Leading conversion therapy campaigner demands ban on teaching abstinence

27, December 2021

As Chair of the ‘Ban Conversion Therapy’ campaign group, Jayne Ozanne’s views are significant. You would expect her to try to be moderate and persuasive. Yet, Ozanne has repeatedly called for aspects of the ordinary work of churches to be criminalised, infamously saying even “gentle, non-coercive prayer” should be caught.

Ozanne, an outspoken member of the Church of England’s General Synod, believes conversion therapy is carried out by any church leader who upholds the orthodox teaching of the Bible on sexual ethics in their pastoral work with same-sex attracted people. When over 2700 church leaders signed an eminently reasonable letter to the Government raising concerns about its conversion therapy proposals, Ozanne tweeted: “At least we now know which churches want to continue with these harmful 'loving' practices...!”

She told LGBT magazine Attitude that conversion therapy often takes the form of prayer groups on a Sunday. Evangelicals, she says, are “telling you: ‘Be single and abstinent for life.’” Her solution is to call for the ban to include what she calls “changing and suppressing” sexual orientation. Clearly, she regards teaching abstinence as “changing and suppressing”.  

Ozanne’s proposals for a ban would go much further than the abusive practices most people think should be criminal. She wants the law to stop anyone upholding biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality in their conversations, and prayers, with same-sex attracted people. The effect would be to force churches to affirm LGBT theology. (Interestingly, she is not clear on whether teaching abstinence to opposite-sex attracted people should also be outlawed.)

The fact that people seek out biblical pastoral support should not prevent it being criminalised, according to Ozanne, who told Attitude:

“I willingly sought it out, believed these feelings were sinful.”

It is the heart of evangelical theology that all people are sinful. That’s why Christ came. Does Ozanne want it to be illegal to teach about sin to all people or just to same-sex attracted people?

Ozanne admits those who prayed with her, at her request, were people with good intentions who “you love, trust, respect”. But rather than recognising the injustice of criminalising her former friends, she crudely observes: “It’s a real mind-f***.’”

It is right to ensure coercion and abuse are outlawed. But the horrific practices of the past which first enlisted public sympathy for banning conversion therapy are already illegal. What we cannot and must not ban is genuine pastoral care, provided by loving pastors and church family. It is wrong to subject religious leaders to police investigation for supporting those who ask them for help – just because their beliefs don’t align with LGBT ideology. And parents should not have social services knocking at the door just because they bring up their children in accordance with Christian values.

The Government must recognise that those who offer advice or prayer supporting the Bible’s teaching do not deserve to be criminalised. It is not abusive to teach the gospel or raise children in the Christian faith.

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