Government fails to quell fears over ‘conversion therapy’ ban

21 January 2022

The signs are all there that the UK government is running scared of the growing opposition to its proposed ‘conversion therapy’ ban for England and Wales. The fact that it has been doubling down on its Orwellian ‘caring’ rhetoric is telling, and one we should not allow to pass without resistance.

The Government Equalities Office has taken the extraordinary step of writing to The Critic magazine to request corrections to an article Maya Forstater wrote criticising the ban. This is unprecedented on the part of the GEO. Her rebuttal to the GEO was published on Monday and by Tuesday, Medium had published an article by Mike Freer the Minister for Equalities entitled ‘Mythbusting the Conversion Therapy Ban’. This suggests that the GEO was attempting to ride out the remaining three weeks of the consultation with reassurances to the public. Let’s see how convincing they are.

The attack on ‘misinformation’ in the media

Freer starts off by saying the government will prepare legislation once the consultation closes, in time for Spring. He wants to show that the rising tide of opposition won’t deter the government, instead hitting back with this claim:

“There have been some erroneous interpretations and misinformation around our proposals in the media”.

This is clearly referring to all the comment we as opponents have collectively given to the press during the consultation period. Freer and the GEO are angry that the press is finally shining light into these sinister proposals rather than just giving a free pass to LGBT activists who are in lockstep with the government. ‘Misinformation’ is the polite word for ‘fake news’ – a term all too often used to describe true, but inconvenient information. In this case, it is code for the government’s wish to silence all opposition.

Government to protect ‘sensitive and caring conversations’

Mike Freer then tries to reassure parents that ‘open and explorative conversations’ with children about sexual orientation and ‘whether they are transgender or not’ will not be outlawed. This sounds ever so reassuring, but in the next sentence he goes much further, insinuating that as a Minister he has power to ‘allow’ certain kinds of conversations.

“As Minister for Equalities, I will not allow these kinds of supportive conversations to be outlawed. It is in no one’s interest.”

This sentence is key for understanding the government’s proposals. Rights here are assumed to be conferred by the state rather than arising from a variety of deeper moral sources such as responsibilities, needs or assessment of desires and projects in life.

Things get worse. Freer continues thus:

“Sensitive is the key word here. We want to encourage and protect sensitive and caring conversations; I will always defend the rights of young people to have open and robust conversations with the adults in their life.”

Make no mistake about it. The government wants to police our conversations. The Minister for Equalities is essentially saying ‘be kind’, ‘don’t judge’. In other words, if you disagree, ‘shut up!’ Is the government going to draw up guidelines for what sort of conversations count as sufficiently ‘sensitive’ and ‘caring’ to be legal? What that really means is ‘if you don’t sing from the LGBT hymn sheet, we will arrest you’. The case of Keith Waters should serve as a warning here.

Are promises to protect prayer being kept or not?

This intent to police our conversations needs to be understood in relation to the intent to police prayer. In November, Mike Freer gave oral evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons on the proposals. Freer avoided saying which religious practices would be protected when asked by Kate Osborne MP. When pressed on potential conflicts with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, he refused to answer, suggesting the matter was still being discussed by government officials.

Freer’s article for Medium made no mention whatsoever of prayer or religious freedom. This should not surprise us given that he also told Parliament in November that he welcomed the Ozanne Foundation’s Cooper Report, which demands state surveillance of faithful Christian pastors and therapists. All he said is that he ‘didn’t disagree with much of it’ – hardly reassuring.

GEO video rebutting religious freedom criticism failed

Before Christmas, the GEO put out a short video on social media entitled ‘What does the Banning Conversion Therapy consultation say about the impact on faith leaders?’. The obvious intention of the video was to rebut our claims that the ban would erode religious freedom and individual choice. This is what the video text actually said:

‘The ban will not stop religious leaders from offering their support around sexual orientation and transgender status’.

The quasi-legal language of ‘transgender status’ is the giveaway that religious bodies are being forced to accept these proposals.

‘The ban will only cover those who seek to change a person to be something they are not rather than offering impartial support’.

This reveals the GEO’s worldview, namely that people are inherently and innately LGBT, a claim for which there is no scientific evidence. The use of the term ‘impartial’ is new here and disingenuous, treating pastoral care as if it were BBC News. This is because ‘impartial’ really means ‘indifferent as to outcome’ here. Christianity is not ‘impartial’ about our use of our bodies.

Unsurprisingly, this video failed to stem the tide of concern among Christians. The number of signatories to the ministers’ consultation letter only rose over the Christmas period.

