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‘That’s what my Christian faith compels me to do’: LGBT+ campaigner quits Gov panel over conversion therapy ban delay

by Tola Mbakwe
Jayne Ozanne.jpg thumb.jpg - Banner image

A gay evangelical Christian resigned from the LGBT advisory panel on Wednesday, blaming Boris Johnson's administration for creating a "hostile environment" for LGBT people.

Jayne Ozanne said that she was also frustrated that the Government has refused to enact a ban on conversion therapy despite promising to do so in June 2018.

Conversion therapy refers to any practise that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Some Christians oppose a ban because they say there are people who want, and ask for, prayer to change their sexual orientation.

Many Christians say they disagree that people's orientation should be changed but that a ban needs a clear definition so it does not include a ban on prayer, pastoral support or talking about what they see as living by the Bible. 

Ozanne explained to Premier Christian News that she had been thinking about quitting for some time, but the final straw was a speech from equalities minister Kemi Badenoch during a parliament debate on a conversion therapy ban.

“Her speech was so cold, clinical, and frankly, lacking in any sense of detail,” Ozanne said.

“She did not give us any reassurances at all about the need to protect our trans colleagues, who are twice as likely to go through conversion therapy than anyone else. It didn't talk about protections for adults, it didn't talk, really in my mind, about protections for those of us in religious settings. She only use the word 'ban' once and that was actually as a passing phrase.”

Ozanne, who’s been through conversion therapy, describes the practice as harmful and abusive.

“It’s time I think we as Christians are honest about the fact that we know people who have been deeply harmed by this,” she said.

“We know what goes on in our churches, we know how our prayer ministry is so often unregulated. There is a need to be truthful and honest about what really is the work of God in the Holy Spirit. And what, frankly, is down to vanity.”

Ozanne said she hopes her resignation will get Boris Johnson to address the lack of legislative support on LGBT+ issues.

“It’s time that we stood up for what we believe is right and speak out. That is what my Christian faith compels me to do at whatever cost to myself,” she said. “I cannot stand by and see people harmed, or under injustice done.

“One of the things I've been very outspoken about in government is the need to engage with religions, and with sexuality and gender issues, and to have conversations that have been put on the 'too difficult pile' for far too long.”

Ozanne’s resignation was followed by James Morton's who had reportedly been "very concerned for several months" that Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss and her junior ministers are "not committed to LGBT equality".

Ellen Murray became the third to quit - writing on Twitter that she decided to leave "due to the Government's persistent and worsening hostility towards our community in myriad areas".

Ozanne complained that Government pledges to take action to end conversion therapy only referred to sexuality and not gender identity.

"Sadly there has been never any mention of protecting our trans friends who are twice as likely to be offered and to be forced to go through conversion therapy," she said, speaking on Good Morning Britain.

"I fear it's this Government's attitude to the trans community that is right at the heart of this.

The resignations came as a group of nearly 20 LGBT+ organisations have reportedly written to Ms Badenoch to express their "deep concern" at her response to calls to ban conversion therapy.

Signatories to the letter, co-ordinated by Ozanne, accused the minister of inaction after the Conservative Party's pledge in 2018 to eradicate the therapy.

They said they "fail to understand why - after nearly 1,000 days - coming forward with meaningful legislation is taking so much time".

Downing Street said the Government has been "clear that conversion therapy is wrong and we are committed to ending these vile practices for good".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the Government would continue to consider all legislative and non-legislative options.

A Government spokesman said on Wednesday: "The Government is committed to building a country in which everyone, no matter their sexuality, race or religion, is free to live their lives as they choose.

"We have repeatedly made clear that we will take action to end conversion therapy and we are working to bring forward plans to do so shortly."

Meanwhile, Core Issues Trust, a Christian charity supporting those who voluntarily seek a change in sexual preference, has urged the Government to ensure conversion therapy is done safely rather than banning the practice altogether.

It said in a joint statement with the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) they say: “Efforts to regulate counselling and psychotherapeutic work are necessary in any society that cares for its people. We fully support those who wish to eradicate unsafe practises and to warn against the use of modalities and techniques that may harm vulnerable persons. We should be united in our efforts to support both LGBT and former LGBT persons.

“The simple fact is we live in a world of diverse ideologies and cultural practices. Banning and criminalising will not eliminate poor therapy. We call on the Government to ensure that in future, its LGBT advisors are representative of different ideological, religious, non-religious and cultural perspectives rather than becoming a monoculture that leads to dogma and viewpoint discrimination.”

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