Criminalising parents, carers & counsellors

BACKGROUND: During the 2020 election campaign, Labour pledged to pass a law to ban conversion therapy.1 The Greens and National support a ban, but ACT does not.2


The term ‘conversion therapy’ has been coined by activists 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. (Interestingly, some of the politicians who have previously supported the proposed ban have admitted they’re not aware of any cases of involuntary ‘conversion therapy’ in their communities.)

Therapy or counselling should never be forced on anyone. Sadly, in the past, many state institutions sanctioned inhumane treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)4, being stripped naked and being locked in a small room5, massive doses of medication6, lobotomies and screaming patients chained to chairs7. Fortunately, these are not part of current practice and certainly not part of any religious organisation.

Banning ‘conversion therapy’ appears to have grown, however, to mean stopping someone who experiences unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria from getting counselling or support of any sort that they may themselves desire.

This ‘ban’ would turn parents into criminals, religious leaders & counsellors into ‘human rights abusers’, and make it impossible for faith-based schools to teach that you are born male or female.


Under the proposed law, parents could be criminalised and liable to six months imprisonment simply for affirming that their sons are boys and their daughters are girls. A ban could criminalise parents who wish to protect their child from the physical, emotional and psychological harm caused by gender dysphoria.

If a boy comes home from a presentation at school and says that he wants to change gender, a parent who lovingly discourages this, and helps him embrace his biological, or birth sex, could be guilty of a criminal offence.

A mother who encourages and helps her 11-year-old daughter to accept the body she was born with, rather than being placed on dangerous puberty blockers and wearing chest binders, could be committing a criminal offence. That’s how dangerous this bill is. Can Dad even gently discourage his nine-year-old son from wearing a dress and using the girls’ toilets?

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. Affirming biological sex will become illegal; affirming ‘gender identity’ will remain legal.

This is not loving or compassionate towards children. Numerous reviews show the majority of children who are confused about their gender also suffer from diagnosed mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

As Australian paediatrician Dr John Whitehall asks:

“Isn’t the current ‘transitioning’ of a child to an alternate gender just another form of ‘conversion therapy’, using the old and abhorrent means of psychological pressure, hormones and surgery?”


Under the proposed ban, it would be illegal for a counsellor, spiritual leader, pastor, youth worker, teacher or other professional to counsel a child or adult with gender dysphoria in a way that affirms biology. The professional would be criminalised and liable to up to 12 months imprisonment.

If a young person, for example, wanted to align their sexuality 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 or faith leader, the proposed statute would make it virtually impossible to access the support they wanted. Furthermore, 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. Even an ethical discussion of this risk, with a counsellor or faith leader or youth worker, could be interpreted by the patient, and the law, as “trying to stop you being trans or gay.”

It also seems possible that prayer, as part of counselling or within the setting of a religious meeting for example, could fall inside the concept of ‘conversion therapy’. Thus, if a church minister, imam or youth leader were to pray for a teenager to be freed from unwanted sexual thoughts, this could be interpreted as constituting a criminal offence.

It may therefore become dangerous for a child or adult to express confusion over their sexuality or gender. No-one would be able to legally protect them from the gender-transitioning protocols that are backed by the State.

Anti-conversion therapy laws would criminally punish those who set their responsibility to protect vulnerable children above the need to respect a child’s personal autonomy. The UK court in the recent Tavistock judgement (a decision of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, on the question of whether puberty blockers could be prescribed to under-18s with gender dysphoria) found that – speaking for the role of the court – the responsibility to protect vulnerable children was the superior responsibility.


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.

If you’re a spiritual leader and someone says to you, “I’m struggling with my sexuality and gender identity, please pray for me,” you may be being asked to commit a crime.

All New Zealanders have a right to freedom of religion. This teaching is a legitimate activity for places of worship, faith-based schools and for other religious groups.


