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SNP could alter conversion therapy ban after revolt

Following a backlash against conversion therapy ban proposals, the Scottish National Party promised to "reflect" on the concerns.

Anyone breaching the proposed ban, who is found guilty of “suppressing” a person’s gender identity, could be facing up to seven years in prison. Christian groups have raised concerns about parental rights being severely undermined and the danger this proposal would bring to religious freedom. 

A representative of the Scottish Catholic Church said that a “worrying lack of clarity about what is meant by the term’ conversion practices’ could create a chilling effect and that religious freedoms must be protected.”

The Christian policy group CARE challenged the need for such a law. It cautioned that “an ill-defined law on ‘conversion practices’ could lead to the subjective policing of speech about sexuality and gender in a range of settings”.

According to Lois McLatchie Miller, spokesperson for Scotland at the Alliance Defending Freedom UK, the motion is “draconian”, and it would “place parents under a terrifying and well-founded fear of losing their children or being locked up in prison for saying something contrary to the favoured ideology of the day. The proposed law would violate fundamental human rights, starting with the right and duty of parents to protect their children, in addition to religious freedom and free speech rights, including for those in a position to give pastoral support. Children are not adults, and parents are not children. The vast majority of parents are committed to doing the sometimes difficult job of raising their children well. They deserve support and protection, not suspicion.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it had never been their intention to criminalise “day-to-day parental controls”. However, parents being in charge of a child’s clothing choices or whereabouts was among the examples of actions that could result in a conviction if they were “coercive” and caused “distress”. They also did not rule out that the parent-child relationship would be exempted entirely from the scope of the legislation, which is not expected to be published until next year.

According to the Government spokesperson, “The intention is only to address harmful and abusive acts. Coercive is not intended to address parental advice, discussions, or day-to-day parental controls. But we will reflect on all the feedback received as part of the consultation process.”

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