The Christian Institute

News Release

Scottish Parliament calls for ban on traditional religious beliefs and prayer. ‘Gender critical’ mums also in the firing line.

  • The Scottish Parliament’s Human Rights Committee has issued a report calling for a conversion therapy ban to include talking to people about sex and sexuality in a way that is ‘non-affirming’.
  • All ‘directive’ religious teaching and prayer with individuals about sex or sexuality should be banned, according to the Committee, which says “legislation should not pose any restrictions on ordinary religious teaching or the right of people to take part in prayer or pastoral care …in a …non-directive way” but otherwise “such practices should fall within the ban” (Para. 3)
  • Committee calls controversial legislation in Victoria, Australia, which expressly bans prayer, “one of the best practice examples” (Para. 17) [See also Notes for Editors below.]
  • The Christian Institute has previously written to the Presiding Officer stating that the Committee was “too close” to the activists whose conversion therapy petition they were meant to be scrutinising.

The Equalities Committee of the Scottish Parliament is calling for “the most extreme legislation on conversion therapy in the Western world” says The Christian Institute.

In a 40-page report published today, the Committee calls for a ban to include religious teaching, prayer or other speech directed at an individual or group of individuals if it does not accept their view of their gender identity or sexuality.

The Committee is dominated by MSPs who had previously signed the End Conversion Therapy Scotland (ECTS) campaign pledge. Today’s report closely mirrors the demands of ECTS.

It says:

“…legislation should not pose any restrictions on ordinary religious teaching or the right of people to take part in prayer or pastoral care to discuss, explore or come to terms with their identity in a non-judgmental and non-directive way. However…most conversion practices take place within a religious setting including in the form of “talking therapy” which is used with the intention to “correct” sexuality or gender. The Committee believes and recommends that such practices should fall within a ban.” (Para. 3)

“…conversion therapy is an umbrella term for a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.” (Para 21.)

Simon Calvert, a Deputy Director at The Christian Institute, said:

“If Scotland were to implement all the demands of this report we would end up with the most extreme legislation on conversion therapy in the Western world.

“Everyone understands that there have been abuses in the past and no-one defends that. But MSPs on the Committee have made no effort to approach this in a balanced, human rights compliant way and as a result their recommendations are unbalanced and, frankly, repressive.

“We can all agree that people should not be coerced. But these proposals don’t target coercion. They target conversations based on beliefs and individual viewpoints.

“The Committee wants a ban on seeking to ‘suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity’ on the basis that ‘any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other’. Christians believe in showing gentleness to all and reject the description of their beliefs and practices as forms of ‘suppression’. But you can easily see how gently teaching a trans-identifying young person that God made us male and female could be viewed as ‘seeking to suppress’ their expression of gender identity. And explaining to a gay friend the Church’s traditional teaching that sex should only take place within man-woman marriage could be deemed an attempt to suppress their expression of sexual orientation.

“The idea that only non-directive conversations about sex and sexuality should be legal would be laughable were it not so serious. Everyone has opinions on these things. Christian parents talking to their kids are going to be pretty clear when it comes to sexual behaviour. Isn’t that ‘directive’? You can expect your therapist to be non-directive. But anyone who has spent more than five minutes with a church leader knows they will have something to say about the direction of your life. That’s their job. You can’t make it illegal where it involves sex and sexuality.

“Teaching a church member that sex outside of marriage is a sin and praying with them, at their request, that God would give them grace to resist temptation will be viewed by some as seeking to suppress sexual orientation. But this is what churches do in relation to all kind of temptations, not just those relating to sex. It’s an expression of religion that is protected by equality and human rights law and the Parliament can’t outlaw it.

“It seems the Committee also wants to outlaw conversations with gender confused kids if they suggest that one gender identity is ‘inherently preferable’. Feminist mums whose daughters say they are trans are going to be pretty clear that embracing their identity as women is ‘inherently preferable’ to identifying as a trans man. You cannot legislate in a way which jeopardises the mum’s human right to have that conversation with her own daughter.”

The Report cites with approval activist Jayne Ozanne who says exactly which kinds of prayer she wants banned:

“the sort of prayer that creates an open and safe place into which people can go and where any outcome is acceptable and right is good and should be encouraged. However, when there is a pre-determined purpose I think that must be banned”. Para. 68

The report also suggests that religious communities be re-educated to accept the Committee’s views on LGBT issues:

“Jayne Ozanne told us ‘we can work within their religious communities to end it [i.e. conversion therapy]’” (Para. 69)

Adopting this approach the report concludes:

“The Committee believes it is vital to involve religious and community leaders as a Bill progresses, and that education and awareness is crucial to promote acceptance of diversity.” (Para. 80) [See also notes for editors below.]

The report targets church teachings about sin and repentance, as well as churches’ attempts to uphold those teachings:

“Many of the individuals who shared their experiences told us that they willingly engaged in or actively sought out conversion therapy as adults as a result of deep-rooted feelings that there was something wrong with them and that, without change, they would not be accepted within their church or communities.” (Para. 98)


Notes for Editors:

Victoria’s Equal Opportunities & Human Rights Commission re-writing doctrine

Murray Campbell, a Baptist pastor based in Melbourne, has written about the on-the-ground impact of the Victoria conversion therapy ban. The Victorian Equal Opportunities & Human Rights Commission has been holding ‘information sessions’ on the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act. Murray says Government representatives at these sessions have made it clear that some Church teachings are now unlawful:

we were informed that no person’s sexuality or gender identity is broken or sinful, and to suggest so contravenes the intent of the new laws” and “we were informed by a lawyer representing the Government that, ‘We are to affirm peoples sexual orientation and preferences and ‘the love of God’ in that!’

He also says they were told the following scenarios would now be illegal:

  • Praying for someone who approaches a Christian and shares that they are same sex attracted. They ask for prayer because they don’t want to live out those desires but instead live according to Christian principles.
  • Assisting, if same person also asks for assistance on how to live according to Christian beliefs and so refrain from sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage

N.B. Paragraphs 162 to 168 of the EHRCJ report endorse Victoria as ‘best practice’ but include suggestions that Scotland may need to go even further.


Extract from Premier Christianity interview with Jayne Ozanne on banning prayer:


Q: “Some people might be surprised to hear you say that the more ‘extreme’ kinds of gay conversion therapy is – to quote your words – “just as damaging” – as well-meaning prayer. Is that what you’re saying?

A: “Christians are told by their leaders that what they are is sinful and their desires, which are innate, are ungodly – that level of internalised pressure is huge. So yeah, there is no such thing as a simple, little, loving prayer because it comes from a place of saying that who you are is unacceptable.”


Q: “But you have people saying: “my deep religious conviction, as a same-sex attracted Christian, is to live…” (what they would call) “a celibate life.” And you’re saying prayers in that regard are to be made illegal?”

A: “Yes, because it is damaging and lives are at stake.”