Did the Scottish Equalities Minister just promote an anti-religious campaign?

1, February 2024

The Scottish Government has faced heat in recent weeks over its proposals for a new law to ban ‘conversion therapy’.

In former days, bold new policy proposals on the advancement of LGBT thinking would have found a natural home among Scotland’s political elite. But the eruption of public fury over attempts to legislate gender self-ID, even for children as young as 16, has led many MSPs to rethink.

The very same thinking that lay behind gender self-ID has returned in the Government’s new conversion therapy plans. And this time people aren’t buying it. The proposals would restrict parents’ and others’ freedom not to affirm people’s declared gender or sexuality. This time with criminal records and jail time to scare us all into silence.

Scotland’s Equalities Minister, Emma Roddick MSP, has been at the forefront of this campaign. Her 86-page consultation document lays out the controversial plans, which she insists include sufficient protections for parents and Christians.

“Scotland’s planned conversion therapy ban contains safeguards to ensure parents’ and religious leaders’ rights are protected” was how The Scotsman summarised Roddick’s contribution. But this doesn’t tally with the consultation document. The following headlines are a more accurate description: “Parents who refuse children gender change face seven years in jail in Scotland”; “Scotland is abandoning children to trans extremists”; “Conversion therapy ban bid ‘terrifying’ for parents”; “Half-baked plan from Holyrood’s gender zealots must be stopped”.

According to The Scottish Sun, 15 rebels within the SNP are prepared to oppose their own Party on this. The Equalities Minister would be desperate to regain people’s trust, you would think.

But apparently not:

No one supports abuse. But it beggars belief that the Minister would share the views of those who say that a new law is required, with – as I understand the Humanist’s position – virtually no safeguards for Christians or innocent parents.

Emma Roddick would be quick to remind me that reposting a tweet doesn’t mean an endorsement of the person’s views. She would say, I presume, that she is looking forward to meeting with the Humanists, and merely echoing their sentiment.

But of the many feminist groups, churches and Christian organisations that have written to or had meetings with her, how many has she tweeted about?

The Humanists say they want “no optouts for religious groups”, but that’s not really what they mean. Religious groups haven’t asked for optouts; it’s not what we are campaigning for. We say a law simply shouldn’t ever cover the sort of innocent, everyday activities that Christians are engaged in. Prayer, pastoral care, preaching and even parenting. Why should a law that is supposed to be about ‘abuse’ go anywhere near these sorts of practices?

It’s like someone asking not to be criminalised for arson every time they light a candle. That’s hardly asking for an optout; it’s asking for a criminal offence to be properly defined so that it doesn’t capture legitimate activity. And yet, time and again, legal advice has been clear that new laws on conversion therapy will indeed capture everyday Christian belief and practice.

No, this isn’t about opt-outs and it never has been. What the Humanists are really saying is that they don’t want religious freedom to be respected by this new law. Here’s what Humanists UK said should be covered by the new law:

“verbal communications … such as confessions/repentances, non-violent exorcisms, faith declarations, fasting, pilgrimages, and attendance on religious courses”

That isn’t simply ignoring the importance of religious freedom, it is actively working to oppose it. The demand is that a new law on conversion therapy should prevent even the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith – even repentance!

The Equalities Minister has been sent the legal advice and has been at pains to stress that the Government is currently in ‘listening mode’. And yet here she is promoting a meeting with those who want to see ordinary Christians and parents criminalised.

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