Our Head of Education, Steve Beegoo, explains why we wrote a letter to the government’s Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi warning of the risks of banning ‘conversion therapy’.
Christian Concern has now published our letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, on the issues surrounding the government’s proposed ‘conversion therapy’ ban.
The wide definitions being used continue to be very disturbing. Our letter – authored by Steve Beegoo, our Head of Education, and our chief executive Andrea Williams – explains:
“We understand that the intention of the government is to protect children. However, we regularly encounter families, schools’ workers, and children, who could be harmed by the current proposals. It has become very clear to us that the worryingly wide definition of what can be described as ‘conversion therapy’, including pastoral conversations, will result in many highly disturbing outcomes for children and in schools.”
Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi
The recent consultation on the proposals was extended from 9 December 2021, to 4 February 2022, thus recognising that not enough consultation and thought had gone into the proposals. This is especially true in regard to the lack of consideration for those working with children and young people.
I am so glad that many Christians have responded, and thank you to all those who used our resource to make clear the significant issues around the potential criminalisation of conversation and prayer. More responses are urgently needed before the deadline which recognise the issues for teachers.
Despite the extension we make the following point in our letter:
“We would ask you to take these points seriously in your communications with your colleagues in the cabinet and with the prime minister. We would ask that these issues be urgently raised within the Department, with those who will be providing advice and counsel on how the proposed ban will affect children and young people, and the work of our schools. We believe that the proposed ban should be withdrawn, and that the department should support its withdrawal.”
You can view the letter here. They key points include:
- Teachers will be reluctant to give any non-affirming advice for fear of criminal activity
- Children who are questioning and vulnerable, will decreasingly receive advice from teachers who could have supported them and save them from harm
- Many pastoral conversations of a religious nature which young people may want to have, and which could lead to prayer, would be criminalised.
Teachers often fulfil a pastoral role in their work. An ‘easy read’ version of the consultation papers made it clear that teachers were intended to be caught in the legislation, but after concerns were raised, a sudden redrafting left only counsellors and mental health staff listed in the relevant section. We wanted to make it clear to the Secretary of State that:
“…the initial publication of the ‘easy read’ version of the consultation evidenced that teachers were meant to be significantly caught by the ban on conversations. Teachers, tutors and chaplains regularly take on pastoral conversations which could very easily be considered as pastoral counselling in legal terms. … Again the broad definitions of counsellors and conversations will be highly likely to result in criminalising teachers.”
I have become more and more aware, even this week, of supporters contacting us highlighting how transgender ideology has led to the children of Christian parents being confused and converted to unbiblical beliefs about their identity at school. The confusion begins at an early age and will become all the more prevalent should the proposed ban come into effect.
We are delighted that other organisations have also registered their dismay as to the proposals. For example, the Association of Christian Teachers has also written a letter to the secretary of state. We ask you, if you are yet to do so, to contribute to the consultation and to encourage those you know who work in schools to also contribute by 4 February (you can use our guidance to help you respond).
As the consultation window comes to an end, it is imperative that the government is made aware of the strength of the public opinion on this issue, and is deterred from taking actions which could harm many children.