Let Us Pray spokesman Simon Calvert has told GB News that a broad ban on ‘conversion therapy’ risks making core evangelical beliefs and practices illegal.
In discussion with gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Mr Calvert defended the right of Bible-believing churches to call people to repentance and teach them on how to live according to a biblical sexual ethic.
GB News invited Mr Calvert and Mr Tatchell to address the question ‘Should conversion therapy be outlawed in the UK?’, following the launch of the Government’s consultation on how to make coercive ‘conversion therapies’ illegal.
Mr Calvert said if there are coercive practices not currently outlawed, the Government intends to fix that gap in the law, but said the Let Us Pray campaign is concerned with the demands of activists which would go much further.
“Some people”, Calvert said, would like the law “to reach in and affect the ordinary work of churches”.
He added that advocates of a broad ‘conversion therapy’ ban were essentially seeking to target “the beliefs of evangelical churches and the people who worship in them”.
Calvert believed that it would be very wrong if – as a consequence of such a ban – Christians were “being prosecuted simply for explaining and living out their beliefs”.
During the programme, Calvert asked Tatchell – a Ban Conversion Therapy campaign supporter – whether he backed fellow activist Jayne Ozanne in her call for “gentle, non-coercive prayer to be made a criminal offence”.
Tatchell replied that it should “perhaps” not “be caught within the gamut of this law”, and added that “it would depend on the circumstances”.
But he went on to say: “If people are saying to us that we are sinful, immoral” or that “we must repent, that we’re going to end up in hell”, then that would be coercive, and should therefore be illegal.
Calvert challenged Tatchell: “That is the core message of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died on the cross for sinners – 100 per cent of the population of the planet are sinners.
“The message of the church is the offer of forgiveness in Christ, so it is absolutely essential to evangelical churches to be able to teach that every single human being is a sinner.
“I’m astonished that you’re talking about criminalising churches teaching a core and central doctrine, such as the doctrine of the universal sinfulness of mankind.”
Following the exchange between Mr Calvert and Mr Tatchell, GB News presenter Nana Akua invited responses from activist and comedian Leo Kearse and political commentator Calvin Robinson.
Robinson, who writes for the political think tank Policy Exchange, said a broad ban would override the “fundamental human right” to freedom of religion, the freedom to pray and the right of parents to pass on their religious values to their children.
He added: “this legislation was set out to protect the vulnerable from being exploited and what we’re actually seeing as a result of this is a lot of anti-religious sentiment coming to the surface”.