Prayer will not be outlawed under a ban on so-called conversion therapy, the Government has announced, but the Institute is warning that “the devil will be in the detail”.
This morning, Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss released the Government’s consultation on how to make coercive ‘conversion therapies’ illegal.
The newly-launched Let Us Pray campaign, led by The Christian Institute, has urged the Government not to cave in to the demands of activists who want to use the ban to attack the theology of Bible-believing churches.
At present, the proposals include introducing a new offence for ‘talking therapies’ involving under-18s in any circumstance and adults who have not given informed consent.
It also includes fines for those who profit from ‘conversion therapy’ offences, and Conversion Therapy Protection Orders to protect potential victims from undergoing harmful practices, including going abroad for them.
But in a letter to The Christian Institute, which is behind the Let Us Pray campaign, Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer MP, said: “Our proposed package of measures will not impact everyday religious practice and we are clear that private prayer of course could not be considered to be conversion therapy.
“The freedom to express the teachings of any religion will not be affected by the ban, and there should be no doubt that individuals will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders.”
Spokesman for Let Us Pray Simon Calvert, said: “We welcome the fact that the Government has rejected the demands of campaigners who want to criminalise prayers that fail to endorse liberal theology. The Government has clearly recognised that this would be a serious breach of human rights.
“However, we have yet to see the specifics of the Government’s proposals to ensure it delivers on its pledge. The devil will be in the detail. They must ensure the legislation does not result in vicars being prosecuted for praying with members of the congregation who ask for prayer about their sexuality.
“Everybody supports protecting people from dangerous pseudo-medical practices and physical abuse. The Government’s proposals clearly aim to do that. But activists are trying to pressure the Government to bring in a draconian law that would effectively give them a veto on the teaching and practice of churches.
activists are trying to pressure the Government to bring in a draconian law that would effectively give them a veto on the teaching and practice of churches
“It is frankly repugnant for them to exploit legitimate concerns about the abuse of gay people to further their own hostility against evangelical churches and the people who worship in them.”
‘Basic religious freedoms’
He continued: “Activists will be furious that the Government has so far rejected their demands to outlaw traditional, mainstream Christian beliefs about sex and sexuality. Churches that teach the biblical sexual ethic also teach that we must love our neighbour. We represent no threat to LGBT people and we do not deserve to be criminalised.
“By setting out its intention to protect basic religious freedoms, the Government is simply recognising that we have a human right to hold, express and live out our beliefs. Lawyers have written to the Government reminding them of their obligation to protect freedom of religion.
“LGBT people who come to a Bible-believing church get the same warm welcome as anyone else. And most of them are not surprised to find that the church believes things that they don’t. That’s what freedom of religion means.
“But some who oppose the church’s teaching, having failed to win the argument by persuasion, want the criminal law to settle their theological disputes. The Government must remain firm in its resolve not to give them what they seek.”
‘Confused and contradictory’
Mr Calvert concluded: “Whilst we are encouraged by the Government’s stated intentions, we remain concerned as to whether the particular policy approach it has chosen will fulfil all of those intentions.
“There is a distinct lack of detail in the consultation paper. Some of it is confused and contradictory on the key issue of what is and is not going to be outlawed. We will continue to engage constructively with the Government as its plans develop, and will be urging other Christians to do the same.”