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We were relieved that the King’s Speech did not include a bill banning conversion therapy – and want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all those members and supporters who used our campaigning tool to urge their MP to ask Rishi Sunak to think again about introducing such a bill. Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. It looks likely that either the Labour Party, or a Conservative MP who’s been lobbying for this measure, will try to amend another bill in the coming weeks, tagging on a conversion therapy ban. In response, the Prime Minister may offer to publish a draft bill so it can go through pre-legislative scrutiny and be ‘oven ready’ after the General Election. We think that’s extremely dangerous – it would make a conversion therapy ban inevitable, whoever wins that election.
As an organisation, we’ve been lobbying hard against such a bill – and thousands of our members and supporters have also joined the fight, using our digital campaigning tool to email their MP to urge them to consider the unintended consequences for freedom of speech if ‘conversion therapy’ is criminalised. This danger has not gone away, so we’re asking you to send a new, follow-up letter to your MP, reiterating your concerns. The link to the campaigning tool is here.
Few people would object to banning attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation through pseudo-scientific quack ‘treatments’ or by sending them to ‘re-education’ camps where they’re strapped to beds. But it’s unlikely that it’s just these practices that would be caught by the ban because we already have laws that prohibit such activities. As the Government’s own 2021 consultation on conversion therapy put it: “Our existing criminal law framework means that conversion therapy amounting to offences of physical or sexual violence is already illegal in this country.”
So, if ‘conversion therapy” is already illegal, what will banned under a new law?
Would it include a religious leader telling a member of their congregation that homosexuality is a ‘sin’ or ‘haram’? In the state of Victoria in Australia, which banned ‘conversion therapy’ in 2021, it’s a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail for a religious leader to have a one-to-one conversation with a member of their congregation in which they pressurise them to practice celibacy rather than act on their feelings of same-sex attraction.
The prospect of the state prohibiting, on pain of imprisonment, what a religious leader is able to say to a member of their faith about what their religion teaches about homosexuality is alarming enough. But just as worrying is the prospect that conversations between parents and children about their gender identity will be caught by the new law.
As Kemi Badenoch, the International Trade Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, has pointed out, it’s possible that a poorly-drafted bill would bring conversations between parents and their children within scope of the ban, effectively meaning parents who attempt to dissuade their child from undergoing life-changing medical treatments could be prosecuted. In the state of Victoria, it’s a crime for a parent to refuse to support their child’s request for puberty blockers.
A poorly drafted bill could also force medical professionals to rule out treatment they believe is in the best interests of some of their trans patients. Doctors have both a right and a duty to recommend what in their judgment is the best clinical pathway for a patient who identifies as trans, particularly if that patient is a minor.
Gender dysphoria is currently defined by the NHS as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”. For trans activists and ideologically aligned therapists, this is an innate feeling that must simply be ‘affirmed’, with the patient’s problems being solved by helping them to ‘admit’ they’re transgender. Anything less, in their view, would be ‘transphobic’ and something they would very much like to fall foul of a ban on ‘conversion therapy’.
Yet research on and around gender identity is still in its infancy and it can’t be ruled out that in some cases identifying as trans may be symptomatic of a mental disorder – ‘gender dysphoria’ still appears in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible of the American psychiatric profession.
Nor can it be ruled out that an adolescent who identifies as trans and wants to embark on transitioning is simply being swept along by a trend within their peer group or on social media. If they’re not persuaded to wait before undergoing life-changing surgery, such as a double mastectomy, they may come to regret it. Is it really in the best interests of such adolescents to criminalise attempts by parents or clinicians to make them pause and reflect before permanently changing their bodies?
The Government is alive to these dangers and our intelligence suggests Rishi Sunak believes he can draft a cleverly-worded bill that bans ‘conversion therapy’ for the LGBs but not the Ts. We think that’s naïve. However well-drafted the bill, it will inevitably be changed during the pre-legislative process to encompass all forms of ‘conversion therapy’ as the LGBT lobby, as well as activist civil servants, bring their influence to bear. That means the ‘oven ready’ Bill will probably look a lot like the conversion therapy ban in Victoria. Given the likelihood of Keir Starmer being the next Prime Minister, we think that’s a hostage to fortune.
By far the safest course would be for Rishi Sunak to stand firm against any MPs trying to amend existing bills and not to compromise by publishing a bill, which is why we’re asking you to write to your MP and urge him or her to vote against any such amendment and advise the Prime Minister not to publish a bill. Why open this can of worms? Conversion therapy is already illegal and any attempt to extend the ban in the vein hope of winning over ‘progressive’ voters would inevitably be hijacked by woke activists. Please use our campaigning tool to send a pro forma email to your MP – and feel free to personalise it. Filling out the necessary details won’t take more than a couple of minutes.
Thank you in advance for sending the email. At the FSU, we seem to be engaged in a constant battle to stop the Government making it illegal for people to say what’s on their minds. But if such a bill ends up being anything like the ‘conversion therapy’ ban in the state of Victoria – which we fear it would – we need to do everything in our power to stop it.
Act now to stop the Government making a terrible mistake.
- Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF)
- Article 19
- The Campaign for Free Speech
- Fair Cop
- The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE)
- Free Speech Champions
- The Free Speech Club
- Heterodox Academy
- The Institute of Public Affairs
- The National Association of Scholars
- Scholars at Risk Network
- Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (Canada)
Contact the FSU
Before getting in touch please look at our Frequently Asked Questions, as that may answer the question you have. If you still want to get in touch, please use one of the email addresses below:
Help: If your right to free speech is being infringed or you are being penalised in some way for exercising your lawful right to free speech please email [email protected].
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