Roman Catholic bishops in Scotland have accused the Government of “ideological totalitarianism” over its proposed law to ban ‘conversion therapy’.
They urged Holyrood to reject controversial proposals to “criminalise mainstream religious pastoral care, parental guidance, and medical or other professional intervention”.
Their criticisms follow widespread publicity of Aidan O’Neill KC’s legal opinion for The Christian Institute, which warned that the “fundamentally illiberal” proposals are “beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate”.
The bishops said: “Existing legislation rightly protects all people from physical and verbal abuse, however, these proposals go much further.”
They said it is a “fundamental pillar of any free society” that the state “recognises and respects the right of religious bodies and organisations to be free to teach the fullness of their beliefs”, and to support those who wish to live in accordance with those beliefs “through prayer, counsel and other pastoral means”.
Fears were also expressed that teaching about God’s creation of humans as male and female and the meaning of sex within marriage could become illegal.
The senior clergy said: “Priests could be banned from working in Scotland, the Church could lose its charitable status, and classroom and pastoral teachers could lose their jobs.”
They added that the future of Roman Catholic schools would be uncertain and “children could be taken away from their parents”, who should have the “right to advise and guide their children”.
Following O’Neill’s devastating critique of the Scottish Government’s plans to criminalise innocent parents and preachers, the Institute is preparing the ground for legal action.
Simon Calvert, a Deputy Director at the Institute, said: “If the Scottish Government follows the advice of its Expert Advisory Group it will be exceeding its powers and inflicting the most totalitarian conversion therapy ban in the world.”
This is the latest in a series of Scottish legislation that has been challenged over recent years.
In 2018, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was abolished after every opposition party backed its repeal.
The following year, the intrusive Named Person scheme was officially axed, three years after the Supreme Court ruled that it breached the European Convention of Human Rights.
And the controversial hate crime Bill which Holyrood passed in 2021 has been delayed from coming into force until at least 2024 over its impact on police resources.