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Northern Irish politicians pass motion to ban conversion therapy, including prayer and pastoral support

by Marcus Jones

The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion which seeks to ban gay conversion therapy in all its forms.

Assembly ministers voted 59 to 24

An ammendment tabled by the DUP sought to exlcude religious activities from the motion, but this was rejected.

The party had argued that preaching, prayer and pastoral support should still be freely given to those who had unwanted same-sex attraction.

It's the first time assembly ministers have debated the issue. The motion doesn't neccessarily mean a change in law is imminent but calls on the Communities Secretary there to introduce legislation before the end of the assembly.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has thanked politicians in Northern Ireland for addressing the issue but has highlighted its concerns around the motion.

In a statement following the debate, Moderator of the Church Rt Rev Dr David Bruce welcomed moves to ban 'coercive approaches' on the issue but said there must be exemptions for prayer and pastoral support

“We also recognise that not everyone struggles with their sexuality, yet for those Christians who do, and ask their minister, or youth leader, to walk alongside them pastorally and prayerfully as they talk about this area of their lives, any future legislation should not criminalise either for fulfilling their pastoral duties responsibly," he said.

"Where protection from coercive interventions and ‘therapies’ is needed, clarity and balance are also required. We welcome the fact that a number of MLAs recognised the important point of principle that freedom of thought, conscience and the practice and observance of religion should also be protected."

The UK government has said it is committed to banning conversion therapy but Boris Johnson has confirmed that prayer and pastoral support will not be included in any legislation .

In a letter to the Evangelical Alliance, he said: "Like you, I do not want to see clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity."


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