Britain Ethics Justice Politics Sex and sexuality the Church

With a Conversion Therapy ban on the Table, the Threat of Jail for Christians is real

This is my latest article on Christian Today – they asked me to write about the Ozanne Foundation’s report.  It is stunning.    This is evil at the highest level.  It is almost unbelievable that it has come to this.  But what will the churches do?

With a conversion therapy ban on the table, the threat of jail for Christians is real


(Photo: Pexels/Magda Ehlers)

At a time in the not so distant past (about 10 years ago), the phrase “gay evangelical demands that prayer for conversion be criminalised” would make as much sense as “square circle makes triangle”. But in today’s world it seems about par for the course!

I’m not sure that in many years of reading ‘reports’ I have ever read one as chilling, or with such dangerous implications, as the just released Cooper Report from the Ozanne Foundation. That may sound hyperbolic but bear with me as we see what the report actually says.

Although I was aware of the stance Jayne Ozanne was taking and the dangers of a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ being used as a ban on conversion, I was still shocked to read the proposals in the Cooper Report.

Perhaps I should not have been so naïve. After all, the report’s authors include Peter Tatchell, Crispin Blunt MP, Angela Eagle MP, Mermaids founder Susie Green, Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley as well as Ozanne and others from the academic, political, business and legal establishments.

Most people in the UK won’t care about this, and I suspect many Christians will think that it is relatively unimportant, affecting only a minority of a minority. But that would be to misread what is going on.

What does the report argue? It is basically a demand that the government criminalise any form of what they deem to be ‘conversion’ practice, except those conversion practices which enable people to gender transition or ‘discover’ their sexuality.

1.The report portrays all forms of conversion therapy as violence and torture.

“The discriminatory nature of conversion practices is demeaning and perpetuates a continuum of violence towards the LGBT+ community, which also violates Article 3 ECHR.”

There are acts that are already illegal – for example kidnapping or ‘corrective rape’. But by conflating these with prayer or counselling the report really confuses and endangers. When you equate prayer with inhumane treatment and torture you are making language meaningless and diminishing real torture. When you correctly state that torture should be banned but then redefine torture so that it in effect includes anything which disagrees with you or offends you, then you have given yourself carte blanche to ban anything you don’t agree with.

READ MORE: If conversion therapy is banned, it is the Bible that will be silenced

Personally, I find Ozanne’s views on this subject torturous, offensive and harmful. The difference is that while she seems to be happy to send me to jail for expressing mine, I don’t demand that the State should ban hers.

2.The report offers no evidence of either the prevalence of conversion therapy or what it actually is.

This is a glossy report, well produced, with a number of substantial backers. However, it says very little and reads more like a propaganda leaflet than a meaningful report. For example, we are told, “There is increasing evidence that many individuals are forcibly taken abroad to undergo extreme forms of conversion practices.” And yet, despite the fact that this evidence is “increasing”, we are shown none of it.

We are told that almost two-thirds of British adults believe conversion practices should be banned, but I suspect that 99% of British adults wouldn’t have a clue what conversion therapy is.

3.The report permits and encourages some forms of conversion therapy.

“The free exploration of gender identity and sexual orientation must not be impeded by a ban on conversion practices. Specifically, any ban must not negatively impact transgender individuals’ access to healthcare provisions and affirmative care.”

The hypocrisy and double standards are breathtaking. If a young person wishes to ‘explore their sexuality’ they should be encouraged to do so – as long as it is in the direction that Ozanne and Tatchell want. If a child wishes to change their gender, then they must be encouraged to do so. It’s fine for them to convert – but only if it’s in the ‘right’ direction.

4. The report argues that freedom of religion should be restricted.

“These recommendations require limited restrictions on the right to manifest religion and belief and their expression, which are necessary, justified and proportionate under Articles 9 and 10 ECHR.”

The report argues that freedom of religion should be curtailed in order to ‘prevent harm’ but then defines harm in such a broad way that it leaves no room for freedom of religion. All we are left with is the religion of the progressives and the State-defined doctrine of the new religion. The State is now determining what Christian doctrine should be.

