Tell the Scottish Parliament banning ‘conversion therapy’ is unethical

4 August 2021

The Citizens’ Participation and Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament has issued a call for views in response to a petition to ban ‘conversion therapy’ in Scotland. You can respond using the online form. Below we provide some guidance on how you might go about responding appropriately, based on our official response which you can read in full here.

The call for evidence has three questions, and there are no word limits for the responses. The closing date is 13 August.

To respond, visit this website and submit your response in your own words to the online questions here:

Q1. What are your views on the action called for in the petition?

There are two fundamental problems with the call to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in Scotland. The first is that the petition itself mishandles the evidence that it cites. The second is that a ban would undermine existing human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

1. No evidence is given in support of a ban

In our official response we show how the petition mishandles the evidence from an academic study published by psychiatrists at King’s College London in 2009. It ignores the evidence for clients’ motivation to seek out therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction. It also ignores the evidence for mental health professionals’ support for the availability for therapy for such clients.

We also show how the petition mishandles evidence from the Faith and Sexuality Survey published by the Ozanne Foundation in 2018. The inadequate design of this survey makes it unusable. Notwithstanding this problem, the petition uses it to make the unwarranted claim that most people who underwent ‘conversion therapy’ now want it criminalised. There is no objective evidence for this claim.

It is significant that in a Freedom of Information Request response dated 15 September 2020 the Scottish Government admits that it has no real evidence about the practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in Scotland. In addition, it appears not to have conducted or commissioned new research before it decided to become a signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK.

2. A ban would undermine existing human rights

As previously stated on numerous occasions, we take the view that a ‘conversion therapy’ ban would seriously undermine existing human rights including free speech, religious freedom, right to access information, right to respect for private and family life and right to marry.

All four Scottish LGBT organisations campaigning for a ban have denied the validity of both children’s and adults’ consent to ‘conversion therapy’. They want a law which will ‘protect’ those who have consented, ie. punish therapists, counsellors and Christian clergy who have helped them. We highlight the written evidence they sent to the committee last year which emphasised this point.

Q2. What action would you like to see the Scottish Government take, within the powers available to it?

Tell the Scottish Parliament committee to warn the Scottish Government not to misuse its powers. Banning ‘conversion therapy’ would amount to a serious misuse of its powers.

This is because ‘conversion therapy’ bans are always an attack on sex-based dignity and rights because they prohibit therapists and religious pastoral caregivers from helping people live as members of their own sexes. This includes pretending that all ‘gender identities’ are equal regardless of whether they fit the human body, and privileging non-heterosexual sexual orientation and attraction even when it goes against the form of the human body.

Actions that the Scottish Government should take include:

  • Ensuring respect for the UK Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Maya Forstater, which protects the belief that there are only two sexes rooted in biology
  • Doing everything it can to safeguard the definition of sex in Scottish law as based on biology alone
  • Setting up independent monitoring of how professionals deal with people’s of sex-based characteristics in NHS Scotland, private medical practice, social work and education in order to protect vulnerable people from being misdiagnosed as having gender dysphoria or other gender identity disorders and then taken through gender reassignment treatments. The current Independent Review into gender identity services for children and young people in England and Wales chaired by Dame Hilary Cass provides a precedent here.

In addition, the committee should tell the Scottish Government to tackle the inherent bias in this policy area by severing its connections with Stonewall and other organisations campaigning for a ban. It should:

  • Withdraw funding from Stonewall Scotland, Scottish Trans Alliance, LBGT Youth Network and the Equality Network
  • Ensure that any consultation on banning ‘conversion therapy’ is not drafted with any input or advice from any of those organisations or any other bodies campaigning for a ban
  • Withdraw from the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme and Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, as its applications for membership were used to push for reforming the Gender Recognition Act behind the backs of the Scottish people. The policies involved were closely linked to banning ‘conversion therapy’ for gender confusion
  • Protect mental health professionals and religious bodies from fake claims of ‘conversion therapy’ made by LGBT activists working as undercover journalists. Such activists are operating in a manner that strongly suggests an intention to undermine the legitimate rights of others, and thus contravenes Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Q3. Do you have suggestions on how the Committee can take forward its consideration of the petition? For example:

who should it talk to?
who should it hear from?

In light of the fact that the UK government is considering a ban in England and Wales, and that the Northern Ireland government is similarly occupied, as well as bans either being considered or having already been passed in other countries, we suggest that the Committee talk to and hear from a range of organisations and individuals adversely affected or at risk from ‘conversion therapy’ bans in the relevant jurisdictions.

We encourage the following people to respond specifically to question 3:

  • Individuals who were helped by therapy and/or pastoral care to move away from same-sex attraction and gender confusion, and of how ‘conversion therapy’ bans have harmed them or would potentially harm them.
  • Organisations in Scotland, the rest of the UK and abroad who have been adversely affected by existing professional or criminal law bans on ‘conversion therapy’
  • Individuals and organisations adversely affected by LGBT activists conducting undercover journalism targeting them
  • Organisations at risk of ‘conversion therapy’ bans.
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