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Religious freedom threatened by Scottish conversion therapy plans

Religious Liberty
16 March 2022
Holyrood

Critics have warned that conversion therapy plans supported by Scottish parliamentarians could undermine religious liberty.

This week, MSPs debated a report by Holyrood's Equalities Committee recommending a "comprehensive" ban on "conversion practices".

This is described as any attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Speaking in the debate, committee convener Joe Fitzpatrick MSP recommended "a fully comprehensive ban".

He added that any legislation in the Scottish Parliament should "cover adults and children in all settings, without exception".

Green MSP Maggie Chapman backed his call, saying preaching, prayer and pastoral care must only be “non-judgemental and non-directive”.

Responding to the debate, Scottish Government Minister Christina McKelvie signalled that UK Government plans don't "go far enough".

UK Ministers have stressed the need to protect religious freedom and free expression in any ban on conversion therapy from Westminster.

John Mason MSP was one of only two MSPs in the debate to raise concerns about a potential impact on religious liberty.

He urged parliament to be "careful about definitions" and "not attempt to interfere in freedom of religion or belief”.

SNP colleague Alasdair Allan MSP added that any measures should not be about "restricting religious teaching or preaching".

Responding to the debate, Let Us Pray, a campaign that opposes over-broad conversion therapy legislation, said:

"Scottish politicians need to understand that their duty to protect religious freedom includes protecting beliefs they disagree with. The courts have consistently held that mainstream Christian views on marriage and gender are 'worthy of respect in a democratic society' and protected by human rights and equality law.

"All this highlights the importance of continuing to pray and making our voices heard. Scottish politicians, and their counterparts around the UK, must not support laws that would prevent Christians from praying, offering pastoral support, or teaching the Gospel. Parents must be free to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs."

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Religious Liberty

The right to freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right. We are campaigning to safeguard these freedoms in our society.

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