Freedom of belief

Dec 7, 2021 by

Letter to The Times:

Sir, Janice Turner (“Conversion therapy ban shouldn’t be rushed”, comment, Dec 4) rightly highlights the potential difficulties attendant on government proposals to ban “conversion therapy”. The dangers, however, are considerably greater. The proposals threaten more that just to criminalise conversations about gender identity: they risk criminalising ordinary pastoral practice, as it will become illegal to provide counsel and prayer to congregation members who are experiencing same-sex attraction but wish to have help to maintain a celibate life in obedience to what they believe to be the clear teaching of Jesus. The majority of Christian denominations continue to hold that sex is acceptable to God only in the context of heterosexual marriage.

I attended a reception at Downing Street for Christian leaders last week, at which the prime minister reaffirmed his commitment to protect the rights of persecuted Christians around the world. It is ironic that his government is in danger of persecuting Christians in his own country if this legislation is not carefully crafted to avoid any possibility of criminalising the ordinary Christian ministry that has been protected and practised for centuries.

The Rev John Stevens
National director, Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches

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