The banning of conversion therapy sparked worries amongst Christians in the Australian state of Victoria, saying they fear for their religious freedom.
The Change or Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill will criminalize practices seeking to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity in which according to the bill, could amount to a fine of $10,000 or up to 10 years of a prison sentence.
However, according to The Catholic Weekly, the bill covers such a broad subject in its definitions that it could criminalize any religious practice including praying for a person at their request in relation to issues concerning their sexual orientation or gender.
"In our view, the bill is a direct attack on religious beliefs, and in particular Christianity, and will target those who hold to traditional convictions on sexual orientation and gender identity issues," said John Steinhoff, the managing director of the Human Rights Law Alliance.
The Christian Post reported that Christians have been voicing out their concerns over a subclause included in the Bill which makes carrying out "a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism" an offensive crime.
Church leaders in the state fear that they could be unconsciously committing a crime just for offering a prayer or counseling to someone who is struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Dozens of faith leaders expressed their opposition to the bill in an open letter to the premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews.
"While we in no way support coercive and harmful practices that force someone to attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we are united in support of the human rights of any Victorian to have the freedom of choice to seek assistance to adhere to their religious convictions on matters of gender and sexuality. The Bill legislates ideological constructs around sexual orientation and gender identity." they wrote.
"Religious organizations, parents and families, faith-based schools, ministries, and other individuals will face scrutiny, investigation, censorship, significant jail terms and large fines for exercising their religious duty to teach or advise individuals who request support to maintain adherence to religious constructs of sexuality and gender," they added.
The bill was passed on Thursday night after 29 legislatures voted for the bill and only 9 voted against it after a 12-hour-long debate.
The managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Martyn Iles said the bill "basically criminalizes the truth."
"It takes those truths about marriage, about gender, about sex, about family ... things that Christians hold dear, which are part of Creation itself, and it says that those ideas, the expression of them, the living out of them can become criminal acts," Iles claimed.
He also went on to say that Christians should continue to support and pray for people who come to them asking for help, even if it means that the law will be broken.
"I want to say something that's going to sound a little bit radical but it's so true, especially in this case. We must live as though this bill doesn't exist," he said.