A public consultation on government proposals to criminalise so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in England and Wales will end on 10 December.
A ban has the potential to interfere with aspects of evangelical preaching, praying, pastoral counselling, and even parenting.
Campaigners want a complete ban so that it will be a criminal offence to attempt to help anyone resist LGBT temptations.
The government’s consultation document – which is very thin on detail – insists that the proposals ‘will not impact everyday religious practice’.
The document adds, ‘parents will remain able to raise their children with the values of their faith, and simply expressing the teachings of a religion will not constitute conversion therapy.’
Many LGBT activists are insisting that a ban must cover all religious practices, including ‘non coercive’ prayer.
But one group, the LGB Alliance, expressed caution. A spokesperson said, ‘It’s a slippery path when you start to interfere with religion,’ adding, ‘Are we going to go into mosques and churches and stop the priest and say “wait a minute, you can’t quote Leviticus, it’s homophobic”? I think it’s been very badly thought through.’
The ‘Let Us Pray’ campaign, which has been set up to defend free speech and religious liberty, has issued guidance for how to respond to the consultation.
Those who haven’t already done so are being urged to visit the website letuspray.uk and submit a response before the closing date of 10 December.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, there is a separate proposal to ban conversion therapy and a committee of the Scottish Parliament has been taking evidence on the issue.
Some liberal church representatives have told the committee that they support a ban. Revd Fiona Bennett of Augustine United Reformed Church in Edinburgh said a ban would help enforce pro-LGBT theology.
She said, ‘A ban on conversion therapy … from a theological point of view, from my perspective, would affirm that all are divinely created, and that all gender identities and sexual orientations are intentional.
‘It would be very, very helpful and life-giving to all of us in the church who stand in this perspective.’
But the campaign group Let Us Pray said, ‘These activists are free to believe what they want. But they are not entitled to use the criminal law to settle their theological disputes.’