Leading activists still calling for “private prayer” ban

29, September 2022

Let Us Pray has been pointing out for some time (for example in the Critic and the Belfast News Letter) that the leading activist group pushing for a conversion therapy ban is, ludicrously, calling for it to cover “private prayer” and “casual conversations”.

You might have thought that the 'Ban Conversion Therapy' campaign would quickly retract its rather embarrassing comments, but today that demand still has pride of place in a briefing produced for politicians around the UK.

The claim that prayer and conversations must be outlawed would be absurd if posted on just some random social media account. But this is a group which has given evidence to both Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments, has briefed politicians around the UK, and claims to be working with Northern Ireland’s Communities Minister on legislation there.

Banning private prayer

Whether or not you agree that God exists, banning prayer is really just banning ordinary speech.

Of course the suggestion that praying alone ought to be banned is thoroughly absurd. Who is going to report themselves to the police for carrying out ‘conversion therapy’ on themselves? Will those investigating people’s personal devotions be asking God himself to testify? Or are the authorities supposed to rely on the saintly honesty of Christians, while at the same time punishing them for cruelty to themselves?

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. Those struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity would be captured by this intrusive legislation, and encouraged to think that common internal conflicts are actually ‘internalised homophobia’ or ‘transphobia’. Activists will tell them they must ditch their religious or other worldview because it causes them to self-harm with ‘conversion therapy’ practices. That is a devastating distortion of the truth, but it is how many LGBT activists already explain it. They would love the law to take their side.

Casual conversations

Not everyone prays, but we all speak to friends, colleagues or others, including about sexuality or gender on perhaps rare occasions. Every day people will be having tentative conversations, trying not to offend, but being honest about what they think of various controversial issues. Many will muddle their words, say things they haven’t fully figured out yet, or say things they later wish they hadn’t. But that’s just conversation, isn’t it?

Apparently not, according to the activists. They demand “casual conversations” are covered by a ban, showing their intolerance of even everyday discussion. They say that people voicing opinions that others dislike is causing vast harms to swathes of the population. The criminal law, they think, should ensure people are penalised for what they say around the water cooler, at the school gates, or even around the dinner table.

If they are given what they want, these ideologues would gain a veto over what we can all say. Spurious and nonsensical accusations of ‘hate speech’ are common enough already. Bringing in this sort of legislation would be adding fuel to the fire.

Stonewall power-grab

There are few groups less appropriate to police our speech than Stonewall. Recent years have seen growing demands to stop Stonewall’s efforts to force its ideology into the language of public bodies and political institutions. Plunging popularity has seen the group’s influence wane, but it still holds sway in some places. This has been seen particularly in Scotland, where the civil service agreed to delete the word ‘mother’ from maternity policy under pressure from Stonewall.

It is perhaps not a surprise then that Stonewall is a major backer of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign. One of its staff is listed as the ‘author’ of the document that demands ‘private prayer’ and ‘casual conversation’ is outlawed. Stonewall wants the power to tell us all what we can and can’t say. Will they get their way?

The Scottish Government has been persuaded to bring in a ‘conversion therapy’ law that could be modelled on one in Victoria, Australia. Many want England, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow the same pattern. The human rights commission in Victoria is clear that “not affirming someone’s gender identity” is unlawful conversion therapy. It also says it is unlawful for parents to “refuse to support” their children receiving puberty blocking drugs, and for churches to remove membership from those who defy the Bible’s teaching on marriage.

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