The Christian Institute

News Release

Conversion therapy ban must not criminalise innocent conversations

In response to press speculation that the Government is to press ahead with a draft Bill banning ‘conversion practices’, Simon Calvert, a Deputy Director at The Christian Institute, said:

“The Christian Institute will be taking a KC’s advice on whether the draft Bill fulfils the Government’s pledge not to criminalise innocent conversations.

“By moving ahead with a Bill at all, the Government is wading into very dangerous territory.

“Gay and trans people are already protected, quite rightly, from verbal and physical abuse by existing law.

“Since those things are outlawed, what is it that this Bill will seek to criminalise? The leading activists on this issue – those the Government is trying to placate – are quite clear that they want it to target conversations and ideas they don’t like. They want a kind of LGBT blasphemy law. This is profoundly illiberal.

“That’s why in May 2021 our solicitors wrote to the Government preparing the ground for judicial review if Parliament passes a law that tramples on basic freedoms of speech and religion.

“The leading activist, Jayne Ozanne, says she wants ‘gentle non-coercive prayer’ to be criminalised as part of this Bill. But it is obvious to most people that gentle non-coercive prayer is not conversion therapy.

“Ozanne has also called on the Government to imitate the conversion therapy legislation in the Australian state of Victoria.

“Official guidance from Victoria says parents refusing to consent to their children going on puberty blockers are committing unlawful conversion therapy. Religious leaders are told they are likely to be carrying out an illegal act if they say prayers that ‘ask for a person to not act on their attractions’ or ‘talk about a person’s brokenness or need to repent’.

“The Victoria guidance even says that ‘not affirming someone’s gender identity’ is conversion therapy. The penalty in Victoria is up to ten years in prison or a maximum fine of over £100,000. Victoria has already begun a program of ‘re-educating’ church leaders.

“MPs and Peers scrutinising the draft conversion practices Bill must ensure that it does not even come close to imitating the terrible mistakes being made in Victoria.

“We know from leaked UK Government documents that no evidence has been presented of abuse or coercion that is not already illegal. This is key. In Sweden, an official Government report concluded there was no need for a conversion therapy ban because, as in the UK, existing criminal laws already protect gay and trans people from verbal and physical abuse. It warns against legislating merely to ‘send a signal’.


Note on Sweden

  • The Government of Sweden commissioned a report into “so-called conversion attempts” against LGBTQ people ahead of legislating on the issue. The ‘Swedish Government Official Report’ concludes that the Government should not introduce a new criminal ban on ‘conversion therapy’. Nor should it introduce ‘conversion therapy’ as an aggravating factor, nor write a law merely to ‘send a signal’.
  • The senior lawyers say any aspects which constitute CT attempts that are suitable for criminalisation, have already been outlawed. Instead they advocate using provisions already in the country’s criminal code to better tackle abuse.
  • They also say: “a new penalty provision should not be introduced just for the reason that the legislator wants to send a signal”. On an aggravating factor, it explains: “such a provision would probably not contribute in any effective way to a strengthened protection against conversion attempts”