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UK News

‘Possible to end conversion therapy without outlawing private chats with clergy’

by Press Association

The Church of England has “not requested an opt-out” from a proposed law to ban conversion therapy, MPs have heard.

Conservative MP Andrew Selous, who speaks on behalf of the Church in the House of Commons, said officials believe it is possible to end conversion therapy without criminalising private conversations with clergy which have been requested by an individual.

MPs heard that the Church of England’s General Synod passed a resolution in 2017 calling on the Government to end conversion therapy to prevent vulnerable people being subjected to “potential spiritual abuse”.

Mr Selous said the Church “remains committed to this” and will work with the Government on the matter.

Ministers have come under fire in recent months over the time taken to implement a ban.

Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) said: “Do the commissioners agree with me that the Church must reject any assumption that any one identity or orientation is preferable to another, and that the one-directional pursuit of a particular orientation amounts to conversion therapy?”

Mr Selous replied: “The Prime Minister remains resolutely committed to prohibiting the imposition of any harmful or unnecessary practice in this area without criminalising clergy and church members for non-coercive pastoral support which individuals ask for.”

Conservative MP Peter Gibson (Darlington) said: “Can I urge (Mr Selous) to do all he can in the upcoming discourse on this important ban that the Government has committed to to ensure religious freedom and banning this abuse is not presented as a binary choice.

“And does he acknowledge that many of Christian faith and other faiths besides want to see an end to this abuse?”

Mr Selous replied: “The Church believes that it is possible to end conversion therapy without outlawing private conversations with clergy and church members which an individual has requested.

“The Church has not requested an opt-out from the proposed law and will look very carefully at the detail when the legislation is published.”

In March, Boris Johnson said ending conversion therapy is “technically complex” but insisted that ministers will “stamp it out” after three LGBT advisers resigned in protest.

The Prime Minister said he would work to end the “abhorrent” practice after his Government faced damning criticism for allegedly creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT people.

Jayne Ozanne, the first of the advisers to quit, cited delays to banning the pseudoscientific process as among her many complaints of ministers.

Equalities minister Liz Truss last month also said she wanted to ensure that transgender people are “free to live their lives” without being subject to “horrific” conversion therapy.

She added that the Government will “shortly” bring forward plans to ban conversion therapy.

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