Govt flip flopping on conversion therapy banReligious Liberty
UK Ministers are flip flopping on plans to outlaw conversion therapy ahead of an official programme for government being laid out.
Last night, ITV News reported that it had seen a leaked document suggesting a proposed conversion therapy ban would be ditched. However, hours later, following an online backlash from LGBT groups, the government appeared to change course.
The latest government statement suggests that a ban on gay conversion therapy practices will be legislated for but a ban on practices intended to change a person's "gender identity" will not be. Any proposals will feature in the next Queen's Speech, on 10 May.
CARE supports the banning of all potentially harmful psychological therapies and medical treatments where there is sound scientific evidence for doing so.
However, we are deeply concerned that claims of harm from these professional therapies will end up being applied to pastoral care and regular church activities such as preaching and prayer.
A wide-ranging ban could end up discriminating against Christian believers who seek counsel for unwanted sexual attractions that are in conflict with their deeply held convictions and beliefs.
Earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission stressed that a UK Government ban on conversion therapy must not infringe on religious liberty.
The group, which oversees compliance with equality and human rights legislation, stated: Encouraging people to comply with religious doctrine that requires refraining from certain types of sexual activity should not fall within the definition of conversion therapy".
The Scottish Government has pledged to bring forward its own legislation on conversion therapy practices, which is likely to be far wider in scope than any proposal at Westminster.
In January, Holyrood's Human Rights Committee recommended that a ban in Scotland should specifically outlaw all "directive" teaching and prayer on sex and sexuality.
Commenting at the time, CARE CEO Ross Hendry said:
"The scope of the Scottish proposals is alarming. Politicians have a responsibility to safeguard everyone’s freedom to worship and live out their beliefs. Wide definitions lead to bad laws and worse outcomes.
“Whilst taking evidence on conversion therapy, MSPs heard legitimate concerns about the potential for free expression and religious liberty to be undermined. These appear to have been ignored.
"A ban based on these recommendations has the potential to enshrine persecution against people with religious or gender critical beliefs in Scotland. We call on MSPs to think again."