DISCUSSIONS are under way in the Scottish Parliament to develop a conversion therapy law that could make it a criminal offence to dissuade a person from being gay or transgender. Even the Church of Scotland has called on the government to ban conversion therapy.

The discussion is on-going but at the moment all of the political parties support a ban. But what does conversion therapy mean and what would be banned?

There does not appear to be a move to ban preachers from preaching about the “sins” of homosexuality. But if an adult approached a minister or priest to have a private conversation or prayer session about their sexuality and the preacher repeated his or her beliefs, this would be criminal.

Speaking at the committee discussing this matter, Dr Rebecca Crowther of the Equalities Network, who describes herself as a queer feminist, explained that for her a private prayer session was no less dangerous than electro-shock therapy. Prayer, even if voluntarily carried out, she argues, can lead to mental health problems and suicide.

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Blair Anderson, of the Scottish Green Party, explained that his parents’ religious opposition to his homosexuality when he was 14 years old should be considered as a form of torture. He went on to argue that you cannot talk about consenting to discussions about your sexuality just like you cannot consent to torture.

Barbara Bolton, of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, argued that any attempt to question both the sexuality of a person or their gender identity was something that should be outlawed because it “breached their right to health”.

The Church of Scotland have already backed a memorandum of understanding signed by a variety of organisations that denounces attempts to question a person’s gender identity, describing this as unethical and potentially harmful.

The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities Committee has suggested that the conversion therapy ban in Victoria, Australia, is a good model to follow. Here it is now illegal for a person, to “not affirm someone’s gender identity”.

Examples in the guidance of the Victoria law include the need to criminalise, “a parent refusing to support” their child’s request for puberty blockers.

As it happens I, like most people I suspect, feel a great deal of sympathy for Blair Anderson and indeed any gay child who grows up in a religious family that opposes homosexuality. But should we literally treat these parents as torturers, and should we be arresting them for expressing their moral values and beliefs to their children?

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Moreover, do we want a situation where teachers, parents and possibly even friends who refuse to “affirm someone’s gender identity” are criminalised?

I have made the point before that what we are witnessing here is an assault upon different belief systems, especially traditional beliefs that do not align with the new elites’ preoccupation with identity politics.

The fact that grown adults seeking guidance about their sexuality are disregarded and presented as simply victims of other people is a profoundly degenerate and one-sided idea of human subjectivity. It indicates that we are losing a genuine sense of what it means to be free. Now, adults are to be treated like children who cannot make up their own minds up about who to talk to about their life or values.

With children the matter becomes more complicated as there is no adult consent. But again, the idea of freedom and autonomy in terms of the family and parents’ freedom of conscience and beliefs is completely undermined by these arguments.

If questioning your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to be a crime, what else and what other opinions and outlooks should we make criminal?

Interestingly, within the parliamentary committee discussion, Green MSP Maggie Chapman argued that attempting to socialise and help people with autism could and perhaps should be thought about as a form of conversion therapy.

What, she asked, would be the consequences if we expand the definition of conversion therapy to include, “people who are not neuro-typical?” Because “autistic conversion therapy, in my view, has exactly the same kinds of coercion, torture, that you have been talking about”.

Here we find the logic of an approach that sees “identity” as sacrosanct, like a new religion. Where certain aspects of a person are seen in terms of their “true selves”, their "identity" and any ideas, social beliefs, moral outlooks or simply personal judgements that do not “affirm” this identity are seen as an assault on their human rights.

If the Bill being promoted here is passed it will represent the greatest undermining of basic freedoms in modern Scottish history.

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