THE row over Scottish Government proposals to tackle 'conversion practices' has intensified following an intervention staged by a collective of prominent church leaders.

Religious figures from various churches and denominations across Scotland have approached the government to ask that it reconsiders a plan to move forward with a ban on any practice that seeks to inhibit, suppress or change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Scottish Government has committed to a full and comprehensive ban on these practices with this forming a keystone of the Bute House Agreement between the Scottish Greens and the SNP.

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The group argues that the phrasing "conversion therapy/practices" is too broad a term, covering everything from "corrective rape" and electro shock therapy to what it described as criminalising “innocent Christians for teaching what Christians have always taught".

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Some 20 church leaders from the Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church, the Elim Penetecostal Church and others have written to the newly appointed minister for equality, Emma Roddick.

Religious groups have previously said they would considered legal action against the government for what they described as the “most totalitarian conversion therapy ban in the world”.  

Reverend Dr William Philip of the Tron Church, Glasgow, a co-signatory of the letter, described the recommendations of the advisory group as "alarming".

He added: "The presentation – as a law to protect LGBT people from abuse – is disingenuous; all such abuse and coercion is already, quite rightly, illegal. 

"It is these proposals which are abusive towards ordinary people, including loving parents protective of their children – by criminalising simply speaking with them, praying for them, or daring to disagree with LGBT ideology.

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"Threatening to punish church leaders and churches for upholding Christian teaching; terrorising mothers and fathers with the spectre of removing their parental rights for simply trying to help their children navigate normal adolescence – are these really the marks of a free and tolerant society?"

His co-signatory, Professor David Galloway of the Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton, said it was the call of church leaders to "share the good news" with all communities, including with LGBT people.

He said that abuse and coercion could never be supported and added: "[These] are completely at odds with the Bible’s teaching. 

"But we have a duty to lead our congregations in living for Christ, in the way He has taught us. 

"And that means teaching what the Bible says about all areas of life – including sexuality and gender.

“An evidence-based case for a new law has not been made and no gaps in existing law have been identified. 

"Yet the Scottish Government is continuing to press ahead with a law that could see ordinary Christians criminalised for merely expressing their beliefs."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: "Our aim is to address harmful acts; not general guidance, advice and support provided by parents or religious leaders.

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"The legal rights to freedom of religion, expression and a private and family life are protected under existing laws and any legislation we introduce in respect of conversion practices will recognise and respect these.

“We are developing proposals to end harmful conversion practices and will publish a consultation in due course seeking views from the public and organisations.”

Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Greens reissued a vow that the ban on conversion practices would be in place by the end of this year.

The MSP added: “The government’s Expert Advisory Group found that conversion practices violated the prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as being discriminatory and violating children’s right to be free from violence.

“These abusive practices have no place in a modern Scotland, and it’s vital that a watertight, comprehensive ban is introduced.

“Most religious groups and leaders who engaged with the process, including the Church of Scotland, understand the damage these practices do and support the ban."