Activists slam religious groups who claim ban violates human rights
LGBT + activists have criticized suggestions that banning conversion therapy could violate people’s rights to religious freedom.
In recent months, the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities Committee has heard from people wanting to ban the controversial practice, which includes ‘therapy’ aimed at changing or removing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the committee was told by a group of religious leaders that a total ban on conversion therapy could violate people’s human rights and “criminalize” prayer.
End Conversion Therapy Scotland says any ban will not violate religion, adding that conversion therapy is harmful in all its forms.
People could be “criminalized” for praying
Religious leaders speaking to the Holyrood committee are concerned that while there is no clear definition of what is and is not classified as conversion therapy, certain religious practices such as prayer could become criminalized.
Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said: “As a church, ordinary daily life is worship, prayer and preaching.
“This is what we do, and there is a real concern that this falls under the general definition of conversion therapy, and that prayer and pastoral counseling is harming people.
“Criminalizing ordinary women and men for praying, explaining religious teachings, and providing appropriate care seems disproportionate. “
Religious representatives say they are concerned if the right to pray is removed by the proposed ban on conversion therapy, it could be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, previously said there was no conflict between the ban on conversion therapy and religious freedom.
Parents fear accusations
Concerns were also expressed about the impact it would have on parents, with some claiming it would limit their ability to openly discuss sexuality and gender identity.
Piers Shepherd, senior researcher at the Family Education Trust, said: “The law must protect the rights of parents to bring up their children in a manner consistent with their moral or religious beliefs.
“Parents might not discuss sexuality or gender with their children for fear of being accused of undergoing conversion therapy.
“Growing children and youth often have questions about sexuality and identity, and it is important that they are supported to explore these feelings without fear that those providing the support will be accused of conversion therapy. “
Mr Shepherd says he is concerned if the definition of conversion therapy is too broad it would criminalize anything that is not “the immediate acceptance and celebration of gender identity.”
Peter Lynas, UK director of the Evangelical Alliance, has also addressed the committee and has previously written to Boris Johnson outlining his concerns about protecting religious freedom in any ban on conversion therapy.
He says the more extreme forms of conversion therapy, such as corrective rape, are already covered by many existing laws, and says that if a full ban goes into effect, some may end up receiving no help at all.
He also says people should be allowed to consent to something that others might disagree with.
There has also been a call to ensure that any bans also cover those pressured to identify as LGBT +, and discussions on religious groups such as Courage and Living Out, which encourage LGBT + people to be single.
“Harmful in all its forms” conversion therapy
However, End Conversion Therapy Scotland, the group campaigning for a ban to be enshrined in law, says people cannot consent to something that is torturous and harmful.
Sophie Duncan of the group said: “We would dispute that, there is no conflict here with religious freedom.
“We have seen the well-worn argument about parental rights and parents knowing the best and having unlimited rights to do things to their children, which completely ignores the harm done to children by conversion therapy.
The right to raise your children according to your beliefs is not – and should never be – the right to abuse your child or subject him to cruel and degrading treatment.
We fundamentally disagree with Piers Shepherd of the Family Education Trust here. https://t.co/KtN7v9r5BZ
– Ending conversion therapy in Scotland (@ECTScotland) November 16, 2021
“Conversion therapy exists and it is not functionally prohibited in this country.
“You cannot consent to torture or deeply harmful practices without any therapeutic benefit.
“The vast majority who consent to this are constrained by religion and the people around them.
“Conversion therapy is harmful in all its forms. “
Ban on ‘torture’ conversion therapy should have no loopholes, campaigners ask
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