Government urged to safeguard prayer in conversion therapy ban

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Christians are calling on the Government to ensure that its plans to ban conversion therapy do not stop Christians from being able to pray with people who request it.

They are also urging the Government to protect the right of individuals struggling with their sexual identity to seek help if they want it. 

Following the Queen's Speech, the Government confirmed plans to introduce legislation on a ban to Parliament once a public consultation has been completed.

The Government will also create a fund to support people harmed by "coercive and abhorrent" conversion therapy.

"Many forms of the practice are already prevented under current legislation, but this new ban will ensure that it is stamped out once and for all," it said. 

The Government has also promised to uphold religious freedom. 

"People should be free to be themselves in the UK. The ban will eliminate coercive practices which cause mental and physical harm to individuals," it said.

"We will ensure the action we take to stop this practice is proportionate and effective, and does not have unintended consequences.

"We will ensure medical professionals, religious leaders, teachers and parents can continue to be able to have open and honest conversations with people." 

READ MORE: 'If it's us now, it will be the pastors next' - Mike Davidson on why gay conversion therapy should not be banned

Peter Lynas, UK Director of the Evangelical Alliance, welcomed the promise of a consultation but urged the Government to honour its promise on religious freedom.

"The Evangelical Alliance welcomes comments in the Queen's speech to hold a consultation on conversion therapy with a view to ending coercive practices," he said.

"We continue to urge the government to honour both its commitments - to end harmful and abusive practices and to safeguard spiritual support and prayer for those who want it.

"We want to avoid the situation where a person can be accused of conversion therapy simply for praying with someone who freely chooses and asks for prayer."

Mike Davidson, of the Core Issues Trust, which offers spiritual support and counselling to people with unwanted same-sex attraction, said people should be free to figure out their sexual identity. 

He said a ban on therapies to help them would be "inhumane". 

READ MORE: Can we trust Boris on 'conversion therapy'?

"When all is said and done, the messy reality is that many 'mostly heterosexual' and 'sometimes homosexual' people change their minds and want to leave LGB identities and practices," he said. 

"They are being told it's wrong to change direction. But the evidence is clear: human sexuality for many is fluid. Banning change-allowing therapies will itself be coercive, forcing formerly LGB persons who want to emphasise heterosexuality, to stay gay against their will. This is inhumane." 

He added, "Core Issues Trust offers sexual attraction fluidity exploration in conversational settings - not conversion therapies.

"We hope the government recognises the fact of sexual fluidity and the right to self-determine sexual identity." 

The Christian Institute has threatened legal action against the Government if it bans ordinary church activities like prayer. 

The institute's Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, said, "Our lawyers have made clear to the Government that we are prepared to seek judicial review if they cave into demands to widen the ban to include the ordinary, everyday activities of churches.

"If they were to introduce such a ban, we are confident a court would find it to be a breach of human rights.

"Leading QCs confirm that Christian beliefs on sexuality are protected by law. They may not be fashionable but that does not mean you can ban them.

"It is shocking to see activists trying to weaponise a 'harm' narrative to justify oppressing conservative religious communities with a ban affecting their prayer, preaching, pastoring and parenting.

"It is also shocking to see the one-sided reporting of this issue by the BBC and ITV. Last night ITV even congratulated their reporter, on air, for campaigning for a ban. I've no idea how they think that fulfils their duty to report news with 'due impartiality'."