A Christian group was given a committee room in Britain’s Houses of Parliament yesterday (31 January) to debate therapy to ‘cure’ gay people.
The event, which took place in Committee Room 11 of the Houses of Parliament yesterday was set up and promoted by Core Issues, a Christian group that has previously written disparagingly on LGBT issues.
The subject under debate was whether people should be able to change their sexual orientation, which they explained as ‘a debate about the legitimacy and freedom to offer sexual reorientation when many professional bodies are banning such therapies’.
Speaking in favor of reparative therapy were Dr Joseph Berger, a consultant with the Royal College of Psychiatrists of Canada, and Mike Davidson, a director of the Core Issues Trust.
On the other side were Professor Michael King , chair of the LGBT Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who was there speaking in a personal capacity and gay human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell.
The debate was sparked because Davidson is facing a disciplinary meeting at the UK Council for Psychotherapy due to his support for conversion therapy. He has been denied a place on a drama therapy course after he spoke in favor of the ‘treatment’ on the radio.
According to those present, the pro-reparation speakers focused primarily on what they regard as a lack of evidence for biological origins to sexuality. They argued it must be learned or caused by family dynamics, and could be changed.
Berger claimed patients had been helped, and suggested evidence on effectiveness had been censored by ‘gay bullying’.
However, in a previous comment attributed to him and since removed from the NARTH website (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), he himself appears to advocate the bullying and abuse of trans children, writing:
‘I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings…
‘On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.
‘Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary… It is a mistake for various interfering, ignorant, and biased busybodies to try to “counsel” the other children into accepting the abnormal. It is very healthy to be able to draw the line between what is healthy and what is sick.’
Dr Davidson objected to the way in which therapists were now being persecuted and argued ‘bans’ on therapy were a disservice to all those people out there who wanted to change, who would be driven underground to un-accredited therapists.
International health bodies have said such therapies are ineffective and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of ‘patients’.
Speaking to Gay Star News, King and Tatchell said they attended the event because it was taking place anyway and it was better that a counter-view be aired.
King argued homosexuality is not a disorder, that these so-called ‘treatments’ have no sound theory base, there is no evidence of effectiveness, and they are not ethical.
He said: ‘Such therapies constitute part of the very stigma that so many gay people suffer.
‘I think sometimes some of these people need to hear it very clearly and this was an opportunity to do that. When you listen to them debate, the weakness of their arguments become obvious.’
Tatchell said: ‘Treatments that claim to be able to “cure” LGBT people are flawed. They are driven by a homophobic agenda, not by science and medicine.
‘They are not based on independent, randomized trials – and are not backed up by empirical evidence and peer review. They are demonstrably ineffective and harmful, according to the many personal testimonies from people who have suffered at the hands of these therapists.
‘For all these reasons, they are unethical.’
The event was co-organized by Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, which provided a lawyer to help Davidson in his disciplinary case.
She told GSN: ‘What we support is the freedom of people who want to access counseling to leave behavior [homosexuality] behind which they don’t want to continue with.’
She insisted the debate was respectful with equal time given to the lead speakers on both sides of the argument.
Williams said: ‘The aim of yesterday’s debate was to have an open and honest discussion about the legitimacy of sexual re-orientation therapy and whether people should be free to access it and practice it.’
Core Issues describes itself as ‘a non-profit Christian ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression’.
However, in a program advertising an earlier conference they wrote: ‘Failure to live out the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence in the common life of the church with those who struggle with same-sex sins is a disease of epic proportions, a malignancy that spreads throughout the body.’
According to officials in the House of Commons, the room the meeting took place in was booked by Democratic Unionist Member of Parliament (MP), Jeffrey Donaldson.
Gay Star News understands Donaldson has been abroad and didn’t attend the meeting. We have contacted his office to ask him to explain his level of involvement in the event but have not yet heard back.
Davidson is one of Donaldson’s constituents and Williams told GSN that Donaldson didn’t know Berger was going to be invited but did know King and Tatchell would be there.
Berger was apparently invited to speak by Davidson.
GSN has also asked Core Issues to comment on this meeting but has not yet received a response.