Even many secularists will presumably believe in the principle of freedom of conscience, even for those who have strong religious convictions, and would not deny the liberty of churches and other Christian organisations to stand by Biblical teaching on any matter, including LGBT issues, without being criminalised for doing so.
Last week the Government closed its consultation process regarding its proposed legislation to ban ‘conversion therapy’. The very expression ‘conversion therapy’, however, is a misnomer. The term which used to be employed for any inappropriate shock tactics to force a person to change their behaviour was ‘aversion therapy’, and Christian churches are not, and have never been, involved in such an approach. Why has the Government abandoned the word ‘aversion’ and employed the similar sounding, but specifically Christian word ‘conversion’ instead?
Does not the use of ‘conversion therapy’ suggest an attempt to discredit as unethical the Christian teaching that those pursuing certain immoral lifestyles can be changed by the power of God’s grace? Conversion is exactly the business which Christian ministers and evangelists are engaged in. The whole point of preaching the gospel is to endeavour to convert people from the fashionable ways of this world to repentance from sin and faith in Christ. Therefore, the use of the term ‘conversion’ in the proposed legislation suggests an anti-Christian bias from the outset.
The total infiltration by the LGBT movement of our culture is why the Government is so confident in introducing a conversion therapy ban. The proposals, however, must be opposed as endangering the liberties of Christian ministers and counsellors who endeavour in good faith to help people who are experiencing same-sex attraction. Any kind of coercive and physically violent acts under the guise of therapy are already covered by existing criminal law, and would never of course be employed by Christians in any case. So the legislation is quite simply not necessary.
The Government’s consultation document states that “the nature of conversion therapy … targets an innate aspect of personhood”. This is in itself a loaded comment, revealing the Government’s pro-LGBT bias, and implying that an individual can do nothing about a homosexual orientation, because it reflects what he or she irrevocably is from birth. Such a view, however, lacks scientific foundation, and is also a flat denial of Biblical teaching, which always asserts the power of the Holy Spirit to transform a person away from the whole spectrum of possible sinful lifestyles and practices.
The Government’s Equalities Office has defined conversion therapy as ‘techniques intended to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity’, and they have also laid down that these techniques include ‘spiritual counselling’. This latter term can easily be taken to include what a Christian pastor might say on LGBT matters.
Supposing he is asked what is his approach to someone who has changed gender or who is pursuing a homosexual lifestyle? As the minister tries to explain the relevant Biblical principles, he will of necessity include the need for repentance and of coming to Christ in order to be made new. If the person who asked the question then claims himself to be transgender or homosexual, the minister could then be accused of engaging in the criminal act of trying to ‘change’ or ‘convert’ him. That is the worry which the proposed legislation creates.
The statement by the Government that the legislation will not outlaw ‘private prayer’ or ‘everyday religious practice’ is too vague and imprecise. What about corporate prayer in church meetings? What if pro-gay activists argue that any public preaching that homosexuality must be repented of is not ‘everyday religious practice’, but an activity which only dangerous extremists and fundamentalists engage in? Would the Christian preacher therefore fall foul of the law for having attempted a form of conversion therapy?
This writer is particularly concerned as an open-air preacher who has often endeavoured to uphold Biblical principles at Pride parades around the country, doing so in a motivation of love and concern for those outside of God’s kingdom. Also, in his regular evangelistic work, he inevitably has to refer on occasions to LGBT issues, because they are so high profile, and seem to be such a defining issue for so many people.
It is highly relevant to point out that even the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has stated that the Government’s proposals may carry the risk of cutting across basic religious freedoms. Responding to the consultation on the proposed legislation, the EHRC rightly asserts that “encouraging people to comply with religious doctrine that requires refraining from certain types of sexual activity should not fall within the definition of conversion therapy”.
The Government has wrongly assumed that there is a major UK problem of conversion therapy abuse. Their proposals duplicate existing criminal law, and appear to manifest a flagrant disregard for Biblical teaching in favour of a complete alignment with militant gay rights activism.
Pastor Peter Simpson, Penn Free Methodist Church