'Gay cure': Christians split over whether controversial therapy should be banned

Christian Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that children saying homophobic remarks in school could be a sign of extremism.Reuters

Nicky Morgan's declaration that 'gay cure' therapies must be stamped out has sparked a split reaction in the Christian community. 

Morgan, the secretary of state for education and a Christian, spoke at the PinkNews Awards last night and hailed the progress her department has made on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

"I was shocked to discover that 1 in 10 social and healthcare staff have heard colleagues express the belief that someone can be cured of being gay," she said as she presented the award for Community Group of the year.

"Let me be clear: 'gay cure' therapies have no place in our countries and we must stamp them out."

Morgan continued: "We're determined to support LGBT people throughout their lives.

"Figures released last week show the shocking extent of homophobic hate crime in our communities – while the increase in reporting is welcome, the fact that thousands of LGBT young people are experiencing hate crime in 21st century Britain cannot be right, and we must do more to tackle it."

However Andrea Williams, the CEO of lobby group Christian Concern, said banning 'gay cure' therapies could represent a threat to basic freedoms. Proponents say the therapies are designed to help people who want to move away from homosexual attractions or behaviour.

"People need to be free to access therapeutic help to move away from unwanted same-sex attractions or behaviour," Williams told Christian Today.

"The idea that Nicky Morgan would forbid people from accessing therapeutic treatment that they choose is a denial of a person's fundamental freedoms."

However Tracy Byrne, CEO of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed Morgan's comments, and said there was more to do. 

"We absolutely welcome it," Byrne told Christian Today. "Our position has always been that these therapies have been massively damaging to individuals. 

"But as well as that we need to make sure that everyone, at every stage of their life journey, is affirmed in who they are and make sure they are not told messages which make them want to access these so-called therapies in the first place. 

"We have to get rid of theologies and messages that make people think they need to be cured."

Colin Hart, the director of the Christian Institute, told Christian Today he wasn't aware that gay-cure therapy actually existed.

"Is she [Morgan] saying that if people become Christians and want to leave a homosexual lifestyle they can't?" he said.

"I have never heard of some magic counselling that would 'cure' people – that would be ridiculous. However I have heard of people changing their lifestyle. Is she saying they wouldn't be allowed to do that?

"There is a danger that is how it will be interpreted. It is absolutely critical we defend people's right to change their religion."

Morgan, who is also the minister for women and equalities, previously voted against the legalisation of same-sex marriage but has since changed her mind.

If the vote were held now, she "probably would" vote differently, she told the BBC.

A bill to regulate the psychotherapy sector so as to ban 'gay cure' therapists was introduced by Labour MP Geraint Davies in 2013. However it did not pass into law.

The government has made no move to introduce such regulation so far and it is unlikely Morgan's comments will become legalisation.