Churches demand Scotland drop conversion therapy ban plan, saying it will ‘criminalise’ Christians

Protest calls for a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy practices across the UK

Church leaders in Scotland have claimed government plans to ban the cruel practice of conversion therapy in the country would “threaten” Christians and “terrorise” parents.

Scotland has vowed to push through a comprehensive ban on LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, while the UK government has dragged its feet on ending the practice.

Now new SNP leader Humza Yousaf has promised to “cement” LGBTQ+ rights in Scotland, with supporters hoping he will push a “real comprehensive ban on conversion therapy through”. 

Church leaders, however, have argued against a conversion therapy ban in the country, stating it would be “disingenuous”. 

In a letter to Scotland’s new minister for equality, Emma Roddick, church leaders from the Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church, the Elim Penetecostal Church and more, wrote that a ban on conversion therapy would criminalise Christians for “teaching what Christians have always taught”, The Scotsman reported.

The letter added that the Bible is clear “the only place for sexual activity is within a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman, and that God has created each of us male or female, according to His perfect will”. 

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Co-signatory of the letter, Reverend Dr William Philip, said the proposed ban on conversion therapy was “alarming”. 

“The presentation – as a law to protect LGBT people from abuse – is disingenuous; all such abuse and coercion is already, quite rightly, illegal,” he said.

“It is these proposals which are abusive towards ordinary people, including loving parents protective of their children – by criminalising simply speaking with them, praying for them, or daring to disagree with LGBT ideology.

“Threatening to punish church leaders and churches for upholding Christian teaching; terrorising mothers and fathers with the spectre of removing their parental rights for simply trying to help their children navigate normal adolescence – are these really the marks of a free and tolerant society?”

Professor David Galloway of the Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton added: “We could never support abuse or coercion, which are completely at odds with the Bible’s teaching. 

“But we have a duty to lead our congregations in living for Christ, in the way He has taught us. And that means teaching what the Bible says about all areas of life – including sexuality and gender.”

He added that a law banning conversion therapy could “see ordinary Christians criminalised for merely expressing their beliefs”. 

The letter follows a bid by the Christian Institute to legally challenge a conversion therapy ban if it goes through in Scotland.

Ban Conversion Therapy Picket Of Cabinet Office London
Scotland has said it will push through a ban on LGBTQ+ conversion therapy (Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

A survivor of conversion therapy recently spoke out about the cruel practice in response to MSP Kate Forbes, who claimed during her bid for First Minister that it was possible to “consent” to the practice.

Blair Anderson, a Scottish Green Party councillor for Glasgow who was subjected to conversion practices after he came out as gay aged 14, says that although he “consented”, he never really had a choice.

“It’s not like once you stop conversion therapy that’s it, you can move on. It’s a very traumatising experience and most people who come out of it have life-long mental health impacts,” he told PinkNews.

“It’s just not possible to properly consent to conversion therapy because you can’t freely and completely give your consent to that process.”

Anderson said he was keen to ensure the Scottish government push through “progressive policies” as Yousaf becomes First Minister, “including a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy”.

In response to the church groups’ message to the Scottish Government, a spokesperson told PinkNews in a statement: “Conversion practices that try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are harmful, discriminatory, and have no place in our society.

“Our aim is to address harmful acts; not general guidance, advice and support provided by parents or religious leaders. The legal rights to freedom of religion, expression and a private and family life are protected under existing laws and any legislation we introduce in respect of conversion practices will recognise and respect these.

“We are developing proposals to end harmful conversion practices and will publish a consultation in due course seeking views from the public and organisations.”

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