The UK Government is continuing to move forward with its pledge to ban conversion therapy and has recently launched a consultation that allows individuals and organisations to provide feedback on its proposals. We believe it is very important that Christians get involved in this process.
Here at Living Out we support the introduction of a targeted ban to stop coercive and harmful attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation. We do not support conversion therapy because we do not believe that it is effective or that change in sexual orientation is necessary for Christian faithfulness.
However, we also recognise the vital importance that any ban does not stop people receiving support to understand and live out their sexuality in light of their religious beliefs. This support would include teaching of the Bible, prayer, and pastoral care, the very forms of support that have benefited us and many others we know in our own journeys as Christians who are same-sex attracted.
Our perspective on the proposed ban
The recently released consultation outlines the Government’s proposed approach for banning conversion therapy. We are pleased to see that the proposals restate the Government’s earlier stated intention of banning coercive and abusive practices while safeguarding access to spiritual support, but we are concerned that the form of ban being proposed may not deliver on this commitment.
In particular, there are several areas of ambiguity over the proposed new offence of ‘talking conversion therapy’. It is likely that this legislation would make it illegal to provide spiritual support in line with the historic Christian sexual ethic to under-18s. This means the law would be discriminatory against LGBT youth. Spiritual support could be legally offered to over-18s if the individual consented to it, but the consultation is not sufficiently clear on the form that this consent would be required to take, and it remains likely that criminal charges could be brought against Christians for engaging in the very normal Christian activities of prayer and pastoral support. Our friends at the Evangelical Alliance have produced a helpful summary of the Government’s proposals and some of the dangerous ambiguities contained within them.
We are concerned about the potential impact of the legislation being proposed because of the way it would negatively impact and discriminate against people like us.
Those of us who were Christians when we came out in our teen years found the sort of prayer and pastoral care that this law would deny to teenagers to be absolutely vital. There is a real risk that this law could leave some same-sex attracted teenagers alone and unable to receive support as they wrestle with their faith and their sexuality.
All of us have benefited from the sorts of activities for which Christians could easily be prosecuted due to unhelpful ambiguities in the proposed legislation. We fear that this will make Christians unwilling to risk offering support to gay people like us, introducing further discrimination against LGBT people, and leaving many of us isolated and unsupported.
One of the most simple but most powerful pieces of advice we often share is to encourage those who are same-sex attracted to talk to somebody about their experience such that they are not struggling alone. This law may leave us unable to offer that advice – advice that we know so many have found to be so helpful.
Getting this legislation right matters because otherwise it runs the risk of harming and discriminating against LGBT people.
What you can do
Pray for a good outcome – legislation that protects people from coercive and abusive practices, but which safeguards access to the sort of spiritual support that any of us who wish to (including teenagers) should be able to access. Pray for those working on this legislation in the Government Equalities Office. Pray for Christians and others working to ensure that the law protects religious and other freedoms.
Respond to the consultation, expressing your perspective on the proposed legislation, both the good points and the areas of concern. To complete the consultation you will need a little more understanding of the Government’s proposals and of the potential problems with them. The Evangelical Alliance have produced some materials that you may find helpful as you prepare to respond to the consultation, and they are also running a webinar on 24th November which will walk you through responding to the consultation.
Let others who may share our concerns know about the proposals and the opportunity to take part in the consultation.
Further resources outlining our position in relation to conversion therapy can be found here.