The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ will be complex, but has pledged to introduce new laws soon.
Evangelicals have said there is a danger that aspects of Christian prayer, preaching, and pastoral counselling may be made illegal.
‘Conversion therapy’ is a catch-all term coined by LGBT campaigners for any activity that helps someone resist homosexual or transgender temptations.
Abusive practices by quack medical practitioners and charlatan preachers are largely illegal already, but campaigners want the law to go further.
Those opposed to a ban say that LGBT activists just want to stop people criticising their lifestyle or ideology.
But supporters of a ban have accused the government of dragging its feet on this issue, and three government advisors have quit over it.
Boris Johnson said, ‘I think this practice is repulsive and I think it’s abhorrent and I’m sorry these advisers have gone, but be in no doubt that we will deal with this issue.’
But he added, ‘It is technically complex to deal with, but we’re determined to take further steps to stamp it out.’
Paul Brand of ITV News tweeted, ‘Am told by various sources tonight that Boris Johnson is “in a good place” on banning conversion therapy.
‘But there are influential evangelical Christians within his party who also have his ear and are trying to dissuade him from banning it, due to the implications for religion.’
During a Westminster Hall debate on the subject, a number of MPs branded prayer and pastoral support as ‘conversion therapy’ which was also described as ‘torture’.
Angela Eagle MP, who served in Gordon Brown’s government, specifically highlighted prayer.
‘Being told to pray harder to change and to question your innermost feelings and thoughts,’ she said, ‘none of that should be legal.’
Shadow Foreign Minister Stephen Doughty included pastoral care in his concerns. He alleged it ‘could be used as a cover for some very dangerous practices’.
The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Communications, Ciarán Kelly, said many abusive practices are, rightly, already illegal.
‘But’, he said, ‘there must also be room for the preaching of God’s Word and for believers to receive prayer and pastoral support, whatever temptations they are facing.
‘A pastor or church should not face prosecution if a gay man or woman attends church, comes to faith, and seeks help in following Christ’s teaching on sexual ethics.’