Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Pexels
Representatives for the Evangelical Alliance have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging any plans for a total ban on conversion therapy be dropped.
The group, which represents 3,500 churches and 2 million Christians across the UK, sent the letter on Monday.
The alliance insists: "Proposals to end conversion therapy must not prevent people from seeking and receiving support to live chaste lives."
Conversion therapy, which is scientifically-debunked, attempts to change or suppress a person's sexuality or gender identity.
The letter states: "We are deeply concerned at some of the practices that have been carried out which are categorised as conversion therapy, but also by the government’s lack of clarity on the issue.
"We recognise the role the church has sadly played historically in perpetuating stigma, discrimination and harm towards people because of their sexuality. We oppose abusive practices and the use of electro-shock treatment and corrective rape are clearly wrong and should be ended. However, such practices should already be banned or illegal and as such should be dealt with under existing policies and laws. Where such abusive practices are not illegal, we would welcome efforts to clarify or strengthen the law."
It adds: "Proposals, as currently discussed, could have the consequence of restricting individual freedom and impinging on essential religious liberty - potentially criminalising Christians and common church activities. We would encourage the government to exercise caution."
It also states: "Proposals to end conversion therapy not only put at risk the individual freedom of people who are attracted to those of the same sex, but they also place religious freedom in jeopardy. This is not a concern restricted to specific practices, organisations or ministries that provide services to people experiencing same sex attraction – although it will affect them. This will threaten the everyday practices of churches, church leaders, and Christians across the UK."
To read the letter in full, click here.
The letter follows weeks of headlines about conversion therapy following a Parliamentary debate earlier this month, prompted by a petition signed by 250,000 people.
Former MP Theresa May promised a ban on the practise in 2018, with Johnson echoing her claims in 2020. However, subsequent inaction led to organisations including Stonewall writing to the government urging movement.
After top members of the government's LGBT Advisory Panel recently quit over the issue, Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss said last week: "We're very committed to LGBT equality. We've recently brought forward plans to improve healthcare for transgender people and will shortly be bringing forward plans to ban conversion therapy, which is an abhorrent practise."