Power to criminalize prayer has not 'devolved' to government, lawyer warns

(Photo by Magnus Andersson on Unsplash)
(Photo by Magnus Andersson on Unsplash)

A key U.K. lawyer who has fought the government and won is warning that it simply doesn’t have the power to criminalize the words of prayers.

“The Scottish government and the Scottish parliament must take Aidan O’Neill’s advice seriously,” explained Simon Calvert, a deputy director of the Christian Institute in a commentary about the lawyer’s conclusions.

“They may not like what Christians have to say about sexuality, or what feminists have to say about gender identity, but they can’t just criminalize opinions they don’t like.”

The fight is over what critics have derogatorily called “conversion therapy.” It essentially means talk therapy that responds to the needs to those who have unwanted same-sex attractions.

Several jurisdictions in the United States already have banned it, triggering multiple court fights over its limitations on free speech. Joe Biden also has issued an executive order that purports to censor the speech of counselors who respond to clients needs on the topic.

President Biden on June 15, 2022, announces his executive order to crack down on "conversion therapy" for gays. (Video screenshot)
President Biden on June 15, 2022, announces his executive order to crack down on “conversion therapy” for gays. (Video screenshot)

The U.K. fight involves Scotland’s plans to outlaw such counseling, because it’s plan would censor Christians’ prayers and pastors’ sermons.

O’Neill, who successfully defeated the Scottish government’s illegal “named person” scheme that violated the human rights of families several years ago, has written for the Christian Institute an analysis of the Scottish plan. That “named person” scheme would have given social workers legal authority to make critical life decisions for children not theirs.

The analysis warns that Scotland is on a collision course with the courts for exceeding its powers if it continues to pursue its agenda.

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Last year, the government said it would set up an “advisory group” to recommend legislation for “conversation therapy.” Those came out just a few ago, and were welcomed by the government.

Calvert explained, though, “Anyone who has looked at them with even a hint of skepticism, however, has come away deeply concerned. Church workers, feminist activists, mums and dads – all sorts of innocent people could find themselves on the wrong end of a prosecution if these proposals are adopted.”

He pointed out O’Neill concern is that the government is on a path to be “criminalizing much mainstream pastoral work of churches, mosques and synagogues and temples” and that “prayers and sermons would be criminalized if their content did not conform to the new state requirements.”

O’Neill explained the government’s plan would “be exceeding its powers and inflicting a totalitarian law on the Scottish people.”

LGBT activists long have put a bull’s-eye on Christians who teach the biblical definition of marriage and sexual relations between a man and a woman within that institution.

Their contention is that a pastor or church leader encouraging a young person to choose that lifestyle should be illegal. They even target the prayers of those whose petitions to God are that people would choose that life.

The Calvert commentary explained, “Prayers and sermons would be criminalized if their content did not conform to the new state requirements only to affirm, validate and support the identity and lived experience expressed and stated by an individual (but never to question or raise concerns about an individual’s expression of their sexuality, or their assertion of a ‘gender identity’ or ‘gender expression’ different from that associated with their birth sex).”

He wrote, “In order to do this they propose measures which affect U.K. equality and discrimination law. Mr. O’Neill explains that the power to do this is not devolved to Scotland.”

O’Neil wrote that such a change in the law “would be beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate.”

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