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Christian Institute launches campaign to protect prayer from being included in conversion therapy ban

by Premier Journalist

The Christian Institute has launched a campaign to protect the "ordinary work of churches" from being included in the conversion therapy ban. 

It follows concerns that church teaching, pastoral care and prayer could be criminalised under new government legislation to ban conversion therapy.

Earlier this year, the Government promised to bring in a ban on conversion therapy following public consultations. In April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he didn't want to see "clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity".  

The 'Let Us Pray' campaign argues LGBT activists want to "stop people advocating biblical sexual ethics". 

Speaking to Premier, Simon Calvert from the Christian Institute said: "We are just trying to draw attention to that and trying to make sure that when the Government does take action on this, it does it in a way which is focused and human rights compliant and doesn't trample on the basic human rights of Christians in the way that these activists seem to want." 

LGBT+ campaigners say they only want prayer "which seeks to suppress someone's identity" included in the ban.

Earlier this year the Ban Conversion Therapy Legal Forum, commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation, published a report setting out a number of recommendations. 

It suggested criminalising prayer that seeks to suppress or change a person's identity but permitting prayer that seeks to help someone come to terms with who they are.

"The Forum stresses that the ban would not criminalise any prayer that seeks to help an individual come to a point of peace and acceptance about their sexual orientation or gender identity, that is which does not have a predetermined purpose," the report reads. 

Jayne Ozanne, founder of the Ozanne foundation and leading campaigner to ban conversion therapy, has previously told Premier 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."

She says 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. 

However, for Calvert these are "unreasonable demands". 

"What they're saying is, if you are praying with people to embrace homosexuality or to embrace transgender identity, that's okay. But if you're praying with people not to embrace that, then that's not okay."

He continued: "The activists will say: 'Well, if your prayer is directed at a certain outcome...?' Well, don't we all pray because we're asking God for something that we believe is good, and it is in accordance with God's will? And so we are praying for an outcome?"

Calvert went on to urge Christians to "pray against the misrepresentation of evangelicals and what they believe and what they're like". 

"LGBT people have nothing to fear from coming to evangelical churches, people may say all kinds of terrible things about us. But actually, if you come to our churches, you'll find us to be welcoming and warm. We're delighted to explain the love of Christ to anyone who walks through the doors of our church," he concluded. 

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