Lack of transparency at the GEO

The GEO is a government department that has a bad track record for transparency. Unlike most major government departments it does not publish any of the FOI responses it has made. Things don’t stop there.

Before Christmas, Vice News reported that GEO civil servants had held a ‘secret’ meeting with Core Issues Trust about the proposals. First of all, this was not a secret. It was revealed in the X-Out-Lout book of testimonies, which Vice News had seen. In any case, the GEO is meant to meet with stakeholders for its policies, and so there was nothing unusual about this. The problem however was that when approached by Vice News, the GEO denied the meeting had taken place. This shows the GEO is very scared of being seen to make any concessions to the main targets of the ‘conversion therapy’ ban. The question is why.

Ban as prize for ‘Safe To Be Me’ global LGBT conference

The government’s fear of opposition is linked to its rushing the consultation to table a bill by spring. Last November in Parliament, Caroline Noakes MP asked Mike Freer ‘why is the period of consultation is very short. Why?’ Freer responded thus: ‘Frankly because it is about how not why…It was more of a technical consultation. I did not want to miss a slot in the legislative program…to start the legislative process towards the end of Spring.’

Mike Freer was withholding the full reason for the rush from Parliament. Only a few weeks previously Nikki da Costa, former Director of Legislative Affairs at No. 10 Downing Street, revealed to the Sunday Times that the real reason for the 6 weeks consultation was that the government was desperate for a ‘good news story’ by the time of the Global LGBT ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference, scheduled for 29-30 June this year. The Government Equalities Office is organising the conference.

Safe-spacing the entire world

The governments of 41 countries will be invited to ‘Safe To Be Me’ as will various NGOs. It is particularly interesting that the conference will ‘showcase leadership from Angola, Botswana and South Africa.’ The obvious aim is to work towards safe-spacing the entire world for LGBT supremacism rights.

If the UK can criminalise ‘conversion therapy’, this will send out a powerful signal to Commonwealth countries as well as member states of the Council of Europe. This is all part of the new ‘Global Britain’ brand, which enthrones Queer Theory as the new state religion.

The Equal Rights Coalition

There is another factor in the rush to ban ‘conversion therapy’ in England and Wales, which is the UK’s current co-chairing of the Equal Rights Coalition. The UK is a founder member of the Equal Rights Coalition, a group of countries advancing LGBT rights worldwide. The UK and Argentina are co-chairs from June 2019 to June 2022. The launch of the ERC global strategy took place at Wilton Park in July 2021. It called for ending ‘conversion therapy’ worldwide by 2030. Unsurprisingly, Stonewall is a civil society co-chair for the ERC and runs its digital platform. The government clearly wants to end its term as co-chair by being able to announce a ban.

Lord Herbert and the Global Equality Caucus

It is also vital to note that Lord Herbert, the UK Special Envoy on LGBT Rights, is involved with running this conference, and is very close to the consultation. Lord Herbert has publicly defended Stonewall’s closeness to government. Highly relevant is the fact that he is the chair of the Global Equality Caucus, an LGBT campaign run by the Project for Modern Democracy, a think-tank run by none other than Lord Herbert! The Caucus is running a campaign to get politicians to sign a pledge to support ‘conversion therapy’ bans worldwide. The campaign is running until the Safe To Be Me conference.

Clearly this is an attempt to rush things on a global level, again in the hope that the UK can present a ban as an example to follow. Unfortunately, things aren’t looking so rosy for Lord Herbert at the moment.

Lord Herbert and the College of Policing

Lord Herbert is also the head of the College of Policing, which was recently defeated in court by Harry Miller over gender-critical tweets. Now finally it is reported that the College of Policing will not be appealing this verdict. It will have to change its guidance on social media. This is a big win for free speech, and is relevant considering the relentless attempt to censor online content deemed ‘conversion therapy’.

It is also interesting that Nadine Dorries recently told Parliament that a ‘conversion therapy’ ban was ‘not a policy’ of the Digital, Communication, Media and Sport department in its work on the Online Safety legislation.

The government proposals need to be defeated

All this shows that the government is in trouble. It is doubling down on its rhetoric but its work is overlapping with other controversial policy areas where there will be wider criticism. For example, there is widespread concern about the online safety legislation. The Law Commission’s recent response to its own consultation on extending hate crime law is also relevant and requires further scrutiny. Lord Herbert’s chairmanship of the College of Policing is going to become a millstone round the government’s neck. Finally, the global dimension to the policy may well come back to hit the government like a boomerang, given the variation in public opinion and social mores. The recent outbursts of propaganda by the Government Equalities Office merely go to show that the government proposals need to be defeated.

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