Protestors in Surrey opposing the conversion therapy group. (Supplied)
A Christian group has been ousted from a village after trying to recruit LGBT+ volunteers to undergo the harmful, discredited practice of conversion therapy.
Forced conversion therapy, which attempts to convince gay people they are straight or trans people they are cis, should be considered a form of torture, according to Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN’s expert on violence.
The Bethel Christian Assembly, an independent church, had been based at Shalford Village Hall near Guildford in Surrey, south England.
Pride in Surrey raised the alarm after members of the church attended two Pride events and were caught targeting individuals, who they attempted to persuade to undergo conversion therapy.
“For any person or organisation to come to an LGBT+ space with the direct intent of offering people conversion therapy, telling them they can convert them to be cisgender or heterosexual, is a form of hate,” said Vikki Cole, Pride in Surrey’s safeguarding officer.
“It can cause psychological distress and is therefore a safeguarding issue, especially when the target is younger people or more vulnerable members of the community.”
While conversion therapy is not illegal in the UK, the government promised to ban it as part of its LGBT Action Plan in 2018.
The Bethel Christian Assembly is part of Core Issues Trust, a Northern Ireland based Christian non-profit that has been accused of promoting gay conversion therapy by campaigners, who are calling for its charitable status to be reevaluated.
Core Issues Trust, which says it is a “non-profit Christian ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression”, published videos containing footage from Pride in Surrey events across its social-media platforms.
Pride in Surrey asked repeatedly for these videos to be removed, especially as they contained identifiable images of minors, as did the parents of the children in the footage. The videos remain online.
Zoe Franklin, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Guildford, said she was pleased to learn that Bethel Christian Assembly had been removed, adding that the government must ban the harmful practice.
“Conversation therapy is a psychologically damaging practice that has no place in modern society – it is the right of every person in the UK to be able to express their sexuality and gender freely and without fear of harassment,” she said.
“I sincerely hope that calls on the government to make this ‘therapy’ illegal will be successful.”