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Bishops launch biased inquiry into 'conversion therapy'

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Senior Church of England Bishops have announced they want to begin an inquiry into ‘gay cure’ therapy amid calls to ban it for being ‘harmful’ and ‘dangerous’.

The inquiry will be led by the Ozanne Foundation, a Westminster based charity that campaigns for the Church to adopt a pro-LGBT agenda. Despite its inevitable bias, the organisation launched a survey this weekend for over-16s in the UK who have “tried to change their sexual orientation”.

Yet, in spite of it being an Anglican initiative, the ‘National faith and sexuality survey to discover the extent of the practice of conversion therapy within religious groups’ is being overseen by a multi-faith advisory board, which includes the Rt Rev. Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester; Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism (which aims to create “inclusive, egalitarian communities, valuing difference”); Teddy Prout, Director of Community Services at Humanists UK; and Khakan Qureshi, founder of Birmingham South Asian LGBT+, who claimed he knew of mosques where people were told to “pray away the gay”. Every member on the board has openly condemned the use of ‘conversion therapy’.

‘Conversion therapy’ and ‘gay cure therapy’ are terms primarily used by pro-LGBT activists in an effort to lump together morally questionable physiological interventions (sometimes attempted in other parts of the world) with counsellors and ministries that provide prayer and/or talking therapies to people with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion.

In July 2018, the government announced that it intended to ban the practice of what it labelled ‘conversion therapy’, later launching a 75 point LGBT Action Plan, costing the government £4.5 million.

However, the plan offered no clear definition of ‘conversion therapy’, nor explained how these therapies were going to be outlawed. Rather, it argued that treatments ranged from “pseudo-psychological treatments to, in extreme cases, surgical interventions and ‘corrective rape’.”

The Rt. Rev. Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Ozanne Foundation, said the Church of England was concerned that therapies were still being used by religious groups and organisations. He said: “Conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, and has been roundly condemned by the Church of England among many others.

“Sadly, we already know that all too often it has devastating long term consequences.”

Yet there is no good evidence to show that talking therapies that are labelled as ‘conversion therapy’ are dangerous. Far from being pseudo-scientific, there are reputable studies to show they can be effective, not to mention many testimonies of people whose lives have been changed. Core Issues Trust, which offers counselling to those seeking to move away from homosexual attractions and behaviours, has published the results of various studies which have found no evidence that these therapies are harmful. One such study states:

“Our findings mitigate against any absolute claim that attempted change is likely to be harmful in and of itself.  ... In conclusion, the findings of this study appear to contradict the commonly expressed view that sexual orientation is not changeable and that the attempt to change is highly likely to result in harm for those who make such an attempt.”

Another study published in 2018 from the Family Research Council found that of the people surveyed who had undergone sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), “68 percent self-reported some to much reduction in their same-sex attraction and behavior and also an increase in their opposite-sex attraction and behavior.” Further to that, 18% of those surveyed “reported feeling heterosexual attraction for the first time.”

Overall, clients overwhelmingly reported positive impacts of SOCE: a vast majority had ‘marked’ improvements in self-esteem, and many also noted ‘extreme’ improvements in substance abuse. The study stated that: “The hypothesis of ineffectiveness of SOCE is rejected” and “the hypothesis that harm predominates is rejected strongly.”

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mike Davidson, of Core Issues Trust, said: “We will seek legal advice. If [conversion therapy] does become illegal in the United Kingdom, that does not mean we stop our work … It will continue and it may be outside UK jurisdiction.”

He also emphasised that nobody should be “coerced or shamed or pushed in a direction they don’t want to go, and we are not about that. It is using standard psychotherapeutic counselling techniques.”

The survey is open to anyone in the UK aged over 16 and takes 10-15 minutes to complete. It closes on 31 December 2018.



Take the survey on ‘conversion therapy’
Read Carys Moseley’s article, ‘Ten good reasons not to restrict therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction
Read the Family Research Council study on SOCE findings