Church of Scotland General Assembly backs calls for ban on conversion therapy

(Photo: Church of Scotland/Andrew O'Brien)

The governing body of the Church of Scotland has backed calls for a ban on conversion therapy.

Meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday, the General Assembly approved a statement endorsing the 'Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK'. 

The statement notes "that the Methodist Conference have supported and adopted this definition and the Church of England General Synod have endorsed a similar statement".

The memorandum defines conversion therapy as "an umbrella term for a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual's expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis".

The memorandum describes such practices as "harmful" and is backed by a number of health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations, including the Association of Christian Counsellors.

The Assembly rejected a bid to endorse a ban only covering LGB conversion therapy while leaving the door open for therapy for those confused about their gender identity. 

Speaking against the amendment put forward by Rev Graham Thain, the Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum, said the Assembly should not be sending "mixed messages" about its position.

"What does this Assembly want to say to people who are struggling with their sexual identity?" she said. 

"Do we want to say conversion therapy is to be banned for those who are homosexual but if you're struggling with your gender identity then just keep going through these harmful processes?

"Trans men and trans women do not need to be cured or corrected, but treated with dignity and respect."

The General Assembly agreed to "urge the Scottish Government to ban conversion therapy and instruct the [Faith Impact] Forum to make representations to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament".