Scottish Government funds conversion therapy helpline

3, July 2023

by Joanna Cook

Joanna works in public affairs for The Christian Institute and is part of the Let Us Pray campaign.

A Scottish Government-funded conversion therapy helpline has been launched, ahead of plans to introduce conversion therapy legislation to Holyrood before the end of the year.

The taxpayer-funded service, run by ‘LGBT Health and Wellbeing’, claims to offer support for LGBT people who feel they have been subject to ‘conversion practices’. The UK Government launched a similar service last year.

According to the group, “‘Conversion practices’ refers to a wide range of approaches that aim to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It then goes on to list some examples. “Being prayed over”, it says, is a common form of ‘conversion practices’.

Under the heading “What does it look like?”, four cartoon images depict conversion therapy ‘scenarios’.

The first shows a woman being prayed over. The speech bubble reads: “Heal her brokenness, make her whole again.”

While we might not use those precise words to describe sexual temptation, it’s nevertheless suggesting that praying for God’s help in our struggles is ‘conversion therapy’.

But as Christians, recognising our broken condition is foundational to our understanding of salvation and of human nature.

The Bible is clear that each and every one of us is spiritually broken – our relationship with God, self and neighbour marred by the Fall and beyond the possibility of human repair – irrespective of what our particular sins may be.

This, of course, is precisely the good news of the Gospel. That Jesus Christ went to Calvary for broken sinners like you and me, so that through his death and resurrection, we might have healing and new life in Him.

And it is this that Christians are concerned could be criminalised under the kind of conversion therapy law that activists want. Activists are clear that prayer, preaching, pastoral care and even parenting that does not affirm LGBT thinking must be caught. Leading activist, Jayne Ozanne, has even called for ‘gentle non-coercive prayer’ to be covered by a ban.

That’s why in April, twenty church leaders wrote to the Scottish Government urging it to rethink its plans for a conversion therapy ban. In the joint letter they explain that “a ‘conversion therapy’ ban would go far beyond outlawing abuse and coercion; instead it would criminalise ordinary Christians and church leaders for expressing mainstream, orthodox belief”.

Another scenario on the helpline’s homepage illustrates a conversation between a concerned parent and child. The speech bubble reads: “You’re too young, you’re confused, we need to get you help.”

No context is given. We are not told what precipitated the conversation. Instead, we are to take it at face value: that a parent questioning their child’s stated identity is conversion therapy. This is certainly what campaign group ‘End Conversion Therapy Scotland’s spokesman Blair Anderson has in mind when he says that “depending on your parents’ ‘consent’” to change gender is “Conversion Therapy 101”.

Such a ban is already in operation in the Australian State of Victoria. There, “not affirming someone’s gender identity” is unlawful conversion therapy, as is the refusal of parents to consent to their children going on puberty blockers. Parents of gender-confused children in Victoria are now living in terror of being prosecuted for trying to protect their children from irreversible medical treatment.

If a person has been subject to abuse or coercion in Scotland, then they can and should go to the police because such practices are already illegal. But it is clear from the scenarios on LGBT Health and Wellbeing’s website that it is not abuse and coercion that’s in view, but prayer and conversations.

Scottish taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a helpline that makes no mention of existing law and the protections already available, but instead wrongly equates the ordinary work of churches and parenting with conversion therapy.

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