A Christian charity in the United Kingdom is raising the alarm regarding a proposal to add even “gentle, non-coercive prayer” for LGBT people to the country’s ban on conversion therapy.
The Christian Institute, which is a U.K.-based charity that exists for “the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom,” issued a Thursday statement in response to Jayne Ozanne, a prominent lesbian Anglican and activist who has called even for prayer to be criminalized if it does not affirm LGBT behavior.
As The Christian Post reported:
Supporting the ban, David Walker, the bishop of Manchester, told the Guardian earlier this month, “Where activity has harmed someone, the person who has caused the harm should face prosecution.” He added that activity should include prayer aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation.
However, Walker clarified that he was not referring to “gentle, non-coercive prayer, but where there is a level of power imbalance and a level of force.”
Ozanne, who’s also pushing for full acceptance of same-sex marriage and transgenderism in the Church of England, responded to Walker’s clarification, saying, “I’m very grateful to Bishop David for his clear support for a ban, although I would strongly refute that ‘gentle non-coercive prayer’ should be allowed.”
She added, “All prayer that seeks to change or suppress someone’s innate sexuality or gender identity is deeply damaging and causes immeasurable harm, as it comes from a place — no matter how well-meaning — that says who you are is unacceptable and wrong.”
Though he has promised to keep prayer out of any conversion therapy ban, The Christian Institute sent a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to express their concern about Ozanne’s demand.
“Ozanne claimed ‘all prayer that seeks to change or suppress someone’s innate sexuality or gender identity is deeply damaging and causes immeasurable harm,’” the Institute explained in the press release.
“While the Institute does not oppose a ban that protects people from harmful pseudo-medical practices, the idea that ‘gentle non-coercive prayer’ should be included in a list of illegal actions is alarming,” the group told the prime minister. “In any event, it would violate the human rights of believers.”
“This view is confirmed by a legal opinion from Jason Coppel QC, one of the UK’s leading human rights lawyers, which says a conversion therapy ban encompassing ordinary prayer ‘would be likely to violate Convention rights,’” they continued.
The letter to Johnson went on:
Those pushing for the ban to include ordinary prayer seem to attribute the worst possible motives to those of us who hold different theological beliefs from them. They are not willing to listen to mainstream Christian groups or to their concerns.
Now they have gone a step further by stating that the legislation should cover not only practices they consider coercive but all forms of prayer, no matter how mild.
“This latest remark from Jayne Ozanne is very revealing,” said Simon Calvert, who is Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute. “It shows the focus here is not about protecting people from genuinely abusive behavior. It’s about criminalizing mainstream theology that campaigners on the fringes of the church don’t agree with.”
The Christian Institute noted in a recent brochure that such a ban is already in place in the Australian state of Victoria, where even pastoral advice and prayer that fails to affirm homosexuality and transgender behavior is a criminal offense that carries a potential £100,000 fine and 10-year prison sentence.
“The state Attorney General said church ministers will be re-educated by the state to prevent them breaking the law,” they said. “British Conservative MP Alicia Kearns says: ‘The model that’s been passed in Victoria is a good one.’”