Make no mistake about who this report is aimed at: Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox or evangelical, who dare to teach what Christ taught. I suspect that there will be no attempt to implement this in other (stricter) religious communities. According to the report, those from religious communities are to be given ‘special consideration’. Such a chilling phrase.

READ MORE: ‘If it’s us now, it will be the pastors next’ – Mike Davidson on why gay conversion therapy should not be banned

It is of particular importance to note that the report expressly includes prayer as something that should be criminalised – unless it is ‘affirming’ prayer. In other words, if someone came to me and said that they wanted prayer because they no longer wished to live a gay lifestyle and I prayed with them as they requested, I would be committing a crime.

In case you think that Ozanne and Tatchell just represent a fringe extremist group then remember that David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester, said in June of this year that faith leaders should face prosecution if they fail to comply with a ban.

5.The report states that adults cannot consent to conversion therapy.

“It is the Forum’s view that it is not possible to consent to conversion practices in a free and informed manner, and that it should be no defence that victims appeared to have consented.”

There are those of us who naively believed that the sacred cow of contemporary culture, the absolute absolute, was the idea of individual consent. We were told that what individuals did in the privacy of their own home was their business and no one else’s – provided it involved consenting adults. If that was true, the new illiberal illiberalism has now killed it off. Apparently, a child can consent to transgender change including bodily mutilation, an adult can consent to being killed; but no one can consent to wanting to change their sexual orientation or identity. It is the absolute shibboleth. The sacred cow of contemporary society is sexuality.

6. The report does away with individual privacy and human rights.

“Conversion practices also interfere with an individual’s right to respect for a private life under Article 8 as they violate their ability to live their life without arbitrary disruption or interference.”

This is an Orwellian ‘love is hate’ type of statement. The authors are arguing that if an individual seeks in their own private life to obtain help for unwanted sexual feelings or gender confusion, they should not have the liberty to do so. The report is in effect claiming ownership of the private lives of every citizen – to ensure that we all fit within their narrow agenda.

And they are prepared to use force to ensure that happens – including spying on families and individual homes:

 “Due to a significant amount of abuse being perpetrated in private residences, rather than in public or religious buildings, the Forum believes that an effective method of reporting will be essential in uncovering abuse.”

And they speak of “intelligence gathering”:

“The Forum recommends that intelligence gathering and tracking systems be developed to identify repeat offenders who continue to promote and undertake conversion practices in order to bring them to the attention of the relevant authorities.”

In summary, we now have a group of people – including some who profess to be Christians – who argue that abortion must not be criminalised. Killing the elderly or sick must not be criminalised. But praying for someone who asks for prayer is to be criminalised.

If you want to know where this is going ask Murray Campbell, a Baptist minister in Victoria, Australia. The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act was adopted by the Victorian Parliament in February this year, and it comes into effect February 2022. It is no exaggeration to say that faithful Christians there are now expecting to go to jail just for preaching the teaching of Jesus Christ.

The implications of this report go way beyond conversion therapy (in its broadest definition) for same-sex attraction or gender identity. If the principle is conceded that any form of prayer or religious practice which seeks to change people is ‘harmful’ to someone’s identity, then all forms of conversion could be banned. The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers are not permitted to be converted or prayed for – lest we harm their ‘identity’.

But that is precisely what Christ comes to do. He does not affirm us as we are; he comes to radically change our identity. Jesus washes, sanctifies and justifies us in his name and by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). I rejoice at that Gospel and weep at those who once professed to follow it now seeking to ban the preaching of the evangel which acts as the agent of ultimate change – the new birth!

The irony in all of this is that the Cooper Report is headed by the statement that “Jonathan Cooper passionately believed in the equality of all. This fuelled his lifelong-commitment to fight for the rights of others and so ensure that they might benefit from the full protection of the law.”

And we are told that the Ozanne Foundation “believes in a world where all are accepted and equally valued”. Except those who follow the teachings of Jesus, and those who wish to change. It appears that some are more equal than others.

