Campaigners have demonstrated outside a conference in Northern Ireland this weekend (19-21 February) which promoted “therapy” for people attracted to members of their own sex and suggested that they could be “saved” from homosexuality through prayer.
Protesters were particularly angry that the event, organised by the conservative evangelical group, Core Issues, gave a platform to the Rev Mario Bergner, a US Christian minister. Bergner claims that prayer cured him of both “same-sex attraction” and AIDS.
Other speakers included the Rev Thomas Yap, a chaplain at Essex University.
Anglican Mainstream, which has heavily promoted conversion therapy in recent years, said that Bergner “helps others overcome sexual sin patterns through a relationship with Jesus Christ”.
Mike Davidson of Core Issues said that the conference was focused on “those who struggle with sexual brokenness and who want [to] examine those issues within a Biblical context”.
But participants at the event were greeted by protesters from the Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce (SCOTT) and the Queer Youth Network.
“Our protest will be peaceful, dignified and non-confrontational,” said SCOTT’s Patrick Strudwick last week, “We bring love. They offer hate.”
He added, “The message of our protest is simple: love needs no cure. We want to remind the young people in the conference in the midst of so-called treatment that they are healthy, normal, valuable people”.
Jack Holroyde of the Queer Youth Network said that they were not seeking to try to change the opinion of those practising conversion therapy, but those undergoing it.
Strudwick, an investigative journalist, recently went undercover to experience conversion therapy himself. His revelations in the Independent earlier this month triggered alarm and led to the creation of SCOTT.
Conversion therapy has also been criticised by a number of Christian organisations, including the thinktank Ekklesia and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM).
There was particular alarm in January when a number of socially conservative Christian groups, including Anglican Mainstream and Christian Concern For Our Nation (CCFON), backed a major conference in London based around the idea that people could “overcome” an attraction to members of the same sex.
Also on Ekklesia Christian commentator Savi Hensman's critique, 'Dumping dubious remedies: "curing" homosexuality' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11219