Church leaders have written to Boris Johnson to express “considerable concern” over the Government’s decision not to abandon its proposed conversion therapy ban.
Yesterday, a leaked document revealed that Downing Street planned to explore ‘non-legislative measures’ instead of a controversial legal ban.
The church ministers said this was “exactly the right approach”, but asked for “urgent clarification” after a backlash on Twitter prompted the Government to announce just a few hours later that it would still push ahead with legislation.
Preaching and prayer
The ministers, including Revds Ray Brown, Matthew Roberts and Graham Nicholls, were among those who co-authored a letter signed by more than 2,500 others that was sent to the Minister for Women and Equalities in December, urging her not to include ordinary Christian preaching, prayer and pastoral care in a ban.
They told the Prime Minister the ban was unnecessary, pointing out that “coercive and abusive practices are already well covered in UK law”.
The church leaders also warned it would prevent “effective medical, psychological and pastoral care for many people who willingly seek it and for young people who particularly need it”.
They reiterated their position that they “have no interest in defending any kind of disreputable practices which purport to ‘cure’ homosexual or transgender feelings”, explaining that their primary concern is that the legislation could have made it a criminal offence to help people live according to biblical teachings on sex and gender.
The ministers said: “It is with considerable concern therefore that within a few hours of the statement from Downing Street yesterday the position of the government has changed again, and now we hear that a ban is to go ahead.
“We are of course pleased to hear that trans issues are to be left out, which removes the threat of criminalising those seeking to help vulnerable young people on this issue.
“But it remains the case that a poorly-drafted ‘LGB only’ conversion therapy law could still criminalise mainstream Christian teaching and ministry, by making it illegal for us to teach people and help people of every age to live according to the Christian understanding of marriage.
“The consultation document indicated that that would be the case, and campaigners for a ban have made it quite clear that that is what they desire and intend.”
it would be a terrible and tragic mistake for the UK government to make us criminals for exercising and teaching mainstream, historic Christianity
They continued: “Therefore we wish to ask for urgent clarification from you whether you intend to legislate to make it illegal for Christian ministers to teach and pastor people of every age according to the Christian view of marriage.
“It goes without saying that we will do so, no matter what, for it is our duty to God; but it would be a terrible and tragic mistake for the UK government to make us criminals for exercising and teaching mainstream, historic Christianity.”