The Government must axe its plans to introduce a ‘conversion therapy’ law, the Director of Affinity has warned.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Revd Graham Nicholls said “any such legislation, however well intentioned, would criminalise most ordinary Christians and church leaders for expressing mainstream, orthodox beliefs”.
Despite speculation that the Government appeared ready to drop the plans, it is now expected that a draft conversion therapy Bill will be introduced soon.
On behalf of Affinity’s network of over 1,200 churches, Revd Nicholls, who is a Minister at Christ Church Haywards Heath, urged the Prime Minister “to stand firm against this unreasonable curtailment of our freedom of thought and religion”.
He warned that a conversion therapy law would “pose a substantial threat to the freedom of Christians to practise everyday aspects of their faith; it puts Christian ministers in jeopardy when they preach an orthodox position on sexuality and church members at risk when they pray for each other.
“Even a private conversation between two friends on the topic could fall foul of such a law. The practical effect of the bill will be to conflate the historic Christian teaching on sexuality and gender with abuse.”
Last month, The Christian Institute reiterated its readiness to take legal action against the Westminster Government if it brings in a conversion therapy Bill that impacts everyday religious practice.
If a draft Bill is published, the Institute will take advice from a KC on whether it fulfils the Government’s pledge not to criminalise innocent conversations.
The Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert highlighted activists’ demands, saying: “The leading activists on this issue – those the Government is trying to placate – are quite clear that they want it to target conversations and ideas they don’t like.
“They want a kind of LGBT blasphemy law. This is profoundly illiberal. Jayne Ozanne says she wants ‘gentle non-coercive prayer’ to be criminalised as part of this Bill. But it is obvious to most people that gentle non-coercive prayer is not conversion therapy.”