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Christians invited to give their opinion on government plans to ban gay conversion therapy

The Government is to launch a consultation ahead of a ban on conversion therapy. The Queen's Speech on Tuesday announced that measures would be taken to ban the controversial practice as part of the Government's legislative agenda.

The Evangelical Alliance told Premier it hoped the consultation would lead to "definitions and clear terms". Coercive conversion therapies have been widely condemned by those from a range of religious backgrounds and beliefs.

"The Evangelical Alliance is supportive of what the government is doing in terms of its two commitments. One is to end the harmful and abusive practices, but the other is to safeguard spiritual support for those who want it. We think the government can and should do both those things," Peter Lynas, UK Director at the Evangelical Alliance, told Premier.

Lynas added that he feels a clear definition of conversion therapy "would really help everyone because often, we're arguing at cross purposes by different understandings."

He said: "We think a balance can be sought. We do need to end the harmful practices, but we also need to make sure that people can seek pastoral support and prayer...there are people already contacting us saying they're concerned about praying for somebody else, because it could fall under this or be misinterpreted so we're asking for clear guidance to make sure that people can pray with one another."

Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation and co-chair of The Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition took part in conversion therapy herself for a decade, an experience she has described as damaging.

She told Premier that while she very much welcomed the announcement in the Queen's speech, she believed that enough talking had been done already.

"We've had years of talking. The government has consulted widely already, although arguably, it hasn't listened to the voices of survivors, as much as it could have done, what we need are decisions and actions. 

"We have agreed a definition." The Tory MP Alicia Kearns has been leading on this, all the medical professionals, the LGBT organization, survivor groups, and faith leaders agreed last November," she said.

"So actually what the government needs to do now is act."

She added she's concerned that the ban will be limited to coercive conversions: "I am worried that the ban will only focus on people who've been coerced, who've been forced. I think the vast majority of people have been groomed, often through childhood to believe that being gay is sinful and wrong, and therefore that they have to change. 

"Those of us who are Christian, who worship or indeed of any faith who are in religious settings, have a great respect for our religious leaders so when they give us advice that we need to change that we have to be celibate for life, we choose to follow that. 

"That is so damaging. I mean, why did someone like myself, you know, a university educated woman choose to go through 10 years of conversion therapy. It's because I listened to leaders, who told me that that is what I had to do."

There is no specific timeframe for the consultation but the Government wants it to be "short and prompt", the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss said: "As a global leader on LGBT rights, this Government has always been committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy.

"We want to make sure that people in this country are protected, and these proposals mean nobody will be subjected to coercive and abhorrent conversion therapy.

Alongside this legislation, we will make new funding available to ensure that victims have better access to the support they need."

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