The Westminster Government has announced its proposals for banning so-called conversion therapy.
A Bill is due to be published in full later this year, but Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has confirmed that the ban will also apply to those struggling with gender-confusion — contradicting assurances made while Boris Johnson was Prime Minister.
Activists have been demanding a ban that criminalises repentance, preaching, ‘gentle, non-coercive prayer’, pastoral advice and parenting that fails to endorse liberal theology.
In a written statement to the House of Commons, the Culture Secretary said: “The Government will publish the draft Bill shortly and will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee in this parliamentary session.”
She added: “The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children.”
The Government’s announcement comes just days after Conservative MP Alicia Kearns tabled an amendment to the Online Safety Bill, which is expected to be withdrawn later today. The amendment attempted to brand content “which advertises or promotes the practice of so-called conversion practices of LGBTQ+ individuals” as ‘harmful’.
Kearns has been leading calls for a broad conversion therapy ban, and in 2021 listed prayer alongside grotesque acts such as ‘corrective rape’ in her definition of conversion therapy.
‘Respect religious freedom’
LGBT activist and General Synod member Jayne Ozanne said she was “relieved” to hear the Government’s announcement, but claimed “religious practices” must be stopped “if LGB+ lives are to be protected from this horrific abuse”. Ozanne has previously admitted wanting to ban “gentle, non-coercive prayer”.
The Institute’s Ciarán Kelly responded: “We know what activists like Jayne Ozanne would like to ban – the ordinary work of churches. The Government must know you can’t do this without breaching the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Westminster must not introduce a totalitarian ban that criminalises everyday church activity. It must be crystal clear that it will respect religious freedom and not cave in to demands to ban prayer, preaching, pastoral care and Christian parenting.”
In 2021, The Christian Institute instructed solicitors to prepare the ground for a potential judicial review of any laws banning ‘conversion therapy’ that restrict religious freedom.
This is based on legal advice received from one of the UK’s leading human rights KCs warning that an over-broad ban could criminalise the ordinary work of churches.
In a recent legal opinion for The Christian Institute, Aidan O’Neill KC warned that the Scottish Government’s “fundamentally illiberal” proposals for a ban are “beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate”.
Following his devastating critique of the Scottish Government’s plans to criminalise innocent parents and preachers, the Institute is preparing the ground for legal action.
Summary and extracts of the written legal opinion of Aidan O’Neill KC
The Christian Institute commissioned written legal advice from Aidan O’Neill KC in December 2022. This booklet offers a summary and extracts of the legal opinion received.
Confirmed: Alicia Kearns’ Amendment 84 was formally withdrawn late on 17 January.