Humanists UK have called for a ban on repentance, claiming it constitutes ‘conversion therapy’.
In its response to the Government’s consultation on a proposed conversion therapy ban, the anti-faith group said other practices such as confession, fasting, declarations of faith and “attendance on religious courses” could also cause “direct harm” to LGBT people and should be forbidden.
The Let Us Pray campaign, which is defending the rights of Christians to pray for and pastorally support friends, family and other church members, called on the Government to “clearly and unequivocally” reject the demands.
Humanists UK said that wherever the intent of an activity is to ‘change or suppress’ someone’s sexuality or gender identity, the practice should be banned and that no distinction should be drawn between violent actions and consensual prayer or pastoral conversations.
It further claimed that the right to freedom of religion or belief should be restricted if LGBT people feel they are being harmed.
The humanists lauded extreme legislation in the Australian state of Victoria – where a new law banning religious activities including prayer is set to come into effect next week – as a good example of how conversion therapy within churches could be banned.
‘Exploitative and manipulative’
A spokesman for the Let Us Pray campaign said listing ordinary church practices alongside abuse is “exploitative and manipulative”.
He said: “Banning ‘faith declarations’ would be an incredibly repressive move. Christians make declarations of their faith in many settings – some recite historic creeds every week, others make declarations in order to become members or leaders of their churches. Presumably banning ‘faith declarations’ would also mean outlawing baptism.
“Then there’s fasting. In the Christian faith, missing a meal in order to pray and seek God is a personal choice. But church leaders could fall foul of the law if they advocate fasting as a practice for the faithful.
“Banning ‘attendance on religious courses’ sounds like an atheist’s dream. Courses taken in preparation for baptism, confirmation or church membership often cover Christian living, including sexual ethics. If the Humanists got their way, pastors would be playing with fire when they ask church members to keep the Bible’s teaching.”
He continued: “When the public hears about a ban on ‘conversion therapy’, they think of electro-shock therapy and other pseudo-medical practices. Activists describe horrific actions like ‘corrective rape’ and physical abuse. But these are already illegal.
“Increasingly, however, campaigners have made it clear that they want ordinary Christian beliefs banned alongside genuine abuse. Many explain that they want prayer and pastoral conversations outlawed. There are disingenuous attempts to win theological battles by calling some Christian teachings ‘harmful’.”
He concluded: “Banning people from everyday religious activities like repentance and attending religious courses is incredibly intolerant. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from the Chinese Communist Party.
“It just confirms that some people see a ban on conversion therapy as a Trojan horse for banning religion itself. The Government needs to be very, very careful that its ban on conversion therapy doesn’t hand these people a stick with which to beat the church.”