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Banning conversion therapy: a step too far or not far enough? – CT

This article was first published here in Christian Today…

Banning conversion therapy: a step too far or not far enough?


(Photo: Unsplash)

The UK government has outlined some of the details of its proposed conversion therapy ban and, to say the least, they are interesting. For those who wish to engage you can have your say on their equality hub, and I hope that many church leaders will because this law has the potential to be a real trojan horse for discrimination and abuse.

In a nutshell, the government is proposing legislation:

  • targeting physical acts conducted in the name of conversion therapy
  • targeting talking conversion therapy with a new criminal offence; and
  • producing a package of holistic measures, such as conversion therapy protection orders, new support for victims, restricting promotion, removing profit streams, and strengthening the case for disqualification from holding a senior role in a charity.

To some it seems pretty draconian – although it does all depend on what you mean by conversion therapy. After all, would anyone argue against banning physical coercion? But to others it is far too weak.

From a Christian perspective there are three interesting observations.

1. The proposed legislation includes conversion to transgenderism

In a surprising development the government minister, Liz Truss, has declared that it will include seeking to ‘convert’ someone to transgenderism: “The proposed protections are universal: an attempt to change a person from being attracted to the same-sex to being attracted to the opposite-sex, or from not being transgender to being transgender, will be treated in the same way as the reverse scenario. They therefore protect everyone.”

This is logical – but with potentially interesting consequences. I think of the teacher who advised a depressed young teenage man that he could be ‘trapped in the wrong body’. Would this teacher fall foul of this law? Or what if someone tried to persuade a teenager that they might want to change their sexuality and asked something like ‘why don’t you experiment with your sexuality?’. Could they potentially be breaking the law?

Pink News is not happy. It writes, “The idea that children are being coerced into ‘becoming’ trans is a popular anti-trans talking point, a myth which suggests that affirming trans and gender non-conforming kids will cause them to be trans when they otherwise would not have been.”

But that’s their standard. It’s so strange that in their world there are thousands of gay teenagers who are being damaged by being ‘coerced’ into changing their sexuality, but it’s a ‘myth’ to suggest that young people can be led into changing their gender!

Yet the evidence is that social contagion, peer pressure and ‘counselling’ can cause considerable harm. There are numerous lawsuits coming down the line from adults who now want to detransition and feel that they were misled as teenagers. There is little doubt that the harm caused by the trans ideologues far outweighs anything done through any other conversion therapy.

2.The proposed laws do not ban prayer or private speech

“To be clear: talking conversion therapy could not be reasonably understood to include communication such as casual conversations, exchanges of views, private prayer or pure speech acts,” the government says.

Peter Tatchell was disappointed. He tweeted: “The UK government’s proposed LGBT+ conversion therapy ban has loopholes. It allows adults to consent and churches to pray in certain circumstances. We await the final details. Until then, the battle goes on. #StopDithering.”

Imagine allowing churches to pray!

The formerly evangelical minister, Steve Chalke, agreed that this was dangerous.

“There’s a lethal loophole in the proposed ban on Conversion Therapy. It leaves room for adults to give ‘informed consent’ to religious groups for help with ‘unwanted same sex attraction’, so can’t protect LGBT+ people already brainwashed into believing their sexuality is ‘a sin’!” he wrote on Twitter.

Although Chalke is not noted for his understatement, claiming that allowing individuals to pray with people is ‘lethal’ is, even by his standards, somewhat over the top!

Jayne Ozanne, another former evangelical who describes herself as a conversion therapy ‘survivor’ was just as condemnatory. She told Pink News: “The consultation document makes little mention of the harm that religious practices are known to cause, nor does it recognise that the government’s own research has shown that these form the majority of such practices.”

It appears as though Ozanne and Chalke will not be happy until churches which uphold biblical standards on marriage, humanity and sexuality are prosecuted for daring to teach what the Bible teaches. It is quite extraordinary that it is not the militant secularists but some professing Christians who are pushing the government to persecute those who are supposed to be their brothers and sisters!

