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Church of England warmly welcome ban on 'conversion therapy'

by Cara Bentley

The Government's LGBT Action Plan aims to improve the lives of LGBT people by setting aside funding to increase tolerance and remove any significant barriers to public life. 

Included in their plans is the pledge to ban any 'conversion therapy', sometimes done by counsellors, therapists and churches with the aim of changing someone's sexual orientation. 

The government's survey found 2% of respondents had undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to 'cure' them of being LGBT and a further 5% had been offered it. 

The Church of England spokesperson said: "We warmly welcome the Government commitment to eradicate gay conversion therapy in this country.

"As a motion endorsed overwhelmingly by the Church of England's General Synod last summer concludes, the practice is unethical, potentially harmful and has no place in the modern world.

"Since then the Church of England has pressed the Government to consider outlawing the practice and the Second Church Estates Commissioner Dame Caroline Spelman has held a number of meetings with ministers to that end.

"As we await the detail of any proposals, we also welcome the recognition that any steps taken should not have the unintended consequence of preventing people seeking spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

However, groups such as the Core Issues Trust say this is an abuse of the human rights for those who do want to have therapy. They said in a statement: "Some wish to modify behaviours and renounce as false the identity they formerly described as "gay". Some are married and have children and wish to maintain the integrity of such marriages. The Trust supports the rights of autonomous individuals to take the pathways that reflect their goals and values". 

Dr Peter May, a former GP and member of the General Synod spoke on the News Hour and was also concerned the ban could limit the choices of those who want therapy: "It seems more than likely that if somebody is distressed by desires they want to leave behind that therapies of some sort or another...can only be beneficial".

The position of the Living Out organisation, a group who support each other in their identity as Christians who experience same-sex attraction, is that conversion therapy is damaging and that even Christians who think engaging in a gay relationship would be unbiblical should not be pressured to have any kind of therapy to change their orientation. 

Speaking to Dr Peter May on Premier's News Hour was Rev Steve Chalke, who supports gay relationships. The founder of Oasis Church said: "There's still a huge amount of this kind of thing under many different names happening in churches around the country - and so it's not from registered psychotherapists but it is from amateur counsellors and amateur psychologists and pastors and elders and prayer groups and it has an incredibly destructive and distressing impact on the lives of many many people, it just breaks them". 

He continued: "My concern about the terms of the that it's not extensive enough because I think there are a lot of churches who practice an intolerance of gay people, who pray the gay away, who when someone comes forward and says 'I think I'm gay', pile huge pressure on them one way or the other or remove responsibilities from them within the church". 

Listen to the whole conversation on Premier's News Hour here:

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