From Mr Donald Wetherick
Sir, — Canon Giles Fraser chides Professor Glynn Harrison (Comment, 13 April) for being “very careful with his words” about the mutability of human sexuality. Yet, in being less careful with his own words, Canon Fraser does Professor Harrison an injustice.
I admire Canon Fraser for the occasions when he has spoken his own mind when it differs from the official position of his own professional body (the Church of England). Yet he refuses to allow Professor Harrison the equal privilege of holding personal views that differ from the position of his professional body (which, other than belonging to it, he does not represent in any official capacity).
There is, of course, a distinction to be made between a professed Christian’s duty to follow Christ in all aspects of his life and a professional psychiatrist’s duty to act according to the guidance of his organisation. Yet integrity in the latter case lies precisely in not allowing one’s personal views to influence one’s professional judgement, even if in the former case it means the reverse.
Unless Canon Fraser has evidence that Professor Harrison has acted unprofessionally in relation to a patient, the question can only be whether he is a fit person to sit on the Crown Nominations Commission. In that case, perhaps a capacity to put personal views to one side in the cause of reaching a considered judgement might be considered an advantage.
I am not a natural supporter of Professor Harrison’s views. Yet, having known several good people who have made the difficult transition from (married) hetero-sexuality to a stable homosexual identity, I would not want people making a similar transition in the other direction to be without sources of help and support. If that is the extent of Professor Harrison’s ambition, then I am happy to defend him.
20 Ellesmere Road
London E3 5QX
From Professor Andrew Sims
Sir, — Canon Giles Fraser can be reassured over his concern about Professor Glynn Harrison. Canon Fraser is worried that Professor Harrison will do “lasting damage to people who are in a vulnerable position” First, as your report (News, last week) states, Professor Harrison “has never been involved in offering any formal counselling or ‘therapy’ in this area (of unwanted same-sex attraction) himself”.
Second, and more importantly, in his publication, Professor Harrison is solely trying to defend the right of individuals who wish, for reasons of belief, to receive counselling for same-sex attraction. He has approached the issue of assisting those with unwanted same-sex attraction with careful and diligent appraisal from all sides and is in no way doctrinaire or unaware of opposed opinion. He is not advocating treatment of homosexuality, as if it were a medical condition, but simply recommending that those who wish to move away from same-sex attraction should be allowed to seek help, and that those offering that help should not be penalised.
Other conditions for which treatment is sought are taken at face value, without external interference, and client and therapist agree together on the goals and the course of action to achieve them. Professor Harrison is asking for no more for those with same-sex attraction.
Church Farm House
Shropshire WV15 6ND
From Mr Mark Hopkins
Sir, — I was astounded that Canon Giles Fraser equates the claim by the founder of the True Freeedom Trust, Martin Hallett, to have been “dramatically changed by Jesus” with the kind of change in sexual orientation that ex-gay therapies advocate. After conversion, Hallett chose to change from living an active homosexual lifestyle to a celibate one; he has not written of having experienced a change in sexual orientation.
Canon Fraser also writes that “there is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” Actually, there is no sound evidence in sexual orientation. As an article of faith, I do believe that some individuals are homosexual, some heterosexual, and some bisexual in nature, but also that all have the right to chose both how they live their lifestyle, and to explore how they define their sexuality.
The basis of the True Freedom Trust “acknowledges the freedom of individuals to choose how they live their lives before God”.
Ordinand in training
Trinity College, Bristol BS9 1JP
From Mr Alan Bartley
Sir, — The bus-advertising war on Transport for London buses does little credit to the Evangelicals going head to head with Stonewall. Christian wisdom is to answer a fool according to his folly, not to emulate crassness and stupidity.
Free speech has never extended to the right to use someone’s building or field for a religious meeting against his or her will; so why do Evangelicals demand the right to hire an advertising space on the side of a bus against the owners’ wish? The parallel would be clear if it was a private bus company, but even public property is owned and controlled by those democratically elected. If we don’t like their decisions, we must seek to displace them at the next election.
By targeting homosexuals in this ungracious and distasteful way, these Evangelicals forget the wisdom of Proverbs 15.1 that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up strife.” It is not going to win them a hearing in the gay community, and it is likely to raise barriers to their message in the wider community.
We are applying a double standard if we object to being discriminated against while wanting the right to discriminate when it pleases us. For example, if we want the right of Christian guesthouse-owners to decline homosexual couples, we must advocate the same right for all.
Would we want the right of all groups to advertise on our parish notice boards? Should the family-owned newsagent be obliged to display postcards in conflict with his culture and values?
Either freedom must be curtailed to the norms of the politically correct, or we have to return to the freedom of all business owners to contract at their will and whim, and that may mean allowing all sorts of arbitrary discrimination.
17 Francis Road
Greenford UB6 7AD