Flat-earthers or just good Christians? Meet the gay converters

Two religious groups are fighting a bill that would outlaw controversial ‘gay cure’ therapy

Few meetings in Westminster start with a reading from scripture on “desires and love” and an announcement that the participants won't be filmed or identified without their permission, but the Setting Love in Order conference wasn't purely a political meeting.

It was the first of two events run by two Christian campaign groups to protest against a private members bill aiming to ban the controversial practise of “gay conversion” or “gay cure” therapy.

The conference held today in central London will next move on to Northern Ireland, but both events are set under the tagline: “ Protecting the freedoms to believe, to exist and to change when homosexual feelings are unwanted.”

Among those involved is Andrea Minichiello Williams from Christian Concern, who made headlines last month when The Independent reported her suggestion that Olympic diver Tom Daley is in a relationship with a man because of the loss of a paternal figure when his father died.

Along with Ms Williams, who declined to be interviewed for this story, the events also see addresses from Dr Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, one of the most well-known organisations to back therapy seeking to turn gay people straight.

It was therefore odd that the meeting in London - which was chaired by Dr Chris Sugden, a member of the Church of England's General Synod, and attended by everyone who is anybody in the gay-conversion world - was opened by Geraint Davies, a Labour MP who is seeking to ban gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

Speaking at the Emmanuel Church Conference Hall, the Swansea MP told the audience of gay-conversion therapists, academics, social workers, Christian authors and faith campaigners that he felt “a little like a vegetarian opening a meat market” introducing the details of his private members bill.

“As it stands there is no regulation of gay-conversion therapy and nothing to protect vulnerable people being inadvertently being sent by their GP to a psychotherapist who beneath a mask of professionalism has particular religious axes to grind,” he said.

Mr Davies went on to say it was “wrong to say that sexuality can be healed like a disease or a disorder”, and called on the two Christian bodies to back the bill. He said regulation is required because the NHS is spending “enormous sums of money” referring “ vulnerable people” to “unregulated and dangerous gay conversion therapy”.

The bill, which has been described as a “threat to Christians” by Anglican groups, is unlikely to become law as it stands. However, Mr Davies hopes it may become part of the Labour Party Manifesto for the 2015 election.

A ban was dismissed as an impractical by Conservative Health minister Daniel Poulter in Parliament this week - he claimed it could have “unintended consequences” for counsellors who are supporting gay people.

Despite obvious hostility to the bill, the response to Mr Davies was respectful. But after muted applause to the MP's remarks, Dr Davidson, who rejects the term “gay cure” to describe his work, asked: “On what grounds should a married man with children be forbidden the opportunity to reduce unwanted same-sex attraction in order to hold his family together?”

He continued: “People who are troubled in this area, who genuinely want to seek the possibility of reducing feelings or eliminating them, need to be provided a safe context in which to do that.”

To applause, he added: “Just because you have homosexual feelings does not mean you are gay, because I do not accept the assumption that homosexuality is innate, genetic or biological and therefore unchangeable.”

He praised Mr Davies for his “sincerity as a politician” and agreed “there is no room” for unwanted therapy on anyone. Yet a statement promoting the event said: “The debate on therapeutic help to move away from unwanted same-sex attraction has been hijacked and distorted by a small and vociferous gay lobby.”

The Westminster event went on to cover topics including “Don't want to be gay anymore? Sorry we're not allowed to help you! Is that ethical?” and “Straight, gay, bisexual - what about ex-gay and post-gay?” But much of the discussion focused on Mr Davies' bill and his alleged-bias against gay-conversion community.

Ms Williams, who spoke in the afternoon and has previously called on Jamaican lawmakers to keep same-sex intercourse illegal, , said the bill as “subversive” and written in “double speak”.

She said: “It talks about respecting the rights of all people to personal freedom but for Geraint Davies personal freedom can only go one way. Anything less than protection and approval for a practising homosexual lifestyle will lead to punishment. This is the motivation behind the bill: it is coercive and deeply illiberal.”

John Marsh, who was handing out copies of his book The Liberal Delusions, said: “Mr Davies has a definite ideological agenda, the words he used were loaded, that we were fundamentalists for example… my faith is a liberal theology.”

Mr Marsh, who in his book argues that society has become too liberal, told The Independent: “There is more stability overall in heterosexual rather than homosexual relationships and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to help people who are bisexual and want to choose a heterosexual path of having children and a family.

“Homosexuality is a developmental thing that often comes about because a person often hasn't developed a good relationship with a same sex parent, like an absent father.”

Colin Coward, the head of Changing Attitudes, which works to include LGBT people in the Anglican Church, also spoke at the conference on “what gays bring to marriage” but said he was met with “strong hostility and even derision.”

Speaking to The Independent after the event, Mr Davies questioned much of the science put forward by the speakers at the conference and was quick to point out that Dr Davidson is not a medical doctor and was removed from the British Psychodrama Association after comments about gay-conversion therapy.

Likewise, fellow event speaker Lesley Pilkington was struck off in 2012 by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy after she tried to “cure” an undercover journalist of his homosexuality and said he had been “sexually abused” and that was what made him gay.

Mr Davies told The Independent that there was “overwhelming scientific evidence that gay conversion is harmful and should be banned“ and compared the gay-cure lobby to people “who believed the world was flat” and to scientists “who continue to insist that there is no such things as global warming.”

He said: “There is evidence that one in six psychiatrists and psychotherapists are engaged in sexual orientation therapy, however the Council for Psychotherapy and the British Medical Association have said it's positively harmful in terms of trauma and psychological damage.”

James Taylor, head of policy at Stonewall, echoed his concerns and said the gay rights charity was “deeply concerned about 'voodoo' gay-cure therapies and their promotion”.

He told The Independent: “Any attempt to 'cure' lesbian, gay and bisexual people is damaging to self-esteem and contributes to unhappiness. It's vital that gay people can access effective support”.

Last week the leading body for Christian therapists, the Association of Christian Councillors, instructed its members to stop trying to turn its gay patients straight, in a move welcome by gay rights campaigners but condemned by the Core Issues Trust and Christian Concern.


 

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

SENCO

£21000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: SENCO - Benfleet - J...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you looking to work in Edu...

Nursery Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunity for a nursery manage...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker