Hundreds of campaigners in the UK have resolved to work against the growth of 'conversion therapy', which aims to 'cure' people of attraction to their own sex.
Recent years have seen strong attempts to promote such 'therapy' in Britain, following its use in the USA, but an undercover investigation has triggered widespread outrage at the movement’s methods.
The group Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce (SCOTT) was launched after an investigative journalist, Patrick Strudwick, subjected himself to 'treatment' by two therapists over a period of months in order to examine the methods involved.
Although the 'ex-gay' movement has been present in Britain since the 1970s, it is only in recent years that small groups of socially conservative Christians have latched on to conversion therapy as they struggle against the growing acceptance of homosexuality amongst Christians, including amongst Evangelicals.
Organisations such as Anglican Mainstream and Christian Concern For Our Nation (CCFON) have drawn criticism by supporting conferences to explore 'therapy' for what they describe as Same-Sex Attraction or SSA. Strudwick began his research at one such conference in 2009.
He says that his revelations in the Independent last week (on 1 February) triggered hundreds of letters from outraged readers.
“Countless former victims of conversion therapy have contacted me, describing the years of suffering they endured during and since treatment,” said Strudwick today (9 February), “Therapists have written in impotent frustration about how they are left to mop up the psychological mess left by conversion therapists. Many readers were simply astounded that this goes on.”
SCOTT is calling on the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy to tighten their regulations to exclude therapists who attempt to carry out gay-to-straight conversion. They also want to make sure that the National Health Service is not inadvertently referring clients to conversion therapists.
As a result of SCOTT’s launch, a conference of conversion therapists in Northern Ireland on 19-21 February is particularly likely to draw protests. The guest speaker is Mario Bergner who, according to Anglican Mainstream, “helps others overcome sexual sin patterns through a relationship with Jesus Christ”.
Other Christians take a different view. The gay Christian actor Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years undergoing “treatment” before deciding that there is nothing wrong with being gay, described conversion therapy as “psychological torture”.
Also on Ekklesia Christian commentator Savi Hensman's critique, 'Dumping dubious remedies: "curing" homosexuality' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11219