3.Consent is no longer the absolute of progressive society

You will have noticed in the earlier Tatchell quote how he objects to the idea of adults being able to consent to conversion therapy. It used to be the mantra that what consenting adults do on their own is nobody else’s business. But in the marketplace of progressive idols, autonomy is now trumped by sexual ideology. Campaigners say that no one can freely consent to psychological harm. And of course, they are the ones who will determine what psychological harm is.

The argument goes: “Saying you can consent to conversion therapy is like saying you’re consenting to robbery when you hand over your money because you’re terrified of being assaulted if you don’t.”

The whole issue of ‘consent’ is fascinating. To what extent, for example, can we say that people ‘consent’ to vaccinations when they are threatened with not being able to travel, visit many places, or even go to church?

It’s interesting that progressives are now admitting that consent is a mixed term. There is a sense in which their new attitude is more realistic and biblical. Some of the Jews who heard Jesus offer to set them free were confused and upset, and instead argued that their very identity made them free. But Jesus pointed out that everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:31-34).

We do not have that radical autonomy. We are not in control. But we do have the right and the ability to ask for help from our fellow humans, and from the Lord. The proposed Bill seems to at least preserve that in civil law – although no serious Christian would be prepared to hand that right over to a secular government. We ultimately answer to God, not to them.

Once governments grasp the limitations of their power, they will stop trying to make rules which control every aspect of our lives. ‘Know the truth and the truth will make you free’ is a word for all in today’s increasingly bound society.

David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia, where he runs the ASK Project. He blogs at The Wee Flea.

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


  1. Thank you for this, I like this post. Ultimately it is quite impossible to legislate about all the possible permutations of what one should or should not do.

    Which is why the two greatest commandments are essentially to love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Anything else is merely guidance and advice as I keep trying to point out regarding the current so-called rules re coronavirus in the UK.

    People seem reluctant to check out the website, otherwise they would realise this and start using common sense, now sadly lacking in so many cases.

    This is why the so-called rules get sillier and sillier as the government seem to be trying to see how many in the UK population are awake and sensible.

    It seems awfully hard at times but I keep at it, prodding people to wake them up as it were. Slowly but surely they are awakening.

  2. I’m shocked and saddened by what I have just read. What on earth is wrong with people? “Stop the world, I want to get off” comes to mind

  3. On Twitter, I have asked many of those who are lobbying for a ban on conversion therapy, to cite real-life examples of conversion therapy being offered in the UK in the present day. None of them have been able to cite examples. I have therefore come to believe that the conversion therapy conspiracy theory is a malicious hoax.

    Can it be harmful to outlaw a practice that simply isn’t taking place? I think it can. There are examples in history of the harm such bans have done. For example, it seems likely that innocent people falsely accused of casting magic spells on their neighbours, causing their neighbours’ sickness or death, have often ended up being put to death themselves for their entirely imaginary crimes.

    1. I’ll give you three

      2 different people I know were coerced into exorcisms at their (different) religious institutions, one within the last five years and the other maybe a decade ago, supposedly to remove their homosexuality. Perhaps harmless to many, this sort of thing only causes more hurt and fear to people already frightened that they are somehow possessed by the devil because they are attracted to the same sex.

      Theres also that man who is on any TV or radio show about this subject who claims to be able to make gay people attracted to the opposite sex. I cant remember the name, but I could find it in short order I’m sure. He even has a website.

      1. That you cite exorcism as a so-called “conversion therapy” is a gross category error. Exorcism isn’t a therapy. It has been a core ministry of Christian churches from the very beginning of the church, being mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and all four gospels (unless I’m mistaken). The Lord Jesus Christ performed exorcisms and instructed his disciples, including those who weren’t among the twelve apostles at the time, to conduct exorcisms under His authority during His earthly ministry. Exorcism is mentioned in the account of the Great Commission to be found in Mark’s gospel.

