A Christian therapist has threatened legal action against seven UK counselling and psychotherapy bodies challenging the legality of their support for the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy (MoU).
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Dr Mike Davidson, who is director of Core Issues Trust, claims that the Stonewall-endorsed MoU amounts to an ‘unlawful conspiracy’ and a ‘de facto’ ban against him studying and being accredited as a UK therapist.
Dr Davidson has sent pre-action letters to seven bodies challenging their support of the MoU: The London Centre for Psychodrama, The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, Pink Therapy, Association of Christian Counsellors, The Albany Trust, The Royal College of Psychiatrists and The British Psychodrama Association.
Conversion therapy memorandum
The MoU describes itself as “a joint document signed by 20 health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations which aims to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK.” Originally published in 2015, from 2017 the definition of ‘conversion therapy’ was updated to a “term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis.”
The memorandum claims that conversion therapy is ‘unethical’, potentially harmful and is not backed by evidence. It also calls for “professionals from across the health, care and psychological professions work together” to stamp it out of the profession.
Critics of the MoU say that its definition of Conversion Therapy is unclear, its conclusions are not backed by evidence, and that it gives credence to controversial views about gender identity. The human rights concerns raised by the letter also raise questions about the government’s proposals to ban conversion therapy, which likewise may breach human rights.
Dr Davidson is claiming both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of his Christian belief, contrary to the Equality Act 2010 and that the MoU agreement, by breaching articles 8, 9 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, is unlawful.
In bringing the claim, Dr Davidson is seeking an injunction to prevent five of the UK bodies from continuing to be a party to the MoU. His lawyers argue that without an injunction the bodies will continue to cause him ‘unlawful damage.’
Dr Davidson also seeks an order of Mandamus which would allow him to enrol on a Psychotherapy Postgraduate Diploma course, which he has been barred from for over a decade, which he will argue is due to his Christian beliefs and not because of a lack of qualifications or credentials. Dr Davidson intends to expose that the authors of the MoU are ‘illusive’ and have managed to avoid public scrutiny since its publication.
The pre-action letter states that the “MoU has acted as a de facto ban on clients who decide to explore their sexual fluidity and then decide to move away from a homosexual attraction to a heterosexual attraction and/or who decide to explore their discomfort with their natal sex and then take steps to become comfortable with their natal sex.”
Dr Davidson’s lawyers argue that the MoU “intended and did create an environment in which those sharing [Dr Davidson’s] beliefs and/or not sharing your beliefs, would be excluded from professional practice.”
Dr Davidson, who offers counselling to those wanting to move away from unwanted sexual attractions, is a Christian therapist who has seen over 700 individuals address their unwanted same-sex attraction. Many of these experience change in identity, behaviours and attractions.
A Bible-believing Christian, Dr Davidson’s legal claim includes his beliefs that sexual relationships outside a marriage between people of the opposite sex are sinful, that sex is fixed from conception, and that sexuality is fluid for many people. It also includes his belief that unwanted sexual attraction to members of the same sex, including in particular the case of mixed-attracted clients, and a felt desire to transition away from a client’s natal sex, may all be beneficially addressed by therapeutic intervention.
Furthermore, he believes a therapist must always respect his or her client’s autonomous goals whether or not the therapist shares or approves of the client’s goals. The therapist should not impose his or her worldview upon clients.
However, as far back as 2011, Dr Davidson, after challenging the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) on its position on sexual fluidity, was told by the UKCP Chairman that he was an unsuitable training candidate and that he needed to consider “changing professional orientation.”
The author of the UKCP’s report and position on this issue, Michael King, subsequently appears to have changed his mind and aligned more with the position that Dr Davidson also holds with respect to sexual fluidity and the politicisation of sexuality.
However, following a BBC investigation into Dr Davidson’s work supporting people with unwanted same-sex attraction in 2012, the British Psychodrama Association (BPA) permanently removed him from their register and ended his trainee status.
He was told that he could only reapply “should you consistently cease to promulgate your current opinions and be clearly able to demonstrate that you would only undertake and advocate work that falls within and complies with the UKCP/BPA Codes of Ethics and Practice and all associated Guidelines.”
Since the MoU’s publication, Dr Davidson has repeatedly applied and been rejected for courses at the London Centre for Psychodrama and the British Psychodrama Association, which has left him with no alternative but to pursue legal action.
De facto ban
Dr Davidson said: “The Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK has created a de facto ban on therapeutic choice for those seeking help for undesired same- sex attractions.
“This is a political document; its writers are illusive and those who manage it provide no opportunity for public or professional scrutiny. By the MoU, the anti-therapy lobby has captured UK mental health bodies to the point that only one viewpoint is acceptable.
“Thousands of persons who are both-sex attracted are being denied the opportunity to work towards their goal of choice. We call on the end to ideologies represented by the MOU that masquerade as science, to be made accountable.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Dr Davidson, also commented: “Through this memorandum, recognised UK bodies have closed ranks and, without scrutiny, been allowed to unlawfully discriminate against a Christian therapist.
“Essentially, the counselling room is no longer a safe place for counsellors, and it is exceedingly risky for clinicians to do anything but affirm and agree with their clients. Therapists are not allowed and are too afraid to provide the help that clients want and are asking for. This has ruined the practice of clinical psychology, which is entirely dependent on trust and privacy.
“The MoU gives no recognition to the hundreds of men and women who have voluntarily sought support for their unwanted same-sex attraction and have benefited from it. This memorandum sends the message to anyone wanting support that they must stay gay.”
Find out more about Mike Davidson