Ex-Archbishop of Canterbury backs ‘gay cure’ therapist

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Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has joined other clerics to back a therapist who was found guilty of professional malpractice last year after offering ‘gay cure’ therapy.

Christian psychotherapist Lesley Pilkington is appealing against her suspension by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy after she offered ‘reparative therapy’ to undercover journalist Patrick Strudwick.

Now Lord Carey; the former Bishop of Rochester, Rt Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali; and the Bishop of Lewes, Rt Rev. Wallace Benn, have written to the BACP in support of her saying the therapy “does not produce harm”.

In the letter, the clerics said: “We believe that people who seek, freely, to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions hold the moral right to receive professional assistance.

“Whether motivated by Christian conscience or other values, clients, not practitioners, have the prerogative to choose the yardstick by which to define themselves.”

They also told the BACP reparative therapy “does not produce harm despite the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others maintaining the contrary”.

“Competent practitioners, including those working with biblical Judeo-Christian values, should be free to assist those seeking help.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ official position on the issue says: “There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

Last year, a professional trial at the BACP unanimously ruled that Lesley Pilkington had acted unprofessionally.

Mrs Pilkington, 61, had told gay journalist Patrick Strudwick she could help him overcome his homosexuality.

Such therapy is generally considered ineffective and in some cases harmful.

According to an article written by Mr Strudwick for the Guardian after the verdict last year, the BACP panel described Mrs Pilkington as “reckless”, “disrespectful”, “dogmatic” and “unprofessional”.

Speaking after her suspension in 2011, Mrs Pilkington said: “Reparative therapy is a valid therapy that many people want and it should not be damaged by irresponsible reporting.”

In 2010, Lord Carey intervened in the case of Gary McFarlane, a counsellor who refused to work with gay couples.

The former Archbishop had sent a witness statement to the Bristol court hearing Mr McFarlane’s case in which he claimed that judgments against Christians could lead to civil unrest and argued that such cases should be tried specially by judges with “proven sensitivity” to religious issues.

But Lord Justice Laws rebutted his argument, calling it “deeply unprincipled” and added: “I am sorry that he finds it possible to suggest a procedure that would, in my judgment, be deeply inimical to the public interest.”

The BACP has been unable to comment on Mrs Pilkington’s ongoing appeal.

‘Gay cure’ therapies have been making headlines recently.

Last week, the New York-based rabbi who heads Amsterdam’s Orthodox Ashkenazi community had said he feared for his life after he was suspended for signing a ‘gay cure’ declaration.

One of the signatories to the Torah declaration signed by Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag is Arthur Goldberg, a co-director of JONAH.

JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), was in the news this month after JFS, a Jewish school in London, showed students a slide displaying its logo during a discussion on homosexuality.

The school strongly denied promoting the ex-gay group as an option for possibly gay students to explore.