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Statement on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill 2021

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill has been introduced to criminalise conversion practices directed towards people of different sexual orientation and gender minorities. The conversion practices are performed with the intention of changing or suppressing sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The democratic system in Aotearoa provides us the opportunity to express our opinions on the Bill by making public submissions. As Christians it is our responsibility to participate in the public debates conscientiously, informed by the imperatives of our faith, to make our nation and society just and inclusive. We issue this statement to assist our faith communities in their discernment process.

The objectives of the Bill are to “affirm the dignity of all people and that no sexual orientation or gender identity is broken and in need of fixing, prevent the harm conversion practices cause in New Zealand and provide an avenue for redress, and uphold the human rights of all New Zealanders, including of rainbow New Zealanders, to live free from discrimination and harm.” The Bill defines conversion practice as a practice that is “directed towards a person because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; and performed with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

We affirm that the objectives of the proposed Bill are in consonance with the tenets of Christian faith and scriptural witness. As the Bible testifies, all human beings are created in the image of God. Our Christian faith understands sexuality as a divine gift that we ought to celebrate. We believe that the differences within our gender identity (male, female, transgender, nonbinary, and intersex) and sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and asexual) are not deviances or abnormalities that need to be fixed. Rather these differences need to be recognized and celebrated as God’s creation.

However, hetero-patriarchy and its doctrine of heteronormativity continue to demonize and criminalize what they perceive to be “deviant” sexual orientations and gender expressions. In this process, they use the Christian faith and the Bible to legitimize the violence inflicted upon LGBTIQX+ communities. Invalidating and demonizing people created in the image of God is a sin against God whose love embraces all of us as we are.

We consider conversion therapy as inherently evil as it diagnoses sexual and gender minorities as “sick” and “sinful.” It is harmful and violent, and responsible for the growing number of youth suicide in our nation. We empathize with the victims and survivors of this abusive therapy and call upon the perpetrators to take responsibility for the harm caused.

We consider the CPPL Bill to be an acknowledgement of the trauma caused by such abhorrent therapies that attempt to deny, denigrate and dehumanise, te tapu o te tangata (the sacredness of human life). We recognise that conversion therapy is not in keeping with Māori practices and indeed completely contradicts a Māori holistic approach to health, which attends to the well-being of te tinana, te hinengaro, me te wairua. We affirm and support takatāpui communities and the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of all peoples as valid and life-giving.

We are cognizant about the concerns expressed against the Bill by a section of church members. We do not consider this Bill to be against the Christian faith or our faith practices. The Bill does not prohibit just and safe parental engagement with children. The focus of the Bill is on unethical professional practices. We are encouraged by the condemnation of conversion therapy by the Aotearoa New Zealand Association for Social Workers and the New Zealand Association of Counsellors.

While we endorse the proposed Bill to prohibit conversion practices, we raise the following critical observations for the consideration of the parliament:

We share the apprehensions of the gender minorities that “in its current state it [the Bill] defines conversion practices as not including conversion practices which are carried out in a healthcare setting. This allows healthcare providers to continue to engage in conversion practices with vulnerable patients, and effectively excludes transgender and intersex people from protection in the setting where they are most likely to experience conversion practices.”

We propose that the focus of the Bill should take a restorative turn from criminalization and punitive measures such as incarceration to delegitimising professional conversion therapy practices, holding practitioners accountable for the harm they cause, and supporting survivors. Instead of criminal penalties, we suggest that the Bill should impose professional disciplinary measures on practitioners and support for the survivors.

We call upon the faith communities in New Zealand to make public submissions on the Bill and support such initiatives to make our nation a safe and just society, celebrating our diversity and differences.

Upcoming Important Dates:

Takunetanga

18 January 2021: College Year Begins

18 - 20 January: Staff Retreat and Planning

21-22 January: Enrolment & Registration

22-23 January: 2021 Orientation

2-6 February: Waitangi Trip

Block 1 (Summer): BMS520 Mana Tiriti - Treaty and Church | 2-6 February (Te Aroha Rountree)
Block 2: BS510 Worlds and Cultures of the Bible | 1-5 March (Dr Emily Colgan)
Block 3: BBS710 Torah | 15-19 March (Dr Nāsili Vaka'uta)
Block 4: BRS610 Engaging Community | 22-26 March (Abhishek Solomon)
Block 5: BTS512 Methodist Theology | 29 March - 1 April (Dr George Zachariah)
Block 6: BBS612 Bible and Te Tiriti | 12-16 April (Te Aroha Rountree & Dr Emily Colgan)

Mid-semester Break | 17 April - 2 May 2021

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