Faith groups: Religious leaders need conversion therapy ban

Religious leaders need a ban on conversion therapy to be able to convince their communities that the practice is not acceptable, faith groups have told MSPs.

The practice, which attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an individual using methods that have been equated to torture by its opponents, has been widely condemned in Scotland, with all political parties pledging to outlaw such therapies during the election.

Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee is currently considering a petition calling for the ban, which was submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

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Speaking to the committee, Jayne Ozanne, chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, said that of major denominations, the whole of Church of England and several Baptist churches, as well as the Hindu Council and including the Buddhist Dharma centre, there are many who has called for a ban on conversion therapy.

Pride marchers march up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.Pride marchers march up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
Pride marchers march up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

She said: "They've done that because they need as a clear indication from governments as to what is acceptable and what isn't. And then they can work within their religious communities to end it. It is often a theological debate. You will often hear one side saying that they hold the true orthodoxy, but the truth is, that particularly the Christian church and indeed other faiths now, there is a divergence of theological opinion on this.

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“There are many theological scholars on both sides of the debate. And it's that that we need to perhaps hear from, but most importantly, we need to hear about the impact on the individual.”

She added: "Pope Francis himself in March 2021 gave a quite foundational speech, where, many have claimed that he was talking about conversion therapy, but he talked about the need to engage with the reality, not this theological ideology. So he himself who you may know I met to talk about this, is concerned about the way that religious teaching has been framed to import harm. So I think it gives the religious leaders what they need - which is a ban – and then allow them to work with their communities and from that, education.”

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