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A new blasphemy law?

LGBT groups are demanding a ban on so-called “conversion therapy” — but the devil’s in the detail

Artillery Row

Those leading the call for a broad conversion therapy ban have said “casual conversations” and “private prayer” must be included in any forthcoming legislation.

The Government promised a ban in the Queen’s Speech this week, but was unclear exactly which practices would be covered.

The “Ban Conversion Therapy” group, chaired by Jayne Ozanne and backed by controversial groups like Stonewall and Mermaids, claims in a new briefing that giving any “exemption” for “private prayer and ‘casual conversations’” will “allow conversion practices to continue.”

The group, which recently briefed MPs in Westminster, has long called for the ordinary work of churches to be captured by a ban.

But calling for “casual conversations” to be outlawed is a new low.

What is ‘conversion therapy’?

To the uninitiated, the term “conversion therapy” suggests abusive practices that most assumed had long been consigned to the history books in the UK. If such abuses are still going on they should obviously be stopped.

But it’s clear that the truly abusive practices they cite, such as electro-shock treatments and the horrifically titled “corrective rape”, are already illegal. 

So what is it that activists really want banned? As many are realising, it is everyday speech. Some angry LGBT campaigners are seeking to silence debate on issues of sexuality and gender, especially in churches. They want a kind of LGBT blasphemy law.

These claims are plainly ludicrous

The “Ban Conversion Therapy” group is saying that discussions had by people throughout the country, sharing their personal thoughts on gender and sexuality, should be outlawed. How this could ever be claimed as “conversion therapy” is not clear. 

People chat every day around the dinner table, at the school gates, or on the phone with a friend. People should be able to debate and disagree with one another without the fear of police investigation over a misunderstood or misconstrued comment. But some activists appear to want to scare people into yielding to their way of thinking.

Praying alone is not “conversion therapy”

Criminalising “private prayer” is perhaps even more ridiculous. When Jayne Ozanne’s Foundation carried out surveys into the alleged prevalence of “conversion therapy” in the UK, they included those who said they had ‘pleaded with God’ or prayed alone that God would change them. Quite how praying alone constitutes conversion therapy, and how the state would ever outlaw it, is not explained. Do they expect people to report themselves to the police?

These claims are plainly ludicrous. The Government cannot outlaw praying or ‘casual conversations’. Doing so would unlawfully interfere with human rights guaranteed by the European Convention.

Lawyers acting for The Christian Institute have made this clear to Governments around the UK over the last year, laying the groundwork for bringing judicial reviews should such a repressive law be introduced, relying on advice from top human rights lawyers, Jason Coppel QC.

There is, of course, no human right to bully gay or trans people, and this is not what Christians seek. We believe in loving your neighbour. But there is a human right to express mainstream religious beliefs about sex and gender, and to invite other people to share those beliefs. Gender critical feminists have the same right in respect of their opinions about trans issues. An LGBT blasphemy law, in the guise of a conversion therapy ban, would infringe these rights. Governments around the UK must be very careful not to be seduced by the siren voices of the ‘Ban Conversion Therapy’ campaign into criminalising private prayer and casual conversations.

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