Christianity Ethics Politics Scotland Sex and sexuality

Why has conversion therapy become a major election issue in Scotland? – CT

This is my latest article in Christian Today – you can get the original here

Again – as I am unable to tweet this article out, I would appreciate if those of you who are on Twitter could do so for me! If you think it is worthwhile…

Why has conversion therapy become a major election issue in Scotland?


(Photo: Getty/iStock)

The Scottish Greens are not happy with the prospect of Kate Forbes, a believing Christian and member of the Free Church of Scotland, being elected First Minister. In fact, they are so unhappy that they have suggested they would withdraw from their partnership with the SNP to form the Scottish government if she wins.

The issues that seem to rile them the most are not ‘Green’ issues such as the environment and saving the planet, but progressive social issues such as conversion therapy. Until last week their leader, Patrick Harvie, had publicly stayed out of the fray, but after the Sky leadership debate he weighed in and the Greens suggested that this is a deal-breaking issue.

Why has conversion therapy become a major issue? Why has it overtaken euthanasia as a cause célèbre for ‘progressives’ throughout the Western world? Has there been an epidemic of conversion therapy? What is this great evil that needs to be banned and is seen as so important?

I agree it is a major issue, which is why I have written about it for Christian Today before – here and here. But it is not a major issue because it is a widespread problem in our society. Instead, it is a major issue because it is a Trojan horse being used to smuggle in an anti-Christian, authoritarian ideology.

Let’s return to the exchange between the Scottish Greens and Kate Forbes. In the debate, Forbes stated: “I think people should be allowed to live freely as they choose, and I don’t think there should be conversion therapy in existence in Scotland.”

In response to a question about whether a gay man should be allowed to seek conversion therapy to change his sexuality, Forbes said: “Well, it’s his choice, but I do not think we should allow conversion therapy.”

It was this latter comment that caused Harvie to explode: “Anti-LGBTQ+ conversion practices are abhorrent and abusive by nature. There is no such thing as a non-coercive conversion practice and never can be. Anyone who argues that people should be able to consent to this form of abuse is clearly failing to understand the issue.”

Christian cultural commentators often observe that ‘consent’ is the shibboleth of our culture. It is. But only if you consent to the ‘right’ things. You can consent to abortion, euthanasia, sex, drugs, pornography and gender transition, but you cannot consent to seeking help for unwanted sexual attraction. This is neither logical nor consistent, but then logic and consistency are not that important for the progressive ideologues. For Harvie and colleagues it is even the appearance of being anti-LGBTQ which means that it should be banned.

Some Christians have asked: why did Kate Forbes say that conversion therapy should not be allowed in Scotland? Because it all depends on what you mean by conversion therapy – and this is where the heart of the issue really lies. When people hear the words ‘conversion therapy’ they automatically picture abusive practices such as electrodes, violence, rape and brainwashing – which I would hope all of us would oppose (and which are already illegal). But that is not what the progressives mean when they are talking about conversion therapy. They use words like ‘torture’ to refer to a much broader spectrum.

The Scottish Parliament set up an ‘Expert Advisory group on Ending Conversion Practices’ and these ‘experts’ came up with an extraordinary definition: “The definition should be consistent across sexual orientation and gender identity and must be wide enough to encompass all acts and practices that seek to change, suppress, or inhibit someone’s sexual orientation, expression of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

This is no longer just about seeking to ‘change’ someone’s sexuality etc, but also who seek to ‘inhibit’ and ‘suppress’. It’s an extraordinarily authoritarian measure. For example, if a pastor urged someone who was experiencing unwanted sexual temptations (whether homosexual or heterosexual) to live a celibate life, he would be breaking the law. If a teenage girl wanted to live a promiscuous life and go to all night sex parties, her parents would be breaking the law if they sought to stop her or discourage her. If you suggested to wee Johnny that his desire to be wee Jenny would pass, you would be breaking the law!

Harvie said during the debate that, “Nobody should be told that they are not good enough or that they should be ashamed of who they are.” Which sounds cute enough as a meaningless meme, but is clearly nonsense. Mr Harvie does not think that the Tories are good enough and should not be ashamed of who they are. I presume he thinks that racists, paedophiles and climate change deniers are not good enough and should be ashamed of who they are! He is referring to one particular group and ideology – his own, which he wants to have special protection and privileges.

Although the progressives have a broader spectrum for the definition of conversion therapy, they have a much narrower definition of who it should apply to. For example, when the UK government decided to include seeking to convert someone to transgenderism in their proposed ban, they exploded with rage.

The then government minister Liz Truss had said: “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 was considered abhorrent. The progressives think that a teenage girl has the right to have a double mastectomy and a seven-year-old has the right to puberty blockers to aid them in their gender conversion. But someone praying with a person who has unwanted sexual desires is evil and should be jailed!

The proposed conversion therapy laws are nothing to do with preventing abhorrent and abusive practices. They are everything to do with imposing an ideology upon the whole population. In particular they seek to change, suppress and inhibit Christians from practising and teaching Christ. If nobody should be told they are not good enough and that they should not feel ashamed of who they are, then we are banned from preaching the Gospel. For it is Jesus who tells us that none of us are good enough and that all of us should repent.

The Good News is not that we are all great and should feel no shame. The good news is that we are far worse than we think we are, and far more loved than we could imagine. The Gospel is about conversion to a new life, new hope and new future. No parliament will ever be able to stop us preaching that.