Several years ago, I wrote that I could foresee the time when I would go to jail for simply preaching and practising Christianity. That time is almost here. What can be done? Individual Christians should write to their local MPs and ask them not to support such intolerant and authoritarian proposals.

Churches should just simply state that we will not go along with any government dictate that tells us who we can, and cannot pray for. I for one will not accept or obey any law which says who I can, and cannot pray for. If all Christians took that position it would become an unenforceable law. Or do we just let the new Inquisition of our secular society take over?

Why an anti-conversion Therapy Bill in Australia is a Huge Threat to Churches – CT

Why Boris’ Climate Sermon at the UN was far too Simplistic – CT




  1. Scary reading. I have written several times to the local snp MPs on various subjects, but have never received a reply
    i.e. Abortion – Assisted suicide etc., so I sadly, certainly wouldn’t expect a reply regarding these proposals.

  2. I dispute their figure on the proportion of UK citizens that believe that conversions should be banned. I know several hundred UK citizens and none of them believe that. Another “make believe” statistic.

  3. Is GCT an irrelevant trap? We should fire every bullet we have on the abortion question. People with unwanted same sex attraction have turned to Christ and found comfort for centuries in the Church. GCT is just another contrived modern numberplate acronym. Is there more blasphemous sin, in one abortionist’s needle prick, than all the same sex attraction ever experienced since humans first arrived on earth?

  4. “When you equate prayer with inhumane treatment and torture you are making language meaningless and diminishing real torture. When you correctly state that torture should be banned but then redefine torture so that it in effect includes anything which disagrees with you or offends you, then you have given yourself carte blanche to ban anything you don’t agree with.” Very perceptive, David!

  5. Hello David,
    You may remember me under a different name (Thoshammer) when I commented under your “Perth’s Pride, Perth’s Shame) on this topic. Now I’m back under my real name. I was someone who identified as exclusively homosexual, now happily married. I was not forced nor did I ever go to any kind of conversion therapy, I went to church a lot, I think people prayed for me in the privacy of their homes without me present.

    The reccomendations these people give would criminalise my pastor, who prayed for me when I mentioned I was dating a woman, not to mention when I joined membership and asked that I be provided with wisdom on this issue. They would criminalise my wife, who married me and of course prayed for me while we were engaged. They would criminalise families and their children whom I befriended (one young girl who never ceased praying for me about a number of different things). Even my personal praying for avoidance of temptation or mortification of sin in my private prayer would be criminalised.

    They claim this is “love” and “equality”? It’s perverse. They would rather groom children into transgenderism (and that is what it is) and persecute Christians for the sake of justifying their unfufilling and meaningless sexual philosophy.

    Ironically their proposed legislation would potentially criminalise my friends in the LGBT+ communities, some of whom knew my past and yet attended my wedding!

      1. I am well thank you.

        You are really appreciated by those of us who still hold to Christian Orthodoxy.

        This topic effects real people’s lives, and I am sick and tired of Ozanne et al. Telling me and others like me that my life shouldn’t exist.

        Stay strong brother, the gates of hell will not prevail!

    1. These people would only have broken the law if they had attempted to or promised they could change the sex(es) you are attracted to.

      It would not be illegal for a woman to marry a gay man, nor would it be illegal for anyone to pray for that relationship to blossom.

      This is about trying to force change someone’s attractions, not about behaviour.

      1. That is not the case in Victoria, nor is it the proposed law from the Ozanne foundation. To pray, at their request, that someone would change from their sinful desires, would be illegal. You seem to have a habit of just making things up to be what you want them to be. It’s neither honest nor helpful.

      2. If you call attraction to the same sex a sinful desire it itself then, yes, I agree it would be illegal to pray for someone else that the sinful desire of same sex attraction be removed.

        This isnt the same thing as praying for someone to have a good relationship and it isnt the same thing as a woman marrying a gay man

      3. What a wicked and foolish comment! If I call adultery sinful and then an adulterer asks me to pray for them should that be illegal? If I call abuse/pornography/theft/violence sinful then should the same principle apply? Or are you saying that what the State says is sin is sin – and what the States says is not sin, is not sin?

