Evangelical Alliance: We want both better church care for LGBT people as well as protection for religious liberty
A letter from David Smyth:
On September 1 last year, just seven months ago, religious same-sex marriage became legally possible in Northern Ireland
Commenting at the time, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: “In line with our calls, we are pleased that the law will protect religious freedom, and that churches will neither be compelled nor prevented from offering wedding ceremonies to same-sex couples.”
While not apparent at first glance, the current public debate on conversation therapy is deeply tied to this change around marriage
On further reflection however, it is obviously essential that churches which do not wish to practise same-sex marriage (as protected in law) retain the freedom to teach about their beliefs and to support, through prayer and counsel, their members who want to live in accordance with these beliefs.
The proposed ban on conversion therapy clearly risks criminalising these things.
To be clear the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland supports moves to ban harmful and abusive practices that have been carried out in the name of conversion therapy. We oppose
anything that coerces, disparages or undermines the human dignity of another person.
We recognise the role the church has sadly played historically in perpetuating stigma, discrimination and harm towards people because of their sexuality.
Churches can and must do better in caring for members who may identify as LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) while continuing to hold to their increasingly counter-cultural, though orthodox, practice of marriage.
We have called for clear definitions of conversion therapy to ensure everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender, is free to pursue and receive support to help them live in
accordance with their beliefs.
That’s why we support the ending of harmful and abusive practices, while protecting the freedom of choice for individuals and the religious liberty of
churches and Christians. Good legislation can and should do both.
David Smyth, Head of the Evangelical Alliance NI, Belfast BT6
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