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Scottish government must rethink conversion practices ban, say church leaders

Religious Liberty
3 April 2023
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Church leaders have urged the Scottish Government to reconsider plans for a sweeping ban on "conversion practices" that could undermine religious liberty and parental freedom.

During Nicola Sturgeon's administration, Ministers committed to a ban on all activity designed to "change, suppress or inhibit someone's sexual orientation or gender identity".

Whilst Christian leaders in Scotland have universally condemned any abusive or coercive practices, they are concerned that an over-broad ban could criminalise orthodox teaching.

Non-religious groups have also expressed concern that parents talking to their children about trans identities could fall foul of the law. Telling a child they are not the opposite sex could become a crime.

A letter to Scotland's Minister for Equality, Emma Roddick, signed by 20 prominent church leaders north of the border criticises recommendations made to the government last year.

The letter states: "The Bible is clear that all people are made in God’s image and that, as such, everyone deserves to be protected from abusive and coercive practices. We are therefore grateful that such practices are – rightly – already illegal in our nation.

"However, a ‘conversion therapy’ ban would go far beyond outlawing abuse and coercion; instead it would criminalise ordinary Christians and church leaders for expressing mainstream, orthodox belief. A basic tenet of the Christian faith is that all are sinful and in need of forgiveness.

"But God himself has provided the way of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ; this is the good news of the Gospel. The process of becoming a Christian – through repentance, that is, turning from sin and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord – is usually described as ‘conversion’.

"By using this Christian language of ‘conversion’, therefore, the proposed legislation strikes at a central tenet of Christianity itself. This means it will be very hard to avoid criminalising the ordinary work and witness of churches. Indeed, for some of those calling for a ban, this would seem to be the express purpose."

It adds: "It is profoundly mistaken to conflate orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality and gender with abuse. Moreover, outlawing Christians from explaining the Bible’s teaching about God’s good design for true and healthy human flourishing would be deeply repressive, and a violation of religious freedom.

"We do not believe it is the intention of the Scottish Government to criminalise innocent Christians for teaching what Christians have always taught, but we fear it is at grave risk of doing so if it continues on its current trajectory. We urge you to reconsider the current plans".

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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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