  6. Once again the tail is wagging the dog. It seems that those who shout loudest get to dictate what everyone else is meant to think or say.

  7. The implications of this report go way beyond conversion therapy (in its broadest definition) for same-sex attraction or gender identity. If the principle is conceded that any form of prayer or religious practice which seeks to change people is ‘harmful’ to someone’s identity, then all forms of conversion could be banned. The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers are not permitted to be converted or prayed for – lest we harm their ‘identity’.

    Dear David,

    I was a Pastor in three different churches in England for 28 years before retirement. In my 10 year Pastorate in Twickenham, I asked the late Doug Harris, founder of the Reachout Trust to come at the turn of the 2000 millennium and share with us what he believed would be the most difficult challenges Christians might face in the new century. He singled out two things. One was opposition from the New Age Movement (a way of thinking rather than an organisation). The second challenge he spoke on was the rise of opposition from homosexual “lobbies”. All of my own Christian life (61 years) The Bible has been my guide and teaching source. It has always taught me (and those I taught) that truly born again Christian believers are NOT ALLOWED to “hate” anyone – no matter what their own point of view or lifestyle. Rather we should defend the right of all to have their own opinion, as well as to share it. (“Freedom of Speech”, and the the right to disagree with others.) Nevertheless, that very right means that Bible believing Christians also have the right to try and save “sinners” (which is what all people are before they come to Christ for salvation – including us before our “conversion.” We do this because we love people so much in and through Christ and His teaching, that we do NOT WANT anyone in that fallen state to end up in Hell, where the same Bible tells us “sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers” etc will end up without their life being “converted” to Eternal Life (after the death of our bodies), which we are told is also what God wants for them. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to life through Jesus Christ”. Our “enemies” (from their point of view) are those Jesus told us to love, to care for, and to share His (WORD) with them – so that they will not be lost to “the Second Death” described in the book of Revelation (last book in the Bible) – which is the death of the soul and spirit of mankind, as well as the body. Our reason for living is that very mission! We don’t want to leave this world until we have reached as many of mankind as we possibly can, and before it is too late for them to do so. The Bible makes it very clear that anyone who is any of “sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers” will not be able to enter Heaven in the presence of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) The alternative is also eternal, and there is no escape from it! The Apostle Paul wrote: “Woe is me, if I preach NOT the Gospel.” Out of God’s love for mankind (as He intended us to be), He sent His Son to take the punishment for the sins of all of us on the Cross at Calvary, and He died for us, and came back to life, so that He might save our souls – for ever. He took the punishment of God against our fallenness, so that we could be free. I know many born again Christians who were in that list of sins in their past, and are now absolutely free from their former background. As believers we are no “better” than those who live in these ways. We are desperate to save them from being lost forever. All forms of our “conversion” efforts have behind them 1. The love of God, and 2. The love He has given us for them. Repentance is the “U-turn” from running AWAY from our Creator to running TO Him through the price Jesus paid for us to be compatible for His eternal Presence. I say all this to re-establish the truth, that we are testimonies as those who have found that life. Therefore (as Paul writes) we are “Ambassadors of Christ”, and our message is simply “Be reconciled to God!” The way the world is going, it is very clear to us that Christ is about to return to the Earth and wind up history. When that happens, it will be TOO LATE to know the TRANSFORMATION of our fallen lives into those who become the children of God, with the indwelling Spirit of God within us, and the peace that surpasses understanding. Time is short, and as Believers (Trusters) in Christ, we have no choice but to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He Himself prayed while dying on the Cross 2000 years ago “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” However, there can be no forgiveness without repentance. We already know the danger that faces all mankind. We are DETERMINED not to give up on those who are still “lost in sin”. Attempts to silence us will be resisted for their sakes! VS

  8. I don’t think there is much chance of this ban seeing the light of day any time soon. Cameron first promised it in 2015 in an attempt to win votes from moderates, but since then successive tory leaders have dragged their feet. As you say, it is a very popular move, but many of their donors don’t want it so the government are in a compromise position of repeatedly promising, but never delivering. Mrs Johnson must have felt like she had a full omlette on her face having to give a speech on how her husband is supposedly in favour of LGBT rights!