        For the secular state to attempt to ban or to regulate Christian exorcism would therefore be for the state to persecute those believers who would practise what has always been an integral part of mainstream, orthodox Christianity.

        That you cite exorcism as “conversion therapy” serves to illustrate a point I often make, that I have long suspected that the barely-disguised, real mission of the hoaxers who peddle the conversion therapy conspiracy theory, is to seduce the state into interfering in the practise of religion in a way that would be incompatible with a separation of church and state, not to say many international treaties on human rights to which the UK and/or Australia are signatories.

        How were these two people “coerced”? Coerced into what? The co-operation of the person whom it is hoped will benefit from exorcism is not even required, in all cases, for exorcism to succeed. The apostle Paul is recorded as carrying out an exorcism upon a slave, without the consent of the slaver herself or (more important under Roman law) er owners. Exorcism is a transaction in which, primarily, God and any demons oppressing the beneficiary are the parties. It is procedure in which God coerces any demons concerned Himself. It is not the role of the secular state to require God to obtain the consent of those demons. Faithful Christians should not and would not submit to any secular law that attempted to impose such a duty upon the Creator.

        Please give the names of the churches that you claimed performed the exorcisms that you claim harmed the two friends of yours, and any other details that would enable fact-checking of your anecdotes.

        Who is this “man on TV” of whom you speak?

      2. Name the religious institutions and those whom you claim were “coerced into exorcisms … supposedly to remove their homosexuality”, explaining how they were “coerced”. Unless you do so, you remain a mere gossip. Shame on you for that.

  4. Common Law is very objective, and so is much of Statute. It makes it clear for victims and offenders, and allows a justice system to do its job.

    Legal definitions matter. They will always be argued to set out the intention of Parliament.

    This type of legislation that is called for, formed and approved entirely on the opinion and view of a lobby group is subjective and a misuse of the law to serve their own end.

    We read in scripture how in Daniel or Esther’s time, the state imposed bad laws purely to silence people. We think it extreme, but what we see here is just the same.

    The evidence for this type of legislation is entirely in the mind of the ‘victim’, which for the first time ever, has been extended to a third party to not only interpret, but establish. If a victim cannot consent to something they want, it is at the hands of those with an agenda to determine if this offence has been met. I.e. You want to be rid of these thoughts, and sought help? ‘ You cannot, the law says you cannot consent to such a thing. Anyone who helps you is guilty of a crime! Your like a victim consenting to a robbery!’ Job done.

    The lobby group has both ‘victim, perpetrator, and enforcer’ in their complete control and bidding. How can a city end up like Sodom and Gomorrah? When they have the legal backing to support what they do. We are not far from it today.

    What can we do? Respond to the consultation setting out the flaws in passing a legal means that is entirely at the subjective mercy of a third party! And it’s based on falsehood, and does not remedy a wrong. It creates one.

    Once this passes, if they can convince Parliament that an adult cannot consent to what they by nature want, rather it is determined by the liberal moral lobby group, it won’t be long before the age of consent is next. Our children will be next, and parents who set out a moral value on sexual matters, or the kerbing of lust, will be deemed criminals.

  5. We live in a society in which, increasingly, the “real” world is what goes on inside your head and “truth” is what you decide for yourself. Anything which poses a threat to this (e.g. the biological reality of gender or someone suggesting that one’s subjective psychological sense of self should change) is increasingly seen as causing genuine harm, even “death” to the “real” person inside.

    David, have you read “Psychology as Religion” by Paul Vitz? It gives some fascinating insights into the modern obsession with self-discovery and self-actualisation as the true path to happiness and enlightenment.

  6. Churches will try to assist people in any type of distress, according to the conscience of the pastor or his team. Will GCT law make much difference? The question of fertility treatment for same sex couples, with the cost met by the NHS, may be a more interesting question?

