THE Government will bring forward proposals to end the “abhorrent” practice of conversion therapy for LGBT people, it announced this week.
A statement from Church House said that it “warmly” welcomed the news, and drew attention to the motion, carried by the General Synod a year ago, calling for a ban (News, 8 July 2017). It confirmed that the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, had held meetings with Ministers to that end.
“We also welcome the recognition that any steps taken should not have the unintended consequence of preventing people seeking spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the statement said.
In its 75-point LGBT action plan, published on Tuesday, the Government said that it would “fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering, or conducting conversion therapy.
Our intent is protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial, or faith-based context. We are not trying to prevent LGBT people from seeking legitimate medical support or spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Its national survey of 108,000 LGBT people found that two per cent had undergone conversion therapy, and a further five per cent had been offered it. It was more common among Black British (13 per cent) and Asian British (14 per cent) respondents than White (seven per cent), and most likely among Muslim respondents: 19 per cent compared with ten per cent of Christian respondents.
Jayne Ozanne, who brought the conversion therapy motion to the Synod last summer, said that she was “thrilled that the Government have finally understood the extent of this harmful practice, which happens in backrooms by untrained religious officials trying all forms of deliverance and healing ‘ministries’. . . It is time that this medieval practice is banned once and for all, and that people are instead encouraged to fully embrace who they have been created to be.”
She called on the Evangelical Alliance to reassess its 2012 report, Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality, which supports those who “responsibly seek to help Christians who experience same-sex attraction as in conflict with their commitment to live in accordance with biblical teaching”, and expresses hope that sexually active LGBT people will “see the need to be transformed and live in accordance with biblical revelation and orthodox church teaching”.
This week, the gay Christian support group Living Out drew attention to its statement confirming that it does not support conversion therapy. “Counselling or psychotherapy will be helpful when it aims at helping people towards self-acceptance and good psychological and emotional health in general, and not on changing someone’s sexual orientation,” it reads.