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 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.” 10


Official advice to the Minister and Associate Minister of Health regarding ‘conversion therapy’ has revealed that a ban is not recommended. Official Information Act requests show that in 2018, Associate Minister of Health and Green MP Julie Anne Genter was advised by the Ministry of Health:

“Due to the current protections that are in place, and the need to balance the rights of people with preventing harm, it is not recommended that a legislative ban of conversion therapy would be the most effective way to reduce the harm it causes…”

The ministerial advice also notes that people have the freedom to willingly engage in the practice, that protections already exist in the health sector, and that a ban “could be inconsistent” with the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 “which provides for rights of assembly, free speech and rights to freedom of religion”.


The right of self-determination is a founding principle of the mental health profession, and for children the wider whanau / family is part of this important value and support base.

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 the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA). However, the BORA does not override laws that have been enacted by Parliament.

Those who dare to seek inner freedom and healing – from unwanted behavioural or thought patterns –  will have nowhere to turn as a result of this proposed ban. The law would oppress and violate the right to seek whatever lifestyle you desire.

“I was neglected, incessantly abused, molested, raped, and affected by trauma that left me with unwanted same-sex attraction. This led me to becoming a gay rights activist. But without therapy and prayer, I would likely have eventually become another suicide statistic. A ban is going to increase suicides, depression, and anxiety. It will leave people trapped in their trauma.”

James Parker facilitates True Identity, an informal network that
supports those struggling with sexuality & gender identity issues.


The Prohibition of Conversion Therapy Bill, a private members bill put forward by Labour MP Marja Lubeck in October 20188 but withdrawn from the ballot at the end of last year, is likely to form the basis of the new law. It says: “[Conversion therapy] tells people that, due to their sexuality or gender, there is something fundamentally wrong with who they are and they should be changed.”  9 Yet the conversion practices of the LGBTQ movement, when it comes to gender dysphoria, are based on the notion that there IS something fundamentally wrong with these individuals: that they were ‘born in the wrong body’.  The contradiction is obvious.

Another contradiction: Convincing people that they are a different gender to their biological sex is not considered ‘conversion therapy’. Nor is it considered ‘conversion therapy’ to encourage a person to explore and develop same-sex attraction. But if a same-sex attracted individual wishes to explore and strengthen a heterosexual attraction or lifestyle, or a person wishes to align with their biological sex, it would be illegal – subject to a fine or imprisonment – to encourage them to do so under the proposed bill.


If diversity and inclusivity are things we want for our country, then the Prime Minister’s “Everyone” must include people who hold different ideas and beliefs about gender and sexuality.

“So often you can distill these things down to a very simple principle and philosophy, a value that sits at the heart of who we are as New Zealanders; Everyone should be free to be who they are.”

Jacinda Ardern, October 2020

To penalise people on the basis of their beliefs or personal lifestyle decisions is a dangerous discrimination. It should certainly not be a crime.


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 and/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, is the real crime.


Make an appointment to visit your local MP/s, or write to them and express your views about this important issue. The contact details of all MPs (plus an easy-to-use email set-up) are on our website HaveYourSay.nz

Family First New Zealand will keep you updated on this issue. Sign up for free email updates by visiting FamilyFirst.nz


1 https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/427644/labour-promises-ban-on-conversion-therapy-rainbow-mental-health-funding

2 https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/427686/labour-s-promise-to-ban-conversion-therapy-receives-mixed-response-from-other-parties

3 https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/106122277/petition-to-ban-gay-conversion-therapy-presented-to-parliament

4 https://www.newsroom.co.nz/nzs-top-lawyer-to-give-evidence

5 https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/65394326/electric-shock-therapy-in-the-modern-day

6 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/abuse-in-care-lake-alice-woman-given-ect-with-no-anaesthetic-or-muscle-relaxant/BVIKQYXUXO7MC3AKDCGUGRZKDE/

7 https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/65394326/electric-shock-therapy-in-the-modern-day

8 https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1810/S00305/labour-members-bill-to-put-an-end-to-conversion-therapy.htm

9 https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/PMB-Prohibition-of-Conversion-Therapy-Bill.pdf

10 https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_92751/c6e6e71725e1e313965f8cf736f3813fd9bf9f06

11 https://nationalpost.com/news/fathers-behaviour-toward-transgender-child-an-act-of-violence-court-told

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