Letter to Sec of State – July 16th 2020

The following letter was sent by the four LGBT religious organisations working with the Government Equalities Office on ending Conversion Therapy to the Secretary of State, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP who is Minister for Women and Equalities on July 16th 2020 regarding the urgent need for a ban:

Dear Secretary of State

We write to you as leaders of LGBTQI+ religious organisations that have been heavily engaged in working with survivors of conversion therapy, and who have been advising the Government Equalities Office on how best to end conversion therapy, to ask that you urgently state clearly that you will ban it.  It has been two years since the government first announced its intentions to end conversion therapy, and during that time people have continued to practice it with impunity.

We have, between us, supported thousands of survivors after they have gone through this horrific practice, many of whom have paid a very heavy price for accepting that it does not work.  We know too many who have paid the ultimate price.  The continued suicide risk remains high – indeed a recent research report[i] has stated that young people are 2.5 times more likely to try multiple attempts at suicide if they have been through conversion therapy.

We urge you to prioritise these victims and announce a ban as swiftly as you can, please.  It is our considered opinion that this would do three things:

  1. Send a clear signal, that will reverberate internationally, that conversion therapy is not tolerated in any form in the UK and that perpetrators will be punished
  2. Give perpetrators, who research shows is primarily religious leaders[ii], a reason to think twice before doing anything that could get them reported, as few will want to risk having a criminal record as it would undermine their standing in their communities
  3. Give victims a legal authority who they can appeal to for protection and support

Conversion therapy has directly affected each of our lives – we have each lost loved ones, some of us have been through it ourselves and we know many who are still struggling with whether they should put themselves through it or not.  Its impact is severe.  The scars stay with survivors throughout their whole lives, undermining their ability to form relationships, impacting their health, and often destroying their relationships with their family and close friends. 

We know that ending conversion therapy will only ever happen when religious organisations change their teaching on this matter, and we are each committed to working within our faith groups to make this happen.  A ban is a critical step in enabling this dialogue to happen.

We ask that you act without delay,

Revd Jide Macaulay, House of Rainbow CIC

Jayne Ozanne, Ozanne Foundation

Jeremy Marks, Post Courage

Matt Mahmood-Odgson, Naz & Matt Foundation

[i] The US Based Trevor Project has produced peer-reviewed research published in the American Journal of Public Health on July 8th 2020, that concludes:

“Relative to young people who had not experienced sexual orientation or gender identity conversion efforts (SOGICE), those who reported undergoing SOGICE were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and having multiple suicide attempts.”

[ii] The 2018 Faith & Sexuality survey conducted by the Ozanne Foundation has shown that:

Amongst the 480 respondents who said they had been “advised to attempt to change their sexual orientation” over half (50.6%) had been told to do so by their religious leader.  Of the 82 people who indicated they had been “forced to attempt to change their sexual orientation”, nearly two thirds (61.0%) said this was done by a religious leader… The person most likely sought for advice by respondents with actual experience of attempting to change their sexual orientation was a religious leader (46.9%), while nearly one in five (19.6%) approached a “faith leader or specialised religious ministry” for advice.    

This is backed up by the government’s National LGBT Survey that found that:

“Faith organisations were by far the most likely group to have conducted conversion therapy (51% of those who received it had it conducted by faith groups).” (Page 14)

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