The media has created a sense of crisis around conversion therapy and a ban is very likely. The Christian Institute supports protecting people from dangerous medical practices. But activists want prayer, pastoral conversations, preaching and even parenting to be caught. This is a fast-moving issue. This leaflet covers key developments since our previous briefing in November 2020.
A report on ‘ending conversion practices’ in Scotland puts the work of mainstream churches “in the firing line”, campaigners are warning.
Let Us Pray, a campaign spearheaded by The Christian Institute, criticised the report for criminalising the ordinary work of churches, promoting LGBT theology, targeting parental rights, and undermining free speech.
Members of the Scottish Government-appointed group behind the highly controversial report included Blair Anderson of End Conversion Therapy Scotland, Stonewall, LGBT Youth Scotland and the Church of Scotland’s Dr Susan Brown.
A number of recommendations from the group are modelled on draconian legislation recently introduced in the Australian state of Victoria. There, engaging in alleged ‘change or suppression practices’ can result in ‘re-education’ sessions and penalties of up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of £100,000.
“Where parents or guardians have engaged in conversion practices, the modification or even withdrawal of their parental or guardianship rights is envisaged as an option.”
Surprisingly, the advisory group’s report claims that “ending conversion practices will not lead to the unlawful restriction of existing freedoms – including freedoms of speech, religion, and belief”.
Its goes on to state that the ban’s scope must include “all acts and practices that seek to change, suppress, or inhibit” someone’s sexual orientation or ‘gender identity’.
The report also says: “Where parents or guardians have engaged in conversion practices, the modification or even withdrawal of their parental or guardianship rights is envisaged as an option.”
Let Us Pray spokesman Simon Calvert said: “LGBT people deserve to be protected from physical and verbal abuse just like anyone else. But these proposals go much, much further.
“The report demands a law that could criminalise traditional churches – simply because their conversations around sex and gender do not conform to a narrow brand of LGBT politics.”
Mr Calvert added: “Leaders of traditional, mainstream churches are particularly in the firing line. The report suggests they be ‘re-educated’, and demands the removal of charitable status and the right to hire buildings from churches it deems non-compliant.”
He concluded: “The resulting report is a set of recommendations entirely divorced from reality. They don’t recognise the possibility that churches could respectfully uphold their beliefs in the way they deal with gay and trans people.
“They don’t recognise that making it illegal for ministers to encourage people to follow mainstream Christian teaching on sexual ethics would not only be repressive and wrong but a breach of international human rights laws.”