1400 church leaders have written to the Prime Minister and the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch calling on them to drop plans to ban conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy is the controversial practice of attempting to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
The signatories to the letter, who come from a range of denominations, say a ban would criminalise Christians who hold a traditional Orthodox belief and would stifle the voices of parents and carers.
The letter has been written by the authors of the Greater Love Declaration which affirms Christian teaching on marriage and identity.
Dr Ian Paul who's a church of England minister and a member of General Synod has been telling Premier why he has signed the letter :
“The language of conversion therapy is, as far as I understand, not one that's ever really been used in Christian practice. This is terminology that's been coined by opponents of what they see as something hideous that they dislike. They’ve taken the religious language of conversion and said ‘we want this banned.’ Now the real difficulty is that the language of conversion is central language to Christian discipleship. I think a core understanding of Christian faith is that when we come to encounter God, through the person of Jesus, that involves us in conversion, in a change of direction in our lives.
“The whole direction of this law is pushing in a direction where people are not allowed to invite prayer, to help them to live holy disciplined lives, without coercion entirely voluntarily and understanding fully what they're doing. The idea is that this should be not allowed if it doesn't fit in with contemporary gender ideology.
“It is going to be harder, for example, for Christian parents to challenge gender ideology in schools and to say to their children, actually, you don't have to believe this, there is an alternative.”
Earlier this month the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch wrote to MPs saying that religious freedom must be protected under the new law.
Asked by Premier whether this goes some way to alleviate his concerns, Dr Paul said :
“I think this law as planned is part of restricting freedom of religious belief. I think the phrase she [Kemi Badenoch] has used is actually extremely helpful. The real question is how that is going to be worked out in the wording of the legislation.”
Co-author of the letter, Rev Dr Matthew Roberts said :
“We have every sympathy for those who have suffered genuine abuse. Christians firmly reject any attempt to coerce or abuse, as it defies Christian teaching at the most basic level. We are grateful that this is already illegal.
“Instead, many of those demanding this legislation are pushing a narrative that traditional orthodox Christian beliefs are harmful. They have made clear they are unwilling to accept a new law which does not criminalise ordinary believers and Christian leaders.
“The Government has said that it wants to protect religious freedom. That is a very welcome aim. But we remain unconvinced that the Government can avoid unintended consequences in the passage of this Bill."