    1. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not Christian doctrines and Christian liturgy (widely defined, not just set prayers), is therefore incapable of being aimed at causing either of these postulated attributes of an individual to change. Nor is the practice of religion in anything but a florid, metaphorical sense, the delivery of any sort of therapy on the part of any health professional. If everybody keeps calm and keeps these points in mind at all times, remaining on this script, we should remain untouched and untouchable by any ban on conversion therapy. There is no need to panic.

    2. Gay people pay the same taxes as straight people. It’s hard to argue why public money should be used to help an infertile straight couple have a child, but not a gay couple.

      1. @ Peter Jermey

        “Gay people pay the same taxes as straight people. It’s hard to argue why public money should be used to help an infertile straight couple have a child, but not a gay couple.” [Peter]

        The conception of a mammal is never procured by the payment of taxes. In many species, including humans, conception is ordinarily procured by mate selection, pair-bonding, courtship, and mating. between the members of what become recognisable as breeding pairs. What you mean by “gay couples”, can never amount to such a breeding pair.

        Principle 6 of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child declares the following right of every child:

        “The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.”

        Public money should never be misspent to aid, abet, counsel, or procure the conception of a child with the evil intention of depriving that child of his or her Principle 6 right under the said Declaration.

      2. Dear Peter

        It is hard to argue why public money for a whole range of things, let alone why the state should have ever increasing control over our lives.

        As regards fertility, the problem has been on the increase in recent year for a number of reasons. This includes vitamin D deficiency due to increasing indoor living and working. It also includes the increasing neuro-toxins in the environment.

        Kind regards


  7. On the issue of consent for both therapy and vaccines, I would argue that consent is only valid if it is *informed* consent and not coerced.

    To take a real life example, I read an account of a young man who was given the choice of conversion therapy or being expelled from his school. He chose the therapy because passing his exams was his only route to escaping his abusive parents. The therapy involved him being electrocuted once a week for several months. Do I need to say that he did not become attracted to women as a result?

  8. I go to what some would call an inclusive church – by that; most people know what I mean. Interestingly, ‘inclusive’ has come to mean of non-heterosexual people, rather than people who are divorced, tax evaders, obese, etc.

    Anyway. Perhaps because we are an inclusive church, I have many gay friends. Note: if you want to get to know gay people and their stories, you need to first befriend some. I also know of more than I am willing to count who have been abused by previous churches. They have been coerced into believing that their most base instinct is evil. Many turned to drugs and alcohol and some have taken their lives. This, I am sad to report, is the Churches bidding. This is not conjecture, hoax or hearsay. It is through conversation and weeping that I have learned what people have gone through.
    How you sit at your computer and judge people who sit with those who have been excluded from the Church and driven to suicide baffles me.
    I have met both Steve and Jayne and I believe you do them a diservice. You may disagree with them, but they are motivated by a desire to show people that God loves them. And in the grand scheme of things, even if they are not right about all things, sharing the love of God with those who have grown to hate themselves is a good thing.

    p.s. Do you mean ‘formerly evangelical minister’ or ‘formerly Evangelical minister’
    If the latter, he may well agree.
    If the former – let us be honest. Steve Chalke is one of the most evangelical Christian leaders in the UK, perhaps the world. That you don’t like him or his theology matters not. I don’t like yours (I think you are often judgmental and fall short of the grace God shows us), but that doesn’t mean you’re not trying your best or that you’re not evangelical. Motivated by the faith he shares on all platforms, Steve Chalke has become a respected voice to the UK Government – running schools, supporting hospitals and prisons.
    Do not judge his faith or how ‘evangelical’ he is based on your judgement of his views.

    Interestingly, it is the same theme again. You are judging who is allowed in the Church and who isn’t, who is evangelical, and who isn’t.

    1. This is a confused post. You make judgements and then say we are not permitted to make judgements! ‘Trying your best’ is nothing to do with Christianity. Evangelical means that you accept the Good News of the Gospel. Steve doesn’t. He think he has discovered the lost message of Jesus – He has just made up his own Gospel. He is a false prophet and a liar.

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