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World News

Legal expert calls conversion therapy ban plans unlawful and would ‘criminalise prayers and sermons’

by Premier Journalist

A prominent Christian lawyer is warning that a proposed ban on conversion therapy in Scotland would be unlawful.

Aiden O’Neill QC – who represented Ashers Bakery during the infamous gay cake case – says plans proposed by

Nicola Sturgeon are in breach of the European Court Convention on Human Rights.

In a 17-page opinion document written for the Christian Institute, the legal professional says the ban would “criminalise traditional religious beliefs”, “criminalise prayers and sermons” and is “illiberal in intent”.

He argues that the proposals are “beyond the legislative powers of the Scottish Parliament”.

However, many support Sturgeon’s plans, which could see conversion therapy banned for lesbian, gay and bisexual people passed before the end of 2023.

Published responses to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee’s public petition, which closed in August 2021, show that many back the idea in order to ensure the safety of LGBT+ people.

One response called a ban “necessary and urgent,” saying the Scottish Government needed to “stand up and take comprehensive action to protect its citizens”.

Another said the legislation was fundamental in proving Scotland is an “equal and loving place”.

The Christian Institute is preparing a legal challenge.

The Scottish Government will publish a public consultation before the plans are officially tabled.

A spokesman said: "Conversion practices that try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are harmful, discriminatory, and have no place in our society.

"We're committed to introducing legislation that will end these harmful practices as far as possible within devolved competence just as many jurisdictions across the world have already done, and UK Government intend to partially do.

"This will be done fully recognising and respecting the legal right to freedom of religion, expression and a private and family life, which are protected under existing laws.”

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