The Christian Institute

News Release

Conversion therapy: Christian campaigners warn MSPs they will face court action due to ‘bias’ and inadequate scrutiny if Holyrood passes proposed ban law

The Scottish Parliament has been warned that it could face legal action if it passes ill-thought-out legislation banning ‘conversion therapy’, based on the “bias” and inadequate scrutiny of the issue by a committee of MSPs.

The warning has been delivered in a hard-hitting letter from The Christian Institute (CI), which previously successfully challenged the unlawful Named Person legislation, to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone.

The CI expresses deep concern that the majority making up the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee (EHRCJ) “are too close” to the End Conversion Therapy Scotland (ECTS) group, whose petition is currently being considered by the Committee.

Ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election, ECTS asked all MSP candidates to sign a public pledge to ban conversion therapy on the campaigners’ terms.

Of the ten EHRCJ Committee members, seven promised to back the campaign.

The letter from the CI’s Deputy Director Simon Calvert to Ms Johnstone states:

“This means that many of the Committee members have felt obliged to publicly declare their prior support for the terms of the petition every time the Committee meets to scrutinise it.

“How can the Committee be expected to exercise impartial, critical judgement when most of its members have given assurances directly to the campaign group whose claims they are scrutinising and have promised to enact the very policies being sought?”

The Government wants to ban practices that seek to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. ‘Conversion therapy’ is a wide umbrella term chosen by LGBT campaigners. It covers abusive practices by quack medical practitioners and charlatan preachers which are largely illegal already.


The CI supports protecting people from dangerous medical practices and abuse. But activists backing the ban want to go much further so that prayer, pastoral conversations, preaching and even parenting would be caught.

Some campaigners have also sought to stop people criticising LGBT lifestyles and theology. Many Christians are concerned a ‘conversion therapy’ ban could hand them a veto on the preaching and practice of churches.

The CI says supporters of the ban see it as a way to attack biblical teaching that sex is for marriage. If they get their way, even preaching repentance could, in some circumstances, become a crime.


There is no agreed definition of ‘conversion therapy’. To some it means brutal pseudo-medical practices which are already illegal. To others it means merely teaching the Christian sexual ethic that sex is only for marriage and that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Mr Calvert says “bias” has become evident in the way the Holyrood committee has been operating and states in his letter:

“Out of eight evidence sessions held by the EHRCJ … only one gave opportunity for any of these concerns to be raised. The session on 16 November 2021 heard from Christian and other groups who question how far the ban should go. The other seven sessions were given over solely to advocates who support [the petition] without reservation.

“Furthermore, the panel on 16 November was the only one where witnesses were asked hostile questions. The other sessions felt very much like conversations between friends and allies.”


The CI has also cited further evidence to back up its bias allegation, including:

  • some Committee members have written tweets giving unqualified support to the campaign group;
  • the Committee has held at least one unannounced closed door session and failed to provide any formal record of the meeting; and
  • two of the petition’s authors – Tristan Gray and Blair Anderson – failed to disclose they are Green Party activists at a time when the Greens’ agreement with the SNP includes a commitment on banning conversion therapy.


The CI letter to the Presiding Officer also says:

“We are concerned that the majority of MSPs on the Committee are too close to the ECTS campaign for the public to have confidence in the outcome of their deliberations in this sensitive area of policy-making.”

“Of the ten current members of the EHRCJ (including substitutes), seven signed the pledge to ban conversion therapy in those terms. These are Joe FitzPatrick, Maggie Chapman, Karen Adam, Pam Duncan-Glancy, Fulton MacGregor, Paul O’Kane (substitute), Kaukab Stewart (substitute).”

Mr Calvert adds:

“Ill-thought-out conversion therapy bans in other countries are being strongly resisted by churches, not because they wish to practise ‘conversion therapy’, but because the bans go much further and outlaw innocent, everyday church activities including people praying for their friends.

“It is very regrettable that concerns such as these seem to have fallen on deaf ears with the EHRCJ. The public expects impartial scrutiny. Instead, Committee members have made promises to campaign groups and taken evidence disproportionately from those supporting the petition.”

And he concludes by issuing a stern warning:

“The Christian Institute was involved in the successful legal challenge to the Named Person legislation where Parliament failed to properly scrutinise proposals. Inadequate scrutiny by Parliament in this case may again result in human rights challenges being brought against any resulting legislation.”



Notes for Editors:

A copy of the letter to the Presiding Officer can be found here: