfere with the ability of some parents to give candid, helpful, loving counsel to their own children on matters of deep personal importance to both of them. A teenager’s decision about hormone blockers, for example, is huge decision that will have lifelong ramifications. Parents and others need to be able to speak freely with their teenagers about the pros and cons of choices they are making.
The law limits the autonomy of LGBTQ individuals. As written, the bill appears to lock individuals into a certain gender identity and severely limit their ability to get candid advice about modifying their identity again. Far from freeing individuals to be who they want to be, it actually serves to imprison them into a decision they’ve already made. This does not accord with the principles of personal autonomy and gender fluidity that the LGBTQ community adheres to. It decreases information and options for LGBTQ individuals rather than expanding them. This is perhaps the most bewildering aspect of this proposed bill. Research has shown the overwhelming majority of adolescents who experience gender dysphoria grow out of it as they travel through puberty.
Friends, for the sake of the rule of law, equity, and fundamental freedom, do what is right for New Zealand. Please VOTE NO to this bill.
- Jeff Coleman