Press Release

Overwhelming opposition to extreme ‘conversion therapy’ bill in parliament

9 February 2024         Issued by: Christian Concern

There was overwhelming opposition to Baroness Burt’s Conversion Therapy Prohibition (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Bill today with a total of 29 peers speaking against the bill, compared with 15 speaking in favour.

Opposition to the bill was cross-party and showed the strength of feeling against this extreme bill.

Christian Concern warned about the dangers of this bill and produced a briefing for parliamentarians about it.

In the debate, Lord Forsyth described the bill as “the most badly drafted, dangerous piece of legislation” he had seen in nearly 40 years in parliament.

He warned that, “parents saying to their children ‘you must not take puberty blockers’ – they would find themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

He explained that the bill would criminalise “any practice aimed at a person or group of people which demonstrates an assumption.” He emphasised: “‘Demonstrates an assumption!’, are we now going to criminalise people for thinking things, because that’s what ‘demonstrates an assumption’ means!”

He continued: “Of course it’s an attack on free speech if parents can’t feel they give guidance to their children. It is an absolute duty of parents to give advice to their children.”

Lord Forsyth also criticised the Scottish proposals to criminalise ‘conversion practices’.

Lord Jackson also spoke against the bill and criticised self-selecting surveys about ‘conversion therapy’. He said: “Many people reporting ‘conversion therapy’ had merely prayed alone that God would change them. Is that what to criminalise? Do they expect people to turn themselves in to the police for praying for themselves?”

He said: “Legislating for something we cannot define and can’t even prove exists is dangerous, and does also cut across European Convention Rights, Articles 9, 10 and 11.”

Lord Jackson also criticised the Scottish proposed ‘conversion practices’ bill. He noted that the public perception of this, “has been disastrous, with front page banner headlines about parents of gender distressed kids facing seven years in jail for not going along with their transition.”

He asked: “Is this the sort of law that your Lordships want to impose on the population here? A law which takes children from their parents for helping them feel comfortable in their own skin, or which re-writes mainstream religious belief.”

Lord Jackson also pointed out that in both the Netherlands and Sweden “legal assessments were carried out to see if a law on ‘conversion therapy’ was needed. In both cases the assessment found that abusive practices were already illegal. Both said that sending a signal isn’t a good enough reason to legislate.” In the Netherlands politicians decided to press anyway, whereas it looks like Sweden will do the sensible thing and drop the plans.

He concluded: “This bill, as currently drafted, is a dangerous attack on civil liberties, on religious freedom, and on parental and wider human rights. It is socially divisive and unnecessary.”

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern said:

“It is encouraging to see so many parliamentarians speaking common sense on an extreme bill drafted as ideology rather than reality.

“As many peers noted, there is no place in a civilised society to criminalise parents for protecting their children from life altering puberty-blockers.

“There is no place for criminalising consensual conversations.

“There is no place in a civilised society for criminalising Christian for advising their friend to follow biblical sexual morality.

“This debate shows the strength of opposition, both to this bill and to the Scottish proposed bill which was also discussed in the debate.

“Abusive or coercive practices in any setting are already illegal. Any conversion therapy bill is an attack on fundamental freedoms. Quite simply, it is not needed’

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