West London churches sign letter opposing conversion therapy ban

Image above: Gunnersbury Baptist Church

Members of west London’s clergy have signed a letter opposing the Government’s proposed ban on conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or transgender is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. The letter, signed by more than 2,500 Christian Ministers and Pastoral workers, describes the harmful practice as ‘kind and merciful’ and brands LGBTQ+ ‘lifestyles’ as sinful behaviour.

Churches based in Chiswick, Ealing, Acton, Hammersmith and Brentford have signed up to the letter, which argues that certain religious exemptions to proposed conversion therapy legislation do not go far enough and calls for the ban to be scrapped altogether.

LGBTQ+ groups argue proposed exemptions of “private prayer” and “everyday religious practice” leave those in faith communities especially vulnerable to legal conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy has been thoroughly debunked by psychological experts and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide attempts, and drug addiction.

The letter argues that the proposed legislation risks making Christianity ‘a proscribed religion’ and would prevent churches from teaching ‘traditional’ Christian values. They argue that violation of traditional Christian teachings, such as sex and marriage being between one man and one woman, and accepting one’s gender as assigned at birth, ‘is not only morally wrong but carries with it deep and tragic consequences for individuals, families and society.’

Signatories from west London include:

  • Mr Clement Faux, Assistant Youth Leader at Gunnersbury Baptist Church.
  • Revd Stuart Cashman, Minister at Immanuel Church Brentford.
  • Mr Christopher Cradock, Elder at Ealing International Presbyterian Church.
  • Revd Keith Berry, Senior Pastor at Hammersmith Christian Fellowship, Old Baptist Union.
  • Revd Robert Ilderton, Minister at Grace Church Hammersmith.
  • Revd Alex Volossevich, Associate Vicar at St Mary’s Ealing.

Image above: protesters demonstrating against conversion therapy

Legislation ‘would impact normal practice of religion’, claim letter’s authors

The letter, authored by 11 Christian faith leaders from churches across the country and addressed to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, states:

“We are grateful to the government for having made clear in the consultation that it does not intend this legislation to impact the normal practice of religion. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned that the legislative approach outlined would do exactly this.”

Stonewall, the largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation in Europe, describe conversion therapy as any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity.

Despite this clear definition, the letter’s authors describe the term as “so broad as to be essentially meaningless”.

The church leaders and staff claim a central part of their calling to bring “Christ’s compassion to a broken world”. They argue they are duty bound to ‘convert’ people to live according to how God would want them to live, through pastoral support. They argue that repressing LGBTQ+ lifestyles by “urging and assisting people [to follow Christian teachings]… is a kind and merciful act, and of benefit to all”.

The letter continues:

“What is plainly and terribly harmful is when anyone, especially the young, believes that their identity is found purely in their feelings and that happiness is to be found in misusing and harming their healthy bodies… Yet the proposals would apparently criminalise us for seeking to care for people and seeking to dissuade them from this kind of harm.”

Church of England supports ban on conversion therapy

In May 2021, following the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that the Government will ban conversion therapy, the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith Next Steps Group, said:

“The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are.

“The General Synod has voted overwhelmingly to reject coercive Conversion Therapies so we welcome the Government’s commitment to explore these matters further with a view to enshrining that position in law.

“We recognise the difficulties in defining Conversion Therapies and look forward to working closely with the Government to develop a viable definition and subsequent legislation.

“We want to prevent abuses of power, and ensure that issues of consent are made absolutely central to any future legislation.”

Image above: LBGTQ+ activists at a pride parade supportive of Transgender rights

Conversion therapy ‘must be outlawed in any setting’ says Stonewall 

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall told The Chiswick Calendar that any proposed bill must outlaw all forms of conversion therapy, including loopholes which permit ‘Queer’ people from consenting to abuse.

Sasha Misra, Associate Director of Communications and External Affairs at Stonewall said:

“It’s appalling to see opposition to the UK Government’s plans to ban conversion therapy –  a harmful practice which devastates lives. The UK Government’s own National LGBT Survey shows that the majority of those who had undergone conversion therapy had done so in faith-based settings, so any ban which doesn’t include these settings will be ineffective and fail to protect LGBTQIA+ people from abuse.

“Any Bill must outlaw all forms of conversion therapies in every setting – without loopholes which permit LGBTQIA+ people to consent to conversion therapy, because no one can consent to abuse. It’s been over three years since the UK Government committed to banning conversion therapy, it must act now to protect our communities and outlaw this abhorrent practice once and for all.”

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