The Christian Institute has welcomed a letter sent to MPs by Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch pledging to ensure the Government’s proposed ban on so-called conversion therapy does not criminalise parents, teachers and church leaders who uphold the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexual ethics.
The Westminster Government announced its proposals yesterday, and a Bill is due to be published in full later this year.
LGBT activists have been demanding a ban that criminalises repentance, preaching, ‘gentle, non-coercive prayer’, pastoral advice and parenting that fails to endorse liberal theology.
Freedom of religion
In the letter sent to all MPs, the Minister for Women and Equalities said the legislation “should not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress”.
She restated the Government’s commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny of proposals, saying it would help ensure “faith leaders, parents, teachers or counsellors continue to be able to have exploratory conversations with people about their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity”.
“The freedom to express the teachings of any religion, as well as everyday religious practice, will not be affected by the ban.”
‘Outlaw traditional theology’
In a statement welcoming the Minister’s reassurances, the Institute’s Simon Calvert said: “This letter confirms what we’ve been saying for years. Banning conversion therapy is an absolute minefield, primarily because no one knows what it is.
“Activists used to say they wanted to outlaw brutal abuse like electro-shock therapy. But that’s already illegal. Now they’re admitting what they really want is to outlaw traditional theology and gender critical feminism.
“They are profoundly intolerant. They don’t like the idea of churches praying prayers they don’t agree with.
“They don’t like women’s activists and parents discouraging young people from rushing into gender transition. So they are weaponising the language of ‘safeguarding to try to bounce Parliament into outlawing the opinions of their theological and philosophical opponents. This is not what the criminal law is for.”
Mr Calvert added: “Our solicitors wrote to the Westminster Government preparing the ground for judicial review in May 2021.
“If Parliament passes a law that tramples on basic freedoms of speech and religion we are ready to go to court to protect the fundamental right of parents and pastors to calmly explain their ethical beliefs without being prosecuted as abusers.”
The Institute has threatened legal challenges to proposed conversion therapy bans in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England.
In a written statement to the House of Commons yesterday, the Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “The Government will publish the draft Bill shortly and will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee in this parliamentary session.”
She said this would help ensure that any Bill on conversion therapy does not cause “unintended consequences”, such as “criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children”.