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Christian Institute 'alarmed' at calls for 'gentle non-coercive prayer' to be included in conversion therapy ban

by Kelly Valencia

The Christian Institute says is 'alarmed' by the latest calls by former LGBT Government advisor Jayne Ozanne who has called for "gentle non-coercive prayer" to be included in the legislation.

She was reacting to comments made by the Bishop of Manchester, Right Rev David Walker who said, during an interview for The Guardian, that prayer "where there is a level of power imbalance, and a level of force" should be included in the ban. 

"What you've got here is a conversation between two people who are part of the same campaign to ban conversion therapy. They are very much in agreement that the law should criminalise prayer and that people should be prosecuted for praying the wrong kind of prayer," Simon Calvert from the Christian Institute told Premier.  

"The only difference of opinion between them is that the bishop thinks that gentle non-coercive prayer shouldn't be included in that ban. Whereas Jayne Ozanne say: 'Oh, no, it should'. And that just demonstrates really the extremity now to which the activists have gone on this issue," Calvert argued.

The Christian Institute has written a letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the Equalities Minister, Liz Truss arguing that listening to these specific demands would "violate human rights of believers". 

"This view is confirmed by a legal opinion from Jason Coppel QC, one of the UK's leading human rights lawyers, which says a conversion therapy ban encompassing ordinary prayer 'would be likely to violate Convention rights'," the letter reads. 

But Jayne Ozanne told Premier that they are only seeking to ban "any prayer that is made with a precondition that one has to be straight, that one has to fit a certain norm" and that prayer that "allows a safe space for people to explore and come to a point of peace is to be welcomed and encouraged."

Ozanne, who is the co-chair of the ban conversion therapy coalition, went on to say that in their definition of what constitutes "religious practices" they referred to individual prayer, not preaching or praying in large groups about the subject. 

"So, it's not about groups, or preaching to large majorities. There are all sorts of fake and false news that those who want to continue this harmful practice are putting out. We're talking about focus prayer on an individual that has a predetermined, one way directional outcome, which is that you cannot be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, that you have to be heterosexual or chaste,"Ozanne said. 

A public consultation ahead of the conversion therapy ban will start in September with legislation possibly being brought in next year. 

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