David Robertson leads The ASK Project in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea.

Prayer for Scotland 4 – Conversion Therapy

Kate Forbes: Would a Christian be permitted to lead Scotland? – CT




  1. I’ve tweeted it for you David. Presumably you’ve been banned or cancelled for your views. I’m not a regular on twitter – I only rejoined when Elon Musk bought it with declared intention of dewoking or unwoking it.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Alastair – I was cancelled for saying that whilst male and female are biological genders, transgender was not biological but mental. Ironically what the trans ideology itself says!

  2. Thanks! Fantasies are allowed, even celebrated in modern Scotland, so you are free to imagine a plate of caviar (with sirloin steak to follow) is waiting for you. Anyone killing this fantasy acts in defiance of the new LGBTQ+’SC’ (‘sirloin and caviar’) thought police. Whether there is enough porridge or bread, or heated housing to enjoy ‘SC’ within, matters not a jot possibly. Housing, heating and food, may be fantasies, too, for poorer Scots. What about a campaign for LGBTQ+HHF?

  3. This is how politics works. The Greens are supporting the SNP based on a deal that includes a ban on conversion therapy

    KF hasnt made public statements suggesting she is going to reverse environmental policy. She has suggested that she opposes a ban on conversion therapy.

    The problem with excluding “prayer” from a conversion therapy ban is that without a very limiting definition of prayer people can be horrendously abusive through prayer.

    I myself have not been through conversion therapy, but I did ask for prayer for healing at a church because I had a long and painful recovery from surgery. I was in a vulnerable place emotionally and had no domestic support. The person who was supposed to be praying for me instead told me that I was slow to heal because my being gay was blocking the healing process and was interrogated about my sex life. He clearly didn’t believe that a gay man could be a virgin and ended by telling me that I would go to hell if I ever had sex.

    From this little taste of spiritual abuse I do want to see prayer included in a conversion therapy ban. We cannot continue to treat human lives with so little regard. It’s worse than feudalism because under feudalism someone at least was accountable for your well being!

    1. It’s incredibly foolish to base law on your personal experience – the law cannot and must not regulate all our personal experiences. To advocate that the State regulate and ban prayer is fundamentally wrong and totalitarian.

      1. David

        I’m not a politician. I dont have the ability to create law on my personal experience, even if I wanted to. If I were a politician I would campaign to end conversion therapy based on the huge amount of evidence gathered, including various uk government consultations.

        This isnt one isolated case and my case isnt really relevant to legislation in any case. I raised my experience only to point out that abuse can very easily be labeled as ‘prayer’

        Government has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

        We need a law to protect young people, even if not also adults, and the law cannot give churches wide exceptions because churches cannot police themselves. Not every church leader behaves well all of the time and a great many of them do seem to still be “triggered” by gay people

      2. But you are commenting about what laws should be in place on the basis of your personal experience. You have no idea what conversion therapy is…you have not engaged with the article at all…and you are defending the authoritarian insanity of government determining what prayer is acceptable or not. Stop being so selfish and self-absorbed….and start thinking!

      3. David

        No I’m not saying what laws should be in place. I’m saying that a ban with widespread religious exceptions would be pointless because the abusers would simply classify the abuse as “prayer”.

        Can you explain when conversion therapy by electrocution became illegal?

      4. It is now considered torture. WHich is illegal. No one in Scotland does it. Banning prayer is a ludicrous and authoritarian idea…which is of course why it is being proposed. If someone came to me and asked if I could pray for them so that unwanted sexual thoughts would be removed – and I did so – then I could go to jail. The fact that you are defending this is unbelievable!

      5. David

        I have not said all prayer should be banned. I’m saying you should not be allowed to commit a crime just by calling it “prayer”

        I’m asking when did it happen because you keep claiming it is illegal and I don’t understand that claim.

        When I was a child electrocution was the best known form of conversion therapy. I dont recall seeing a law passed to outlaw it. And we need it. Whether its 1, 10 or a 1000 kids who are subjected to it, they need protection

      6. And no one is arguing that you should be able to commit a crime by calling it prayer! We are arguing about what a crime is….Electrocuting people in order to convert them should be a crime – just as chopping off their breasts or feeding them puberty blockers should be a crime. Praying for someone should not be a crime…

      7. David

        Certainly as late as the 1970s the NHS was performing electrocution as conversion therapy

        I am unaware of a legal change that has actually outlawed the practice. I am willing to accept your claim that there have been zero cases of it anywhere in Scotland in the last X years, but I do not understand your repeated claim that it is already illegal. Despite at least eight years of promises from various politicians there has been no legislative action on conversion therapy.

  4. Excellent analysis, Mr. Robertson.

    The SNP leadership are imploding and, I suspect, we are going to see a bit of a clear out when the new leader takes the helm. I don’t think it will be Yousaf.

    Hopefully we can get back to concentrating on more pressing issues like poverty and education and repeal the GRR in the future. And independence too.

    Sad to see you removed from Twitter. It’s good to have an array of perspectives on matters rather than an echo chamber where everyone just agrees with themselves.


  5. There may be an opportunity for a new, revivifying SNP PR slogan which reflects both an inferiority complex’s antipathy to England and support for the Aldous Huxley style predictions of a brave, political future , not to mention the total Marxian inversion of everything everyone has ever regarded as commonsense. :

    ” My World Is Not of this Kingdom”

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