Christians prepare for legal action as government presses ahead with 'conversion therapy' ban
A Christian group has said it will have no choice but to take legal action if the government brings in its planned ban on so-called conversion therapy.
Culture secretary Michelle Donelan announced today that the government is preparing to publish draft legislation that will also include transgender people, who were previously excluded from the plans under Boris Johnson.
In a written statement, Ms Donelan said, "We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse."
She continued, "It is right that this issue is tackled through a dedicated and tailored legislative approach, which is why we are announcing today that the Government will publish a draft Bill which will set out a proposed approach to ban conversion practices, this will apply to England and Wales.
"The Bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender."
Responding to the announcement, Christian Concern chief executive Andrea Williams said that a ban would breach human rights, and criminalise consensual conversations with those who genuinely want help and support.
Christian Concern's sister organisation, the Christian Legal Centre, plans to take legal action if the government moves ahead with the ban.
"No one has produced any evidence of what LGBT activists call coercive 'conversion therapy'. What the activists describe would already be illegal," she said.
"This ban is all about silencing and criminalising anyone who questions or opposes homosexuality.
"The government's proposals would only stop people seeking the change they want to see in their lives. That is a basic freedom which the government should not try to take away.
"Despite what the government has announced today, the problems remain: the definitions are inadequate, human rights will be breached and there is no evidence that a ban will help anyone."
A legal opinion by human rights lawyer Roger Kiska concludes that any ban on conversion therapy will result in a breach of human rights.
The legal opinion shares concerns about the lack of clarity around terminology and the potential criminalisation of ordinary pastoral care and prayer.
It also warns that people will be unable to seek help for unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.
"Certain types of private consensual conversations would risk criminal sanctions," the legal opinion reads.
"People who want help with unwanted sexual attractions or identities will be unable to obtain the type of support they want.
"Counsellors will be at risk of allegations of 'conversion therapy' by disgruntled former clients."