Christians in the United Kingdom challenged the idea that homosexuality is innate and immutable, opposing a ban on all Sexual Orientation Change Efforts – referred to by detractors as "gay-to-straight therapy." They organized a conference this week to discuss the issue and allowed the author of the SOCE ban bill to speak.
"Gay conversion therapy [starts with the idea] that being gay or lesbian is some sort of illness or moral disorder that requires treatment or correction – that isn't a sensible premise in my view," declared Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West and proponent of the bill to regulate psychotherapy and ban SOCE.
Mike Davidson, director of the Christian charity CORE Issues Trust, disagreed with his view and called for open debate on gay therapy.
"I truly believe that the majority of this population has been hoodwinked by an ideology and the only way to overcome that is to educate and ask for the hard evidence," Davidson told The Christian Post in an interview Friday. He explained that CORE Issues Trust joined with Christian Concern to put on the "Setting Love in Order" conference in order to foster debate on SOCE. The London conference took place Thursday, but another conference in Belfast opens Saturday.
Phelim McIntyre, a licensed counselor and U.K. member of the advisory board of the ex-gay group Voice of the Voiceless, told CP, "There is a very strong push within all parts of society within the UK … to actively silence those who may disagree with the liberal left, for want of a better term." McIntyre mentioned various cases involving street preachers being arrested for calling homosexuality a sin, as well as the decision of U.K. psychotherapy groups to disbar counselors who offer SOCE.
McIntyre also cited an interview with a high-ranking member of the U.K. Council for Psychotherapy, in which the official stated that the organization's ban on SOCE was not due to scientific evidence. "Whether or not something works doesn't mean that it is ethical or in the public interest or the right thing to do for someone," Di Hodgson, UKCP's chair of the Diversity, Equalities, and Social Responsibility Committee, said.
"Institutions such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the U.K. Council for Psychotherapy, although asked repeatedly and once again this morning, will not provide scientific proof that homosexuality is innate and immutable, nor that therapy is never effective," Davidson declared at the conference. He also told CP that he suspects the gay lobby pressured the U.K. Association of Christian Counsellors to oppose SOCE, which they did last week.
The CORE Issues Trust director told CP that Davies came to an understanding of the SOCE position from the conference, even if he did not end up agreeing with it. He also reported pressuring Davies "to support us to get the evidence that he himself feels is essential for" a bill outlawing gay therapy.
Davidson said he plans to "expose where science is being misused in terms of pushing forward this agenda."
Davidson and the conference's other speakers agreed that there were merits to Davies' bill, however. "There are two distinct things here," Davidson explained to CP. While the conference speakers "were supporting the regulation of psychotherapists, we are not supportive of the idea that such therapy should be banned."
Garry Selfridge, Christian Concern's head of Communications, told CP that "there was agreement on both sides that regulation of therapy should be controlled so that proper professional help could be provided for those who voluntarily seek it." At the same time, the bill's opponents told Davies that the SOCE aspect of "his bill was illiberal and based on ideology rather than sound scientific facts."
"When Geraint is pressed critically for the evidence with regards to his bill, he has no answers," said Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern. "The bill is deeply illiberal, it seeks to thwart people from voluntarily seeking help to change unwanted same-sex attraction … it's coercive, tyrannous, and actually not fair to anyone."
Selfridge gave a brief list of international speakers at the conference, including Andrew Comiskey, Executive Director of Desert Streams Ministries from California, Alioda Niewenhuis of Kompassion in Holland, and the Reverendd Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream, a campaigning organisation.