Quakers demand Tory government ban ‘unethical’ conversion therapy ‘without delay’

A banner to welcome LGBT+ visitors at a Quaker meeting house in Washington, DC.

British Quakers’ official LGBT+ group has called on the UK government to ban conversion therapy “without delay”.

At its annual general meeting on 8 October, Quakers in Britain’s official LGBT+ group, Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Community, issued a statement on conversion therapy, in which they affirmed that “any practice which seeks to change, ‘cure’, cancel or suppress a person’s sexuality or gender identity (commonly known as ‘conversion therapy’) is unethical, harmful, and is not supported by evidence”.

The Quakers called for the government, which has been accused of “dragging its feet” on the matter of conversion therapy, to swiftly ban the practice.

“We therefore join with others, of many faiths and none, in calling upon the UK government to ban so-called conversion therapy without delay,” they wrote.

This month, Boris Johnson’s LGBT+ envoy said the prime minister was “committed to outlawing conversion ‘therapy’ by spring 2022”.

Jayne Ozanne, director of the Ozanne Foundation, told PinkNews: “I’m so pleased that yet another Christian denomination has chosen to put out a clear statement about the harms of so-called ‘conversion therapy’, and have joined with the voices of many other religious leaders in calling for a complete ban.

“These degrading and inhuman practices must be stopped before more LGBT+ lives are traumatised and sadly even lost.”

Formally the Religious Society of Friends, Quakerism is a religion that is rooted in Christianity, and over its 400-year history it has focused on championing peace and social justice.

There is no central authority for the religion, so teachings vary, but many Quaker organisations have long been inclusive of LGBT+ people.

In 2009, Quakers in Britain became the first religious organisation in the UK to come out in support of same-sex marriage, and was involved in campaigning for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

In its statement, the LGBT+ Quakers group added: “As Quakers we know that every individual is unique, precious, a child of God.

“As a group we hope to provide a welcoming space for individuals who share the joys and challenges arising from diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

“We experience the Spirit expressed in a kaleidoscope of people and relationships. We believe that this diversity should be celebrated, not stamped out.”

The LGBT+ Quakers sent their “love and solidarity to all who have experienced conversion practices, both coercive and non-coercive, which have attempted to control their way of being in the world”, and added that many Friends (members of the religion) had experienced the traumatising practice before finding a “home in Quakerism”.