The debate on banning so called Conversion Therapy is not a conflict simply between religious people and secular groups. And we must not let anyone frame it that way.
Some of the most powerful arguments against conversion practices come from people of faith. Powerful because they are deeply resonant arguments, but also because they come from the very people so many of us would least expect. Too often the portrayal of debates like these sets up false dichotomies, and this issue has to be opened up beyond the classic secular vs religious binary.
In this short piece you are going to hear from people of faith. And what they have in common is that their faith inspires them to oppose any attempt to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. You might think, based on the usual coverage of religion and faith, that these people stand with LGBTQ+ people in spite of their faith, that they sort of ‘leave it at the door.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. There are compelling Christian reasons to celebrate the wonderful rainbow of human diversity. And, of course, we aren’t just talking about Christian allyship here, for there are so many LGBTQ+ Christians who make an absolute joke of any attempt to tell them they need to change.
Before we hear from the contributors, it is worth outlining why this article is being written now, why it is important to spotlight these Christian voices for the week that’s in it. Doug Beattie, MLA (UUP) has tabled a motion to the NI Assembly. Motions are tabled on a weekly basis and give Members of the Assembly the opportunity to either agree with, amend or reject the subject of the motion. Even though motions aren’t binding, if they pass (either in substantive or amended form) the Minister responsible (if they support the motion) will usually seek to advance the request.
So that is why Left Side Up are keen to highlight the sheer depth of feeling of so many Christians on this issue. Their voices need heard. And although there are louder, better funded and more visible Christian groups than us, they simply do not represent all Christians. Let’s hear from some of them.
Rev Ian Carton says the following:
'In Romans 13: the apostle Paul says “8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law."
The most vital question for Christians when it comes to the consideration of a legislative ban on all kinds of Conversion Therapy is this – “does it do more harm or more good to our neighbours?” The simple, straightforward answer from the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by over 20 professional counselling bodies in the UK makes it clear that conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation (including asexuality) is unethical, potentially harmful and is not supported by evidence. There is also a plethora of further detailed anecdotal evidence which describes the profound damage that both “professional” and amateur attempts to convince someone that their sexual orientation or their sexual identity is something that either ought to be or can be changed. The real result of such “treatments” is self-harm, long term mental health problems and in several cases, even suicide.
That the church seems to be more concerned about their rights and privileges than about the evidence of real harm being done to vulnerable people is an appalling dereliction of the responsibility to seek justice for the oppressed and to love their neighbour. Some churches and church members are sufficiently deluded to think that they are acting in the best interests of LGBTQIA people, calling their behaviour “Tough Love”, but the truth is that love that hurts and damages people is nothing less than abuse.'
Lindsay Robinson, mental health campaigner and the lead for mental health with Left Side Up comments:
“As a person of faith and a Mental Health Campaigner, I am fully behind the call to ban the abhorrent pra