04 November 2021, The Tablet

When the law should tread carefully


LGBTQ rights

 

Should mainstream religious bodies be concerned that the British government intends to legislate to ban so-called gay conversion therapies? The consultation paper published by the government this week indicates such a narrow definition of what it intends to make illegal that the answer is probably no. But there will be demands to widen the definition in ways that could impinge on religious freedom. They should be resisted.

In many parts of the United States local legislatures have banned these practices, targeting individuals and bodies on the fringe of the fundamentalist Evangelical movement. The aim of these groups is to change sexual preferences by prayer, by exhortation, and by what are called “talking therapies”. They are motivated by the belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality in several passages in the Old and New Testaments. However the consultation paper signed by equalities minister Liz Truss (who is also Britain’s Foreign Secretary) excludes from its reach any repetition of religious teaching against homosexuality. Her proposed legislation is aimed only at “coercive and abhorrent” talking therapy.

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