If leading LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne gets her way, Christian pastors could be banned from saying the Lord's Prayer with same-sex attracted people.
Ms Ozanne, a member of the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, was on the government's LGBT advisory panel. But she resigned in March claiming the government was creating a "hostile environment" for LGBT people.
Yet the Conservative government has complied with her wishes by announcing in the Queen's Speech in May that it plans to ban gay conversion therapy.
She, however, wants the government to ban pastors from the "gentle non-coercive prayer" in counselling which even the ultra-revisionist Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, says should still be allowed.
"All prayer that seeks to change or suppress someone's innate sexuality or gender identity is deeply damaging and causes immeasurable harm, as it comes from a place – no matter how well meaning – that says who you are is unacceptable and wrong," she told The Guardian.
So, with sexual identity and moral choice fused according to neo-Marxist ideology, a pastor could be prosecuted under the following scenario:
A Christian person in his congregation requests pastoral counselling from him. They tell him that they are experiencing same-sex attraction towards a person they regularly interact with through work. They think the attraction might be mutual. But they do not want to commit what they see as sexual sin, which in their eyes would be any form of sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. At the end of their meeting, the pastor invites the person to join with him in saying the Lord's Prayer including the final petition: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
The final petition of the Lord's Prayer in this particular context could be seen as "praying the gay away". Therefore, we can assume that a pastor who prayed it with Christian love in his heart could face punishment under the draconian law Ms Ozanne apparently favours.
The government, which is holding a public consultation over the proposed conversion therapy ban, boasts that it is a "global leader on LGBT rights". But it also says it wants to "ensure that the ban can protect people from demonstrable harm while upholding best practice in the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and maintaining religious freedom".
So, though the government may appear to be genuflecting towards the LGBT utopia dreamed of by the likes of Ozanne, its professed commitment to freedom of speech and religious freedom sounds a jarring note. Certainly, this Conservative government has got into the habit of making rebellious noises against the rule of woke. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson seems sincerely determined to protect free speech in British universities with his Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.
But it remains to be seen whether the government will honour its commitment to "maintain religious freedom" in the legislation banning conversion therapy. To do this, it must safeguard pastors from being prosecuted for praying in line with their belief that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is an evil from which Christian people need to be delivered.
In its most draconian form, the new law would be likely to cruise through the House of Commons. Even if as many as 100 Conservative MPs defied the government on a whipped vote, wiping out its working majority, the Labour Party can be relied on to back authoritarian legislation, as has been seen during the lockdown. With Labour votes, the government would succeed in getting the kind of conversion therapy ban Ozanne wants through the Commons.
The largely Blairite House of Lords would be very unlikely to give the government much trouble. It would be wonderful if the Lords Spiritual (the 26 Church of England bishops who sit in the Upper House) were to vote against legislation that put traditionalist clergy in peril. But with the General Synod having voted to call for a conversion therapy ban in 2017, the bishops would surely be unlikely to quibble over the lack of a clause allowing "gentle, non-coercive prayer".
However, one Christian Peer, Lord Moore of Etchingham, intends to vote against a severe conversion therapy ban. Charles Moore, who was ennobled last year, was editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1995 to 2003 and is the late Lady Thatcher's authorised biographer. In common with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he is a former editor of The Spectator.
Lord Moore told Christian Today: "Unless it is drastically altered to exempt prayers, sermons and religious teaching, I shall vote against it. I might conceivably vote for it if it is just a means of banning quack drug therapies or psycho-babble; but even in those cases, I think existing legislation probably suffices."
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Morecambe, Lancashire.