A charity in Great Britain believes a push to ban conversion therapy is going to criminalize certain types of prayer.
According to The Guardian, the controversy began when the Bishop of Manchester publicized his support for a measure that would ban gay conversion therapy, including his support for prayer that is aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation. Bishop David Walker said any prayer “where there is a level of power imbalance and a level of force” should be banned.
He added that his support came with one footnote, which is an exception for what he called “gentle, non-coercive prayer” for people who struggle with sexual orientation but do not want to.
A well-known LGBT activist within the Anglican Church, Jayne Ozanne, took issue with Walker’s exemption of “gentle, non-coercive prayer.”
Ozanne argued that “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.”
The Christian Institute responded by sending a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking that he not follow Ozanne’s lead. The letter said that “While the Institute does not oppose a ban that protects people from harmful pseudo-medical practices, the idea that ‘gentle non-coercive prayer’ should be included in a list of illegal actions is alarming. In any event, it would violate the human rights of believers.”
The Institute pointed to a legal opinion from Jason Coppel, which stated that the ban may violate some articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Coppel said, “The relevant beliefs regarding sexual ethics and gender identity, the freedom of church organisations to preach those beliefs, and to require conformity to them as a matter of church discipline, and the ability of parents to seek to inculcate such beliefs, and behavior in accordance with those beliefs, in their children are, in principle, protected by Articles 8, 9, 10, and 11 ECHR.”
The Institute also argued that those who oppose exemptions for some types of prayer are arguing in bad faith and painting all proponents of exemptions with a broad brush. “Those pushing for the ban to include ordinary prayer seem to attribute the worst possible motives to those of us who hold different theological beliefs from them. They are not willing to listen to mainstream Christian groups or their concerns,” the Institute asserted.
The concerns of UK citizens about religious freedom are not unfounded, as a 75-year-old pastor was arrested for street preaching recently. As Christian Headlines previously reported, the pastor preached on Genesis 1 and said that the “distinction within mankind of just two genders, male and female, constitutes the essence of God’s created order.” He was arrested for preaching “hate speech.”
Photo courtesy: ©Unsplash/Jon Tyson
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”