    Conversion therapy is any attempt to change which sex(es) someone else is attracted to. It is also known as SOCE (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts). *Within living memory* this has included some of the things like electrocution and water boarding that you state are (or should be) already illegal. Unfortunately they have not been considered criminal behavior because the victims are gay (in the 60s considered criminals and in the 80s considered a disease) and because they had usually in some sense some form of consent.

    Although it seems reasonable to say that adults should be allowed to seek this kind of therapy if they freely decide to, it is not so simple:

    – around half of cases of this are carried out on under 18s without their direct consent
    – there is no regulation of these therapies because they are not legitimate medical practices, therefore patients cannot make informed consent because they have not been informed about success rates or severe side effects
    – unpicking how or what constitutes coercion is difficult. If a gay young adult is going to lose his family, community and ability to practice his religion unless he becomes attracted to the opposite sex, can we say that he has made a free choice to enter into this type of therapy

    The issue of whether prayer should be included in the ban is tricky because it never sounds good to ban prayer. However if it isnt included then therapists can simply rebrand as providers of prayer ministry and continue exactly as before, despite every major Christian denomination having denounced the practice.

    1. Again you are doing exactly what I have argued against. You are conflating prayer with torture. It’s not honest and it does harm. Where do you get the figure that half of cases of conversion therapy are carried out on under 18s without their direct consent? How many cases are you talking about? And what do you mean by conversion therapy? Why are you arguing against adults consenting to counselling to have their desires changed? Are you suggesting that their desire to have other desires changed is wrong – and needs to be changed?

      1. Im saying that if a ban on conversion therapy excludes pray for someone to become attracted to the opposite sex then such a bill would have to put clear limits on what could and could not be described as prayer, else *yes* therapists would be allowed to electrocute gay teens as long as they called it prayer.

        I defined conversion therapy.

        There was a study by UCLA that suggested that around 700,000 US citizens had undergone conversion therapy, half of them as minors. Assuming roughly the same rate in the UK would be 150,000 and 50,000 in Australia.

        I haven’t argued against adults making informed consent. I’ve said that adults often face a lot of pressure to undergo this therapy and there is no regulation to ensure they are given statistics on success rates or side effects before they agree.

        Various medical bodies have found that conversion therapy doesn’t work and is unsafe. Do you disagree with this or are you simply arguing that free citizens ought to be allowed the freedom to do it anyway?

        FWIW I would be in favor of this remaining legal if it was shown to be effective and safe. It’s pretty clear to me that it is practiced by charlatans (modern day Simon the Sorcerers) who cannot actually make their subjects attracted to the opposite sex

      2. You seem to be happy to for the government to define what prayer is. You have not defined conversion therapy anymore than the government has. You have no evidence and no proof that 150,000- people have undergone conversion therapy in the UK – it’s just a figure you are making up. Various medical bodies have not found that conversion therapy does not work and is unsafe – again you are making that up. Or perhaps you can provide us with the information. If conversion therapy is about making people attracted to the opposite sex – then we are agreed. But since you are commenting on my article perhaps you could stick to what the article says. We are not talking about seeking to change someone’s sexuality but rather seeking to help people live a life which is faithful to the Bible and praying with people who want to do that. Can you explain why it is right to criminalise that?

  9. I can’t help but suspect that in this instance the likes of Ozanne and Tatchell, despite their words of love and acceptance for all, are motivated by something considerably less noble: revenge.

    Specifically, revenge for the way they have (or have perceived themselves to have) been treated by evangelical Christians in the past. That’s why they have no interest in going after Islam.

      1. Ive read her autobiography. Shes had some pretty horrific experiences with this stuff. I think it is understandable for her to want to stop it happening to anyone else.

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