Banning ‘conversion therapy’ is a threat to religious freedom

Feb 21, 2024 by

by Jacob Williams, spiked:

Should it really be a crime for a priest to counsel a parishioner?

Religious freedom is central to the liberal tradition. You don’t even have to be religious to benefit from it. Everyone has the right to believe or disbelieve what they like about life’s meaning, the universe and our place in it. Crucially, everyone also has the right to change their mind about those beliefs.

The campaign to ban LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK threatens this vital freedom. Various Conservative prime ministers have been promising to ban conversion therapy since 2018. But their proposals have been repeatedly delayed and amended.

Impatient with the government, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Burt put forward her own private member’s bill, the Conversion Therapy Prohibition (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Bill, back in November. It seeks to ‘prohibit sexual-orientation and gender-identity conversion therapy’. (A similar private member’s bill is also passing through the House of Commons and is due to be debated next month.)

All of these proposals so far have faced harsh criticism – particularly when it comes to so-called trans conversion therapy. When Baroness Burt’s bill was first debated in the Lords, critics rightly pointed out the threat it posed to therapists and counsellors. Mental-health professionals dealing with gender dysphoria would be forced to unconditionally affirm a patient’s view that they were born as the wrong sex. Ahead of the bill’s second reading earlier this month, Burt tried to assure critics that her bill would only ban ‘practices’ involving an ‘assumption’ of a ‘preferable sexual orientation or gender identity’.

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