John Stevens, National Director of FIEC, and Graham Nicholls, Director of Affinity, have said a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ could criminalise aspects of the Christian faith.
The two leaders say ordinary church practices – such as preaching, prayer, and pastoral care – could all be criminalised if the government goes ahead with a blanket ban.
Campaigners are pushing for a complete legal ban on any attempt to persuade anyone to resist lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender temptations.
The government says it will come forward with a ban, but it is also mindful of the potential implications for religious freedom. But campaigners such as Jayne Ozanne want religious practices to be included in the ban.
She has branded prayer for those with unwanted same-sex attraction as ‘conversion therapy’, and says churches should not be permitted to declare homosexual behaviour to be ‘sinful’.
Graham Nicholls, Director of Affinity, said, ‘It really has to be said that I, and the churches I represent, would not for one moment argue for any kind of right to coerce or to harm or to bully people, to persuade them to do anything against their will.
‘But we’re just looking for the freedom to do what churches have always done: explain what the Bible says, apply and connect it with people’s lives, and sometimes, when asked, to pray that people would be given the help from God to do what the Bible says.’
John Stevens said he has been personally involved in helping people understand what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality and has been able to provide pastoral counselling to those who have wanted it – actions which could be criminal under a ban.
He has also written a book about Christians seeking to resist temptation, including same-sex attraction, and suggested, ‘Maybe that book would be criminal. Maybe a pastor sharing that book with somebody else would be committing a criminal offence for helping.’