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Christian Institute concerned about religious freedom after MSPs back conversion therapy ban

by Premier Journalist

The Christian Institute is warning of the potential harm to religious freedoms in Scotland once a conversion therapy ban is introduced in the nation.

It comes after MSPs at Holyrood backed a ban.

MSPs were debating the recommendations by the Scottish Parliament's Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee which suggested some religious practices be permitted as long as they are not to “correct” someone’s gender or sexuality.

The Scottish government is working to introduce a conversion therapy ban legislation, understood as practices that seek to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity, following a public consultation.

Speaking during the debate, SNP’s John Mason highlighted that the current proposal would interfere with religious freedom.

He urged Holyrood not to interfere with prayer and argued that pastoral conversations around sexual orientation should not be prohibited.

“The Bible teaches that sexual relationships should be within marriage…whereas society and our legal set-up allows multiple sexual relationships, Christian teaching encourages sexual relations with only one person and only within marriage.”

But Mason also sparked criticism for comparing gay relationships to not following a dress code or eating too much chocolate.

He said the issue for conservative religious communities was around “self-control and choosing not to put your thoughts or desires into action”.

“I might have a natural desire to eat the attractive food I see,” he added.

“Many of us are tempted to eat too much chocolate or drink too much alcohol, so that is where self-control comes in; we sometimes need to say ‘no’ to ourselves.”

The Committee's convener Joe FitzPatrick claimed there is no conflict between religious freedom and banning conversion therapy.

He also dismissed concerns about the impact on parenting saying that Christian parents would still be able to bring up their children according to biblical values as there was not a “directed intent to change their child’s sexuality or gender identity”.

Responding to questions, Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie reassured Christian leaders that any potential impact on religious freedoms would be “considered extremely carefully and sensitively”.

She added: “We are certain that the advancement of LGBTI rights and protections through ending conversion practices does not mean a regression of religious freedoms”.

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