21 April 2021

“Ban on “conversion therapy“would not violate freedom of religion or belief under international law, because of the harm it causes”

The Evangelical Alliance a religious grouping has written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson claiming that a ban on conversion therapy could “criminalise clergy” and “violate freedom of religion”.

In reply Mr Johnson said he took….

“freedom of religion very seriously” and would “continue to allow adults to receive appropriate pastoral support (including prayer), in churches and other religious settings, in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

However the implication in Mr Johnson’s response that freedom of religious expression would be threatened by a ban is disputed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed,

As an authority on religious rights, Dr Shaheed confirmed that such a ban would not violate freedom of religion or belief under international law, because of the harm involved in conversion therapy.

Speaking to MPs Dr Shaheed said

 “International human rights law is clear that the right to freedom of religion or belief does not limit the state’s obligation to protect the life, dignity, health and equality of LGBT+ persons.”

He continued

“Banning such discredited, ineffective, and unsafe practices that misguidedly try to change or suppress people’s sexual orientation and gender is not a violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief under international law,”

Natacha Kennedy of Labour Trans Equality said

“We agree with Dr Shaheed; banning conversion therapy does not conflict with religious freedoms. Individuals could still discuss sexuality or gender issues with their faith counsellors if they wish as long as counsellors do not attempt to change or suppress these feelings”

Natacha continued……………

The harm caused to vulnerable individuals by so called “conversion therapy” is serious and well documented. It must be banned !

An example of harm !

For a powerful example of the harm that so called “Christian” conversion therapy can cause to young trans people the following is from the suicide note of Leelah Alcorna young trans woman who killed herself in 2014.

Leelah’s mother sent her to Christian conversion therapists, but Alcorn later recounted that there she only encountered “more Christians” telling her that she was “selfish and wrong” and “should look to God for help”.

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.

If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate themself. That’s exactly what it did to me.”

From Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note


This needless loss of life continues to this day and it is no business of faith groups to be instrumental in perpetuating it.