UK gov’t official says 'conversion therapy' ban won’t harm parents, faith leaders

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The Union flag flies in front of the Clock face on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019, in London, England. |

A United Kingdom government official contends that the government's proposed ban on "conversion therapy," once written up, will provide conscience protections for religious groups and parents who hold traditional views on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch wrote a letter last Wednesday to members of Parliament outlining the government's proposal in the House of Commons Tuesday, which is slated to culminate in a bill published in full later this year. A copy of the minister's letter was emailed to The Christian Post.

Badenoch stated that the government intends to craft a bill that balances both protections for LGBT youth and respects the rights of religious beliefs and parents.

"Undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny on this legislation will ensure that the final legislation does not cause unintended consequences, is robust and receives appropriate scrutiny," wrote Badenoch.

"It will ensure the Bill is designed in such a way as to provide strong protections whilst ensuring faith leaders, parents, teachers or counsellors continue to be able to have exploratory conversations with people about their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity."

Badenoch added that the "freedom to express the teachings of any religion, as well as everyday religious practice, will not be affected by the ban."

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said in a statement that he believes that letter from Badenoch "confirms what we've been saying for years," which is that a conversion therapy ban "is an absolute minefield, primarily because no one knows what it is."

"Activists used to say they wanted to outlaw brutal abuse like electro-shock therapy. But that's already illegal. Now they're admitting what they really want is to outlaw traditional theology and gender critical feminism," stated Calvert.

"They don't like women's activists and parents discouraging young people from rushing into gender transition. So they are weaponizing the language of 'safeguarding' to try to bounce Parliament into outlawing the opinions of their theological and philosophical opponents. This is not what the criminal law is for."

Also called "reparative therapy" or "sexual orientation changes efforts therapy," conversion therapy seeks to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction in an individual.

In 2018, the U.K. government announced its intention to craft legislation banning conversion therapy, albeit with some conscience protections.

Conservative Christian groups in the U.K. expressed concern that such legislation would be used to target their organizations and parents who consider homosexuality to be sinful behavior. 

In 2021, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to these concerns, assuring that any new law would "continue to allow adults to receive appropriate pastoral support (including prayer), in churches and other religious settings, in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the current government announced its intention to introduce a conversion therapy ban later this year to add protections for trans-identified individuals.

"The Bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender," Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalizing or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children."

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