The Scottish Government is at “grave risk” of criminalising the ordinary work of churches by pushing ahead with a so-called conversion therapy ban, church leaders have warned.
Writing to Emma Roddick, Scotland’s new Minister for Equalities, 20 church leaders said a ban “would go far beyond outlawing abuse and coercion; instead it would criminalise ordinary Christians and church leaders for expressing mainstream, orthodox belief”.
The Scottish Government is expected to bring forward a Bill by the end of the year. In October, an advisory group called for church leaders who uphold the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexual ethics to be re-educated by the State or removed from ministry.
The church leaders said: “The process of becoming a Christian – through repentance, that is, turning from sin and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord – is usually described as ‘conversion’. By using this Christian language of ‘conversion’, therefore, the proposed legislation strikes at a central tenet of Christianity itself.
“This means it will be very hard to avoid criminalising the ordinary work and witness of churches. Indeed, for some of those calling for a ban, this would seem to be the express purpose.”
the proposed legislation strikes at a central tenet of Christianity itself
They highlighted that the church’s teaching for 2000 years has been that “the only place for sexual activity is within a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman, and that God has created each one of us male or female”.
The church leaders added that “outlawing Christians from explaining the Bible’s teaching about God’s good design for true and healthy human flourishing would be deeply repressive, and a violation of religious freedom”.
Revd Dr William Philip of The Tron Church in Glasgow, who signed the letter, called the ‘Expert Advisory Group’s’ proposals “alarming”.
the only place for sexual activity is within a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman
He said: “Threatening to punish church leaders and churches for upholding Christian teaching; terrorising mothers and fathers with the spectre of removing their parental rights for simply trying to help their children navigate normal adolescence – are these really the marks of a free and tolerant society?”
Professor David Galloway, of Lennox Evangelical Church, added: “An evidence-based case for a new law has not been made and no gaps in existing law have been identified.
“Yet the Scottish Government is continuing to press ahead with a law that could see ordinary Christians criminalised for merely expressing their beliefs.”
are these really the marks of a free and tolerant society?
A legal opinion by Aidan O’Neill KC’s for The Christian Institute has warned that the “fundamentally illiberal” proposals are “beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate”.
The UK Government is also due to publish a Bill to ban so-called conversion practices later this year, while the Welsh Government is seeking legal advice on whether it would require further devolution powers “to ban conversion therapy in its entirety”.
The Christian Institute has warned Westminster and Edinburgh that it will take legal action if either government introduces a ban that disrupts the ordinary work of churches.