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Church leaders ‘at risk of prosecution’ under ban on conversion therapy, says Welsh government

October 2021 | by Evangelical Times

The Welsh government CREDIT: gov.wales
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Church leaders are ‘at risk of prosecution’ if a ban on conversion therapy goes ahead, says a report published by the Welsh government.

The document, which is an equality impact assessment of a draft gay rights plan, also admits that a ban could ‘restrict religious freedom’.

Outlawing so-called ‘conversion therapy’ would make it illegal to seek to persuade anyone against engaging in homosexual or transgender practices.

Campaigners hope a ban will apply to church sermons, prayers, Bible studies, pastoral counselling – and even parenting.

The government in Westminster says it will bring forward a ban to cover England and Wales, but it does not want to limit free speech or outlaw ordinary religious practices.

The government Equalities Office says it will ‘ensure a ban does not stop people accessing legitimate spiritual guidance’ and it has no intention of banning prayer.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government looks set to introduce their own ‘comprehensive’ proposals to ban conversion therapy by the end of 2023.

The Scottish government says it will bring ‘forward legislation that is as comprehensive as possible within devolved powers’.

The Scottish Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee (EHRCJ) has published responses to their consultation on the ‘End Conversion Therapy’ petition.

The committee has mainly been taking evidence from LGBT groups, but it is being urged to take evidence from faith groups also.

Earlier this year, a leading QC warned that bans on ‘conversion therapy’ could breach human rights laws due to their unjustified impact on religious freedom.

Critics of a ban have pointed out that ‘conversion therapy’ is a ‘broad and vague term’, and has been used to refer to many consensual and non-abusive practices, including pastoral help and prayer for same-sex-attracted people to live in line with their beliefs.

It also refers to help for gender-confused people to reduce their dysphoria and live in harmony with their biological sex.

A public consultation on banning conversion therapy in England and Wales is expected to start as this edition of ET goes to print, or soon thereafter.

Christian advocacy organisation CARE says it has ‘serious concerns a ban could have a major impact on fundamental church freedoms’.

It has produced a briefing on the issue of conversion therapy available to download on its website.

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