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MP urges Gov to ban conversion therapy 'without religious exemptions or loopholes'

by Cara Bentley
Angela Eagle MP Parliament TV.png - Banner image

On Thursday in the House of Commons, MPs considered the impact of Pride month and the lives of LGBT+ people and discussed the Governemnt's plans to ban coversion therapy. 

Conversion therapy covers a wide range of practices and does not have a clear definition - from acts most Christians consider abhorrent, such as abuse or forced fasting, to acts which divide the Christian community, such as praying with a gay person who wants pastoral support not to act on their sexuality. 

In the debate, lead by Labour's Dame Angela Eagle, she urged the Government to introduce a ban on all forms, saying: "As a minimum, they must introduce a ban on conversion therapy, with no religious exemptions and no loopholes."

She continued: "A full 12 months have passed since the Prime Minister’s pledge to ban conversion therapy. We are told that a Bill is in the works - I sincerely hope one is - but all we have seen are the assurances given to the Evangelical Alliance that 'religious freedoms' will be upheld. If the forthcoming Bill creates exemptions for religion, it will not actually constitute a ban, because 50% of conversion therapy takes place in a religious setting.

"The leaderships of all the major religions have stated that they are in favour of a ban on conversion therapy, as is the UN. Abuse, coercion, corrective rape and exorcism have no place in a civilised society and no place in acceptable religious practice."

The Methodist Church, which was praised by her and Conservative MP Elliot Coburn for passing same sex marriage on Wednesday, has also come out against conversion therapy this week. 

The Evangelical Alliance has warned the Prime Minister that the conversion therapy ban should not ban prayer or the ability to seek pastoral support. 

UK director of the EA Peter Lynas 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."

Boris Johnson said in April: "I do not want to see clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity."

Conservative Mike Freer said in the debate this week that a consultation on conversion therapy will be launched in September this year to make sure the Government "gets it right". 

When asked by Angela Eagle whether there would be exemptions for religious settings, Mike Freer replied: "The issue of the role of faith is obviously very difficult. From a personal point of view, representing a very diverse constituency, I realise the challenges that any Government face in getting this ban right. In terms of an outright ban, all I can say is that the Government will work to ensure that the harmful practice of conversion therapy will be banned. It is not a question of whether; it is a question of when. It is not if; it is how we will be doing it.

"In my view, having led the first debate on banning conversion therapy in 2015, if it was easy, it would have been done by now. It is a complex issue that we need to get right, and I do appreciate the drive and the passion to ban conversion therapy. I share that passion, but equally, I want to ensure that we get it right."

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