No, Elliot Colburn MP, torture is not still legal

25, May 2023

Activists demanding a ‘conversion therapy’ ban say a new law is needed to tackle abuse and coercion.

Elliot Colburn, the Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington in South London, last weekend told GB News that the Government should hurry up with a ban on practices which he says amount to “torture”.

The leading LGBT campaign groups have been saying for some time that ‘conversion therapy is torture’ and must be outlawed. That very claim used to be at the very top of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign’s website.

What they fail to explain, however, is that anything which can be classed as ‘torture’ is already illegal under international human rights law. Abuse and coercion are rightly already criminalised too.

Colburn admits: “Of course, a lot of the stories that you hear of shock therapy, of corrective rape and things like that, of course, they’re already illegal.”

But if the indefensible practices of the past have already been outlawed, what is this ‘conversion therapy’ he wants to see banned?

We are given an answer. Elliot Colburn speaks of practices in ‘places of worship’. He gives the example of “prayer”.

Vague references to everyday Christian activities have become typical in this campaign. LGBT group The Trevor Project said: “Conversion therapy often involves teachings pulled from religious texts, prayer, spiritual discipline…” and ITV’s Paul Brand said it “often takes more subtle forms, including prayer and spiritual guidance”. You can find many more such comments here.

There can be no doubt that activists have the ordinary work of churches in mind. And a law of the kind Colburn and others are calling for would mean that any Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction or over gender distress would find church leaders very reluctant to speak openly with them about key tenets of their own faith. They would find it difficult to seek out those who will reasonably and carefully pray with them.

In that sense, a ‘conversion therapy’ ban could demand churches stop supporting the very members of their congregation that this law is supposed to help.

But, worse still, what is demanded is a law which would prevent loving parents from bringing up their children in accordance with their beliefs. Explaining to children what Christians believe; what the Bible says about sex and gender; and answering awkward questions from struggling teenagers, all become off-limits under an over-broad law.

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