News from Europe

Scottish conversion therapy ban “risks criminalising prayer and parental guidance”

The Scottish government has suggested a ban on "conversion practices" with prison sentences of up to seven years and unlimited fines for anyone breaking the law.

The Christian Institute has threatened to take legal action against the Scottish Government if they proceed with plans to ban conversion therapy. Christians fear that the draft legislation contains only a “handful of vague criteria for what constitutes a conversion practice”. It causes a great deal of concern that pastors who share traditional views and parents who try to stop their children from transitioning will be penalised. Women’s groups have also expressed unease about the law, seeing it as a form of gender self-identification. 

According to Joanna Cook, a public affairs officer at The Christian Institute, the current draft is “vaguely worded, dangerously broad, and would catch innocent, harmless behaviour. There are already strong laws on the statute book to protect gay and trans people. Existing law thankfully tackles verbal and physical abuse in Scotland today. But those campaigning for a law on conversion practices aren’t content with that. They want a new speech crime, a thought crime. And, I’m afraid the Scottish government’s proposals give them that. They would hand the courts very broad powers to restrict the free speech of individuals based purely on activists’ speculation about what they might say to gay or trans people. Our solicitors wrote to the government, preparing the ground for judicial review in February 2022. If Parliament passes a law that tramples on basic freedom of speech and religion, we are ready to challenge it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

Mrs Cook referred to a mother who might try to prevent her son from going to school wearing a dress and makeup. Under the proposed draft law, she would have committed a crime and would be prosecuted.

Human rights lawyer Aidan O’Neill KC, who provides legal aid to the Christian Institute, stated that the proposed ban risks criminalising the Christian ethics and traditions of churches and parents who want to protect their children from radical trans ideology. 


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