A new report signed by some of the country’s top human rights lawyers says evangelical Christians should be banned from certain forms of prayer.
The report, which calls for a complete ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’, also says ‘intelligence gathering and tracking systems’ should be developed to identify repeat offenders.
It acknowledges there will be ‘restrictions on the right to manifest religion and belief’, but it says these are ‘necessary, justified and proportionate’.
The document, which is called ‘The Cooper Report’, was commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation and written by the Ban Conversion Therapy Legal Forum. The Foundation’s founder, Jayne Ozanne, describes herself as a ‘gay evangelical’.
Activists want to criminalise all forms of ‘conversion therapy’, which means it would be a criminal offence to seek to persuade anyone to resist gay or transgender temptations in line with biblical teaching.
Opponents of a ban say it could potentially criminalise all types of preaching, prayer, pastoral counselling – and even parenting – which challenges LGBT ideology.
The Cooper Report has been signed by high-profile human rights lawyers, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Robin Allen QC, together with a number of politicians and activists.
It says pastoral counselling and prayer should be included in a ban because, although they may appear to be ‘soft forms of conversion practices’ they ‘amount to degrading treatment’.
The government in London has promised to bring forward a ban in England and Wales, and the Scottish government will introduce its own legislation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described it as a ‘complex’ matter, and he says a ban should not restrict freedom of speech or ordinary religious practices.
A far-reaching ban on conversion therapy has already been passed in the Australian state of Victoria, and government officials have been holding events to explain the impact of the law.
Murray Campbell, a Baptist pastor based in Melbourne, attended one of the events. He said, ‘We were informed that no person’s sexuality or gender identity is broken or sinful, and to suggest so contravenes the intent of the new laws.’
He added that a government lawyer told them they must ‘affirm people’s sexual orientation and preferences’.
Campbell said that a fellow Baptist pastor ‘has resigned himself to the likelihood that he will face imprisonment over the next few years’.
A bill to ban conversion therapy in France is making its way through the nation’s legislature. If it passes the French Senate, the law will carry a penalty of two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros.