Church leaders meet government over conversion therapy ban concerns

From left to right: Rev. Dave Gobbett, lead pastor of Highfields church in Cardiff, Dr Julie Maxwell, Paediatrician, Youth Worker St Mary's Basingstoke, Dr Ros Clarke, Associate Director of the Church Society and Member of the Church of England's General Synod, Ray Brown, Senior Minister at East London Tabernacle and Trustee at Universities and Colleges Christian Union (UCCF) and Rev. Matthew Roberts Minster of Trinity Church York.

Church leaders have met government officials to discuss serious concerns about the criminalisation of Christians if conversion therapy is banned.

The meeting was held with officials from the equalities office after over 2,500 UK clergy signed a letter warning of the impact on ordinary church activities.

In the letter, the church leaders said they were prepared to be criminalised rather than compromise in the fulfilment of their ministry if the government goes ahead with the proposals.

Rev Matthew Roberts, Minister of Trinity Church York and co-author of the letter, said the ban risks criminalising anyone who dares to disagree with LGBT ideology.

He warned that it was not only pastors who stand to be affected and that Christian parents may also fall foul of the law for raising their children in line with their beliefs.

"There is no question of us stopping doing our Christian duty; we will do that whatever. The question is whether the government wants to make us criminals while we do it," he said. 

"Believing in marriage, the faithful union of one man and one woman, is profoundly loving and lifegiving to women, men and especially children. But this belief, which has always been a cornerstone of Christian teaching, may be about to become a criminal offence."

"The government has proposed a ban on something so ill-defined that even loving conversations between parents and their children could be made illegal.

"Ordinary Christian ministers could find themselves in prison for doing their normal Christian duty."

Speaking after the meeting, he told The Telegraph that officials had made it "very, very clear that there is no intention to criminalise Christian teaching".

Dr Julie Maxwell, a paediatrician, church youth worker and member of the Church of England's General Synod was among those meeting officials.

She said pastoral youth workers must be free to discuss sexuality and gender with young people.

"As we know children and young people need direction from adults around them regarding all sorts of lifestyle issues. Teenagers are navigating huge changes associated with puberty and issues around sexuality and gender are important topics that need to be discussed," she said.

"As Christians we seek to support young people who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ to understand these issues from the perspective of biblical teaching regarding God's creation of men and women and his design for marriage.

"To find ourselves in a situation where parents, youth workers and other adults are afraid to address these issues risks leaving children and young people confused and vulnerable.

" There is already a significant increase in mental health problems in children and young people and being unable to support those struggling with issues around sexuality and gender identity will negatively impact on this."