An influential group of multifaith representatives is to examine the role religious belief has on people’s understanding and acceptance of their sexual orientation in the UK. Working alongside Humanists UK their survey aims to unearth the types of practice that are still prevalent in the UK and the impact that this has on an individual’s mental health.
The research is in response to the government’s 2017 National LGBT Survey with around 108,000 respondents, 2% of whom had undergone some form of conversion or reparative therapy in an attempt to “cure” them of being LGBT, and a further 5% reporting they had been offered it. The research is being conducted by the Ozanne Foundation with the support of some of the most senior UK statistical, religious and healthcare professionals.
Bishop Paul Bayes, Chair of the Ozanne Foundation, explains the reason for the research:
“Conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, and has been roundly condemned by the Church of England among many others. Sadly, we already know that all too often it has devastating long term consequences. And we are concerned that it is still being practised by various religious groups. So we want to understand why this is and to look more closely at the effect it can have on an individual.”
Martin Pollecoff, the Chair of the UK Council of Psychotherapists, has been instrumental in ensuring that the healthcare profession has been clear in its condemnation of the practice: “In 2009, the UKCP added a clear ban on ‘Conversion Therapy’ to our code of conduct. Since then we have worked alongside our colleagues in other Healthcare Professions to end these unethical practices resulting in the ‘2017 Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK’ being adopted by a partnership of 13 national healthcare organisations. Today, Conversion Therapy has gone underground – it takes place ‘in the dark’. This research will help us illuminate its prevalence and discover where it is still taking place.
Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation, is herself a survivor of gay conversion therapy and knows first-hand the harm that it can do to mental and physical health:
“Like many, I voluntarily chose to put myself through various forms of deliverance ministry and emotional healing in order to try and rid myself of my unwanted sexual desires as I believed them to be sinful. Sadly, this ended with me being hospitalised twice for severe abdominal pain caused by stress and two nervous breakdowns. If I had understood the dangers I would never have put myself through such emotional and spiritual abuse.”
However, she recognises that there are some for whom this has claimed to work, and she is keen that the national survey captures their experiences too. At the same time, there are many LGBT people who have felt that they have had no choice but to walk away from their faith, as Teddy Prout, Director of Community Services for Humanists UK explains:
“We have a significant group of “apostate” LGBT members within Humanists UK, many of whom were brought up in religious homes and yet have left their religion because of the way they have been treated and made to feel. This research will enable their experiences to be heard and understood by the religious groups of which they were once part.”
1. The Advisory Board consists of the following members (in alphabetical order):
Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, Church ofEngland
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
Martin Pollecoff, Chair of UK Council of Psychotherapists
Teddy Prout, Director of Community Services Humanists UK
Khakan Qureshi, Founder of Birmingham South Asian LGBT+ -Finding a Voice
Professor Sir Bernard Silverman, Former President of theRoyal Statistical Society
Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester
3. On July 3rd 2018 the government announced that it would bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK as part of its LGBT Action Plan 2018 following the results of its National LGBT Survey.
4. The results will be made public at a fringe meeting of General Synod in February 2019