Ozanne Foundation wants state surveillance of Christian ministries

Oct 17, 2021 by

by Carys Moseley, Christian Concern:

The government should arrange for ‘intelligence gathering’, ie. spying on ‘repeat offenders’ of ‘conversion practices’ (aka ‘conversion therapy’). This is what the Ozanne Foundation recommends in its Cooper Report, published on 1 October.

Targeting ‘conversion practices’

The Cooper Report defines ‘conversion practices’ as “attempts to suppress, ‘cure’ or change sexual orientation or gender identity.” It calls on the UK government to ban ‘conversion practices’ without delay. The authors prefer the term ‘conversion practices’, which is used in the criminal law passed in Malta in 2016. The switch in terminology means that Christian ministry broadly conceived is being targeted.

Appendix 1 of the report provides ‘definition illustrations’ of supposed scenarios of ‘suppression’, ‘cure’ and ‘change’. The illustration for ‘suppression’ is a teenage girl who experiences same-sex attraction. The pastor is said to offer to pray for her and to pray “that she will have the strength to not ever act on her feelings.” This is the criminalisation of prayer for the exercise of virtues such as chastity and self-control.

Criminalising prayer and exorcism

The Cooper Report demands that the UK government should criminalise prayer and exorcism. It says that “exempting prayer … would lead to a significant loophole that would be open to abuse.” Regarding compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, the authors say this:

“It is worth noting that even so-called non-coercive forms of conversion practices such as talking therapy or ‘healing’ prayer, which are seen by some as ‘soft’ forms of conversion practices, still amount to degrading treatment due to the actual harm or the real risk of grave psychological harm to which they expose their victims.”

The report assumes, without evidence, that prayer inflicts ‘physical and psychological harm’, shame, internalised self-hatred and mental health problems. However, prayer that has ‘no predetermined purpose’ should not be banned. In other words, the link between prayer and beliefs about the authority of God is to be severed by the state. This fundamentally redefines prayer.

The report also demands criminalisation of exorcism when “conducted as a form of conversion practice.” The problem is that exorcism is not aimed directly at a human being. Typically, an exorcist addresses purported evil spirits in the name of Jesus Christ, commanding them to leave those persons believed to be possessed or oppressed. This was always what Jesus himself is recorded to have done.

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