(LifeSiteNews) — A Christian campaign group in Scotland warned the Scottish Parliament that it will face legal action if it forges ahead with plans to introduce a blanket ban on so-called LGBT “conversion therapy,” accusing the committee that recommended the measures of “bias.”
The Christian Institute (CI), a British religious campaign group for the promotion of Christian ideals in the U.K., is pushing back against a broad proposal in Holyrood to limit “conversion therapy” for people experiencing same-sex attraction and “gender identity” crises, describing the law as “the most extreme legislation on conversion therapy in the Western world.”
On Tuesday, the Equalities, Human Rights, and Civil Justice Committee (EHRCJ) of the Scottish Parliament issued a 45-page dossier calling for an end to conversion therapy, including “religious teaching, prayer or other speech directed at an individual or group of individuals if it does not accept their view of their gender identity or sexuality,” the CI explained.
The proposal seeks to outlaw “any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other,” thereby criminalizing conversations in which individuals might express traditional views on human sexuality.
CI Deputy Director Simon Calvert said that while coercion into any kind of therapy would be wrong, “these proposals don’t target coercion. They target conversations based on beliefs and individual viewpoints.”
While the EHRCJ has argued that any effort to “suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity” should be criminalized, Calvert warned that holding Christian values could fall foul of the recommended guidance.
“Teaching a trans-identifying young person that God made us male and female could be viewed as ‘seeking to suppress’ their expression of gender identity,” he cautioned, adding that “explaining to a gay friend the Church’s traditional teaching that sex should only take place within man-woman marriage could be deemed an attempt to suppress their expression of sexual orientation.”
In addition, the CI noted that seven of the 10 members of the committee forwarding the recommended ban to Parliament signed a pledge last year promising to ban conversion therapy.
In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer (Speaker) Alison Johnstone, Calvert argued that signing the pledge means “many of the Committee members have felt obliged to publicly declare their prior support for the terms of the petition every time the Committee meets to scrutinize it.”
“How can the Committee be expected to exercise impartial, critical judgment when most of its members have given assurances directly to the campaign group whose claims they are scrutinizing and have promised to enact the very policies being sought?” he asked.
The allegation of bias was further substantiated by the group, noting in particular that some members have openly expressed “unqualified support” for the End Conversion Therapy Scotland (ECTS) activist group through their social media accounts, and that the committee held at least one closed-door meeting and did not subsequently produce notes.
“We are concerned that the majority of MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament] on the Committee are too close to the ECTS campaign for the public to have confidence in the outcome of their deliberations in this sensitive area of policy-making,” Calvert said. “It is very regrettable that concerns such as these seem to have fallen on deaf ears with the EHRCJ. The public expects impartial scrutiny. Instead, Committee members have made promises to campaign groups and taken evidence disproportionately from those supporting the petition.”
The committee’s report also details measures taken in other countries where “conversion therapy” has already been legislated against in some form. In particular, the banning of prayer and counsel in Victoria, Australia, for a same-sex-attracted (SSA) person to live in accordance with the natural law, even if the SSA person sought out a Christian for this purpose themselves, was lauded in the committee’s report.
“The Victoria legislation in Australia provides one of the best practice examples,” the report reads.
Provision is given in the report, quoting British homosexual activist Jayne Ozanne, for “the sort of prayer that creates an open and safe place into which people can go and where any outcome is acceptable and right is good and should be encouraged.” However, Ozanne goes on to state that “when there is a predetermined purpose [in prayer] I think that must be banned.”
Countering, Calvert said that expressing the teachings of the Christian religion “is protected by equality and human rights law and the Parliament can’t outlaw it.”
“Ill-thought-out conversion therapy bans in other countries are being strongly resisted by churches,” he stated, “not because they wish to practice ‘conversion therapy,’ but because the bans go much further and outlaw innocent, everyday church activities including people praying for their friends.”
Calvert consequently issued a warning to parliamentarians, noting the CI’s successful challenge in 2016 against the sweeping “Named Person” law in Scotland, which would have allowed an unprecedented intrusion of the government into family life.
Under the far-reaching scheme, a “named person” — a teacher, school administrator, midwife, social worker, etc. — was to be assigned to every Scottish child up to age 18, tasked with overseeing his interests and able to gather information from doctors, social agencies, schools, courts, and the children themselves, without the parents’ knowledge.
“The Christian Institute was involved in the successful legal challenge to the Named Person legislation where Parliament failed to properly scrutinize proposals,” Calvert noted. “Inadequate scrutiny by Parliament in this case may again result in human rights challenges being brought against any resulting legislation.”