The Government is saying it will press on with its plan for a law banning so-called conversion therapy – just hours after a briefing on an ‘non-legislative approach’ was leaked to the pro-ban journalist Paul Brand of ITV News.
The document stated that: “The PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy”.
Activists have been demanding a ban that criminalises repentance, preaching, ‘gentle, non-coercive prayer’, pastoral advice and parenting that fails to endorse liberal theology.
Expectations that an announcement would be met by a “noisy backlash from LGBT groups and some parliamentarians” proved well-founded.
Responding to the initial leak, Downing Street said: “Having explored this sensitive issue in great depth the government has decided to proceed by reviewing how existing law can be deployed more effectively to prevent this in the quickest way possible, and explore the use of other non-legislative measures”.
But within hours a “senior government source” reportedly told ITV News it would be in the Queen’s Speech but would not apply to those experiencing gender confusion.
The U-turn followed complaints from a number of MPs including the Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse who claimed that not introducing a new law gave a “green light to a form of torture in the UK”.
The Institute’s Simon Calvert said the Government should not have given in to activists.
“The leaked Government document confirms that there isn’t an evidence basis for a ban. They haven’t identified any gap in the law that needs to be filled. Abuse is already illegal. So what will a ‘conversion therapy’ ban cover? If you are going to criminalise something you need to be able to say what it is.
“We know what Jayne Ozanne would like to ban. She took the trouble to explicitly state that she wants ‘gentle, non-coercive prayer’ to be covered.
“The Government knows you can’t do this. At least, not without breaching the European Convention on Human Rights. That’s why it’s so disappointing that, having come to a sensible, considered conclusion to drop the ban, they’ve now caved in to people who see this law as a way of punishing evangelicals for their beliefs about sexuality.”
Ordinary church work
Activists have been demanding that Westminster bring in a catch-all ban based upon the one recently introduced by the State of Victoria, Australia.
It says that people not affirming someone’s gender identity and parents not agreeing to puberty blockers for their kids are unlawful forms of ‘conversion therapy’.
Thousands of church leaders have expressed concern that such a law would criminalise the ordinary work of churches.
A letter, signed by more than 2,500 Christian ministers and pastoral workers, warned the Government against introducing a ban covering preaching, prayer and pastoral care.