Churches that adhere to the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexuality were targeted in a debate Monday night in the British Parliament over legislation that would ban so-called “conversion therapy.”
Member of Parliament Alicia Kearns dismissed concerns over the impact of such a ban on freedom of religious expression, according to the U.K.’s Christian Institute.
“Religious liberty is fundamental, but so too is people’s liberty to live their lives free from identity-based violence and abuse,” she told her colleagues.
Kearns insisted that any prayer “inconsistent with LGBT theology” should be banned.
Supporters of counseling for people with unwanted sexual attractions reject the term “conversion therapy,” describing it as an ideological term used by the LGBT activists who seek to link compassionate spiritual care and talk therapy with disreputable practices.
The Westminster Hall debate focused on a petition to make it a criminal offense to practice conversion therapy in the U.K. or send people abroad for it.
Several MPs branded prayer and pastoral support as “conversion therapy,” which was also described as “torture.”
Last month, Kearns, writing for The House magazine, condemned “prayer sessions” used to held counsel people with unwanted attractions an abhorrent practice comparable to electroshocks and “corrective rape.”
Kearns defined “conversion therapy” as any attempt to stop someone from expressing their chosen gender identity or sexual orientation.
She said a ban must include “not only conversion therapy to change sexual orientation” but also “non-consensual attempts to prevent someone from expressing their own identity.”
Kearns said the problem is that there is no way for criminal charges to be filed if there is no physical harm.
She insists on a ban on “not only conversation therapy to change sexual orientation” but also “non-consensual attempts to prevent someone from expressing their own identity.”
Parents, especially, she said, should face charges if they are facilitating such therapy for their children.
On Monday night, MP Elliot Colburn claimed conversion therapy can be anything “from pseudo-psychological treatments and aversion therapies to practices that are religiously based, such as purification or fasting.”
And MP Angela Eagle condemned “being told by faith leaders or your family that you are sinful.”
“Being told to pray harder to change and to question your innermost feelings and thoughts … none of that should be legal,” she said.
Shadow Foreign Minister Stephen Doughty, who calls himself a “gay Christian,” included pastoral care in his concerns. He alleged it could be used as a cover for dangerous practices.
He maintained that no one can consent to conversion therapy, so it should be banned even when a person asks for it.
Ciarán Kelly, the Christian Institute’s deputy director for communications, said it’s “deeply worrying to see the level of ignorance of the beliefs and practices of mainstream Christianity on display from some of these MPs.”
“Of course we believe people should be protected from quack therapists and charlatan preachers. Most of these practices are already illegal and we would urge the government to ensure the law is applied properly,” he said.
“But there must also be room for the preaching of God’s Word and for believers to receive prayer and pastoral support, whatever temptations they are facing.”
Kelly said a pastor or church “should not face prosecution if a gay man or woman attends church, comes to faith and seeks help in following Christ’s teaching on sexual ethics.”
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