The Evangelical Alliance (EA) fears traditional evangelical teaching on sex and marriage could be the next thing targeted to be made illegal once proposals for a conversion therapy ban are implemented.
The EA's UK director, Peter Lynas made the remarks during an episode of Premier's Unbelievable? podcast, hosted by Justin Brierley, in which he discussed the issue with Christian LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne, chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition.
Legislation banning conversion therapy - which covers a variety of practices seeking to suppress or change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity - is expected to be brought forward this year following a public consultation.
But church leaders across the UK are concerned the current proposals would criminalise certain forms of evangelical church teaching, pastoral care and prayer.
On this, Ozanne argues that: "Any practice that is done with a predetermined purpose [or] intention by the person doing it to change, cure or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity" should be banned and confirmed that this would also include "someone who is asking to become celibate."
But Lynas says that, while the EA support a ban on any coercive form of therapy, individuals must be free "to choose what sort of support and help they have in relation to their sexual and gender identity”. Lynas believes any such legislation that excludes prayer, pastoral counselling or teaching to encourage same-sex attracted to people to lead a celibate lifestyle would lead to the criminalisation of people "telling their stories if their stories encourage or persuade somebody to suppress their behaviour."
"If Dave Bennett [a celibate gay Christian], who wrote a wonderful book A War of Loves, gets up and tells his story, and somebody says, ‘I've been persuaded by your story, David to change my behaviour’, David commits a criminal offence, even if he doesn't know the person's changed his behaviour," Lynas continued.
During the debate, Ozanne also accused the EA of refusing to acknowledge its current teachings are causing "many young and old LGBT people to consider taking their lives".
"This is ultimately about protecting the vulnerable, and particularly LGBT young people and old people from harm. Until the recognition that they are not showing a gospel of love to LGBT people but discriminating against them - I think we will continue to have this sort of bumping up against each other," Ozanne said.
But Lynas said that while he agrees that proper safeguarding should be in place, he didn't understand why Ozanne was concerned that "harmful prayer" should be banned but not "harmful teaching" as she has described it.
"Logically, Jayne, that has to lead to a banning of conservative evangelical teaching on sexuality and marriage.
"That's the only logical conclusion from what you've said…. You’ve just said that what the Evangelical Alliance says is 'discriminatory, it's hurtful, it's harmful’… So logically, just to be crystal clear, you, therefore, have to be going for a ban for evangelical theology on sex and marriage. Why ban one bit and say that the other bit is okay? So the fear is that the teaching is next, because it's illogical to separate the two."
Ozanne then went on to clarify, that although she personally disagrees with the Evangelical Alliance's teachings, the current legislation is only about "banning harmful practices".
The public consultation is due to end on 4th February.