‘Gay leper’ conference heads to London

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

London will play host to a conference titled ‘The Lepers Among Us’ today, aimed at “conflicted” people with gay impulses.

Organisers, who have previously held the conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, have insisted the title is not meant to cause offence.

The Core Issues Trust says it disagrees with the way leprosy sufferers were shunned in biblical times and compare that with how people with “conflicted in religious and sexual identity” are treated now.

But its beliefs and aims have been described today as “specious” and “deeply insulting”.

The conference, which will be held from 10am-8pm at the Emmanuel Centre in London’s Westminster, is set to “explore the role of evangelical and orthodox churches in supporting men and women with unwanted same sex attractions”.

The organisation, which says it is recognised as a charity by HMRC, issued a carefully-worded official statement on ‘change’ in 2010, saying: “All human sexuality is fallen and is in need of the sanctifying work of God to restore it to its intended wholeness and divine purpose.

“There is a growing body of research evidence indicating that sexual preference is neither immutable, innate nor chosen. As a consequence of our basic sinfulness we all have desires that we do not choose to have but we do have choices with respect to what we do about them.

“As a consequence our sexual identity can be reinforced or altered by either gender-affirming or gay-affirming lifestyles or therapies. CORE works with people who voluntarily seek to change from a “gay” lifestyle to a gender-affirming one. This is sometimes referred to as a “sexual re-orientation” process.”

‘Gay cure’ therapies are roundly rejected by professional bodies, but the group has denied offering “conflicted” people conversion therapy. They also say the conference is concerned with theology rather than psychotherapy and that they respect the rights of gays who do not “seek change”.

Organisers said in a statement ahead of the Belfast conference: “Core Issues Trust does not offer so-called ‘Reparative’ or ‘Conversion’ therapy but does offer support to individuals conflicted in religious and sexual identity, within a specific ethical framework.”

That framework advises therapists to seek “clarification of tailored pathways appropriate for future identity integration, consistent with personal values. This clarification may lead to a quest for celibacy, integration (to the LGB community) or to change.”

It also reminds therapists to tell clients that “reorientation” therapy could be psychologically damaging and that there is no evidence it works.

The group’s official statement on ‘change’ also says: “Merely abstaining from homosexual activity, although admirable, cannot be regarded as healing. Heterosexual preference is the goal of gender-affirming therapy and this may lead to marriage. However there will always be those who choose to remain celibate and single. Such singleness should be valued and respected.”

The British Psychoanalytic Council recently adopted a position statement saying it is “opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and does not accept that a homosexual orientation is evidence of disturbance of the mind or in development.”

Commenting on the event, the British Humanist Association Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips said: “The Core Issues Trust state they wish to work with those who ‘seek to change from a “gay” lifestyle to a gender-affirming one’, however the suggestion that homosexuality is a problem in need of a ‘cure’ is deeply insulting to lesbian, gay and bisexual people, profoundly objectionable, and wrong.

“Specious claims that someone’s sexual orientation can be changed through religion or therapy lack any credible basis, and conversion therapy can prove extremely harmful, especially where vulnerable individuals are being targeted. These kinds of biblically-inspired attempts to change sexual orientation have been repeatedly denounced by the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Medical Association, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.”

Dr Paul Miller, the infamous psychiatrist who was the subject of an exposé in 2010 that led to him being reported to the General Medical Council, is on the conference’s Council of Reference.

He has recently been put under a supervision order by the GMC, who confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk last week that he was under investigation.

A statement by the Trust ahead of its Belfast conference says it “recognises the fundamental human rights of the LGBT community to live in partnerships that are happy, fulfilled and respected. It acknowledges that Christians have different understandings of the teachings on the bible around human sexuality.

“It reserves the right to offer alternative orthodox views to those who choose to prioritise a religious identity over a sexual identity, or when these identities collide.”

But it also requests the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy recognise the “dangers” of a conflicted person “prematurely foreclosing” on a gay identity.

It “requests more thorough discussion about how to deal with competing religious and cultural values, and for these groups to recognise the poor quality of currently available scientific data and the lack of adequate evidence around both proving or disproving sexual orientation change efforts.”

UK Council for Psychotherapy chair, Professor Andrew Samuels said: “This isn’t about respecting religious belief or freedom of speech. Those are just smokescreens. This is really about homophobia – fear and hatred of sexual minorities – often fuelled by highly controversial readings of scripture.

“Every responsible organisation in the field of psychotherapy, counselling and mental health has expressed extreme concern at the practice of therapy intended to change sexual orientation.

“Such attempts are profoundly unethical, don’t work, and exploit the undeniable difficulties people from sexual minorities experience in our society. It is vital that people don’t get fooled by expressions of love and support for gays and lesbians emanating from the Core Issues Trust.”

Talks at the conference have titles including: ‘All of us Get Healed Together or Nobody Gets Healed: Marriage, Chaos, Love Disorders, Sexual Inversions and Gender Confusions’, ‘Fallen church leaders and members’ and ‘Naming the sin, lifting the shame’.

The event leaflet states: “The organisers welcome to this event all those who might disagree with the opinions expressed by presenters, or those held by Core Issues Trust who seek to attend for the purpose of engaging with the speakers.”

PinkNews.co.uk is awaiting a response from the Core Issues Trust to objections raised about the conference.