Religious leaders should be prosecuted if they fail to comply with the government’s promised ban on so-called gay conversion therapy, said a high-ranking bishop of the Church of England.
David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, told The Guardian: “When the activity has harmed someone, the person who caused the harm should be brought to justice.” That activity should include prayer intended to change someone’s sexual orientation, he added.
He said he was not referring to “soft and non-coercive prayer, but where there is a level of imbalance of power and a level of strength.”
The government announced in the Queen’s speech last month that it would hold a consultation on conversion practices before introducing legislation on a ban. Activists have said that the government’s stated intention to ensure that religious freedom and freedom of expression are respected could lead to loopholes.
The The Evangelical Alliance opposes the ban, saying it would put “ministers in danger when they preach, and members of the church in danger when they pray for one another.”
Walker said: “If I stood on a rostrum and started spitting hate speech, the fact that I could start by saying ‘dear God’ and end by saying ‘Amen’ would not protect me from the full force of the law.”
The bishop warned the government not to delay the ban, saying that as long as the practice continued, people would be harmed. “The government has had a long time and we don’t want this to drag on. As long as there is no ban, people are at risk, ”he said.
The consultation is expected to start in September, and the legislation will be brought to parliament next year.
In a published article On Wednesday on the Anglican website ViaMedia.News, Walker says the government sent “mixed messages” and that the consultation could “be used to excuse the slow pace … Sometimes we just have to get on with things.”
The bishop also says that the term “conversion abuse” should be used in place of conversion therapy. He told The Guardian: “The word ‘therapy’ medicalizes a process that does not use authentic medical techniques.”
Walker said that “I could not put my hand on my heart and guarantee that nothing inappropriate never happens in the Diocese of Manchester”, but had made it clear to all clergy and lay leaders that exorcism and liberation were not appropriate in relation to a the sexual orientation of the person.
Evangelical charismatic churches in the K of E and other denominations have used exorcisms, “deliverance ministry” and other prayer sessions in an attempt to change people’s sexuality or gender identity. Some LGBT + people have been forced to self-harm and commit suicide or have suffered years of psychological trauma as a result, activists say.
Justin Kennedy was released, carried out by two members of a charismatic evangelical church over a six-year period. “It was a torture. It totally screwed me up, ”she wrote in testimony. published in ViaMedia.News. “Whether you call it ‘conversion therapy’, ‘deliverance ministry’, ‘pray for the gay to stay away’, or whatever it is, it took my life and left me like a dead man walking.”
Kennedy left the church, but has since rediscovered his faith and is a minister-in-training at Heywood Baptist Church.
Four years ago, the governing body of the K of E, the general synod, condemned conversion practices, saying they “had no place in the modern world,” and called on the government to ban them.
In 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May promised to introduce legislation for the ban. Boris Johnson has also personally endorsed a ban.
Jayne Ozanne, a prominent LGBT + rights activist and editor of ViaMedia.News, said: “I am very grateful to Bishop David for his clear support for the ban, although I would strongly refute that ‘gentle, non-coercive prayer’ should be permitted. Any sentence that seeks to change or suppress someone’s innate sexuality or gender identity is deeply harmful and causes immeasurable harm, as it comes from a place, no matter how well-intentioned, that says who you are is unacceptable and is wrong “.
All of the conversion therapy was coercive, he added. “We know that this occurs in numerous C of E churches and in many other religious settings; in fact, there are evangelical organizations that defend it openly. This must end before more lives are ruined and sadly even lost. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism