Malta has become the first European country to ban gay conversion therapy. The bill against the practice, which aims to “cure” a non-heterosexual person of their sexuality, was voted through unanimously in December 2016.
According to a BBC report, under the new law, anyone who tries to “change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression” will be fined or even jailed. Professionals will face heftier fines of up to €10,000 (£8,496.00/$10,395.00).
They could also be jailed for up to a year.The bill also enshrines in law that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort”.
Malta was named the best European country for LGBT rights by advocacy group ILGA-Europe in 2015.
Gay conversion therapy has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years, but remains more popular in the US than in Europe.
Its supporters claim it uses standard psycho-therapeutic and counselling techniques so people can change or reduce their “homosexual tendencies” of their own free will.
But the World Psychiatric Association has denounced the practice as unethical, unscientific and harmful to those who undergo it.
Two years ago, NHS England and the Royal College of Psychiatrists – along with 12 other organisations in the UK – signed an agreement which called it “potentially harmful and unethical”.
It has also been banned on minors in several places in the US, including California and Illinois.
The move has infuriated Dr Mike Davidson, right, who leads Core Issues Trust, a UK charity offering support for those with “unwanted sexual feelings and behaviours”, including homosexuality.
In 2014 he was removed from professional psychotherapeutic training for expressing the view on the BBC that individuals should have the right to determine their sexual identity and have access to support from professionals to change unwanted practices. He was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, but was denied reinstatement unless he changed his ideas about human sexuality. He continues to support clients who seek change in their sexual practices and feelings.
Writing for Christian Concern, Davidson, claimed “that the Christian Church in the West manifestly fails to see the nature and extent of the threat that Malta’s decision to ban ‘conversion therapy’ presents in Europe.
“That the Church, under Archbishop Charles Scicluna appears to contradict Pope Francis’ rejection of homosexual culture, doesn’t augur well for the Maltase Christians. It is of course well known that the ‘Gay Christian’ agenda is the final frontier in the process to normalise homosexuality.
“The Church, in that model, provides the last bastion against recognition of a categorical notion of ‘gayness’ and the history of the Church must be re-written and Christians should be re-educated.”
He added: “The work of demonising any therapist supporting clients wanting to move away from any unwanted sexual attractions is almost complete. Without research evidence, and simply at the behest of mental health organisations around the world, including in the UK, which prescribe discipline for any professional breaching the ethical boundary of only affirming homosexuals or transsexuals, there is now no professional body willing to support client autonomy and professional intervention for those who refuse to accept homosexual feelings as normal.
“Only the American Psychological Association has been brave enough to admit that research has not been done which proves that such therapy is ipso facto harmful and ineffective.
“The Church, on both sides of the reformation divide, has failed to recognise that appeasement, the light at the end of this tunnel, is in fact an oncoming train. I would argue that this is the latest strain of gnostic heresy.
“Motivated by compassion to support a society claiming to value all persons, it has failed to uphold its own narrative in this mission of appeasement. The fact is, homosexual practice and the Gospel of Christ are irreconcilable. This is a position agreed by both affirming and conservative Biblical scholars. The Bible condemns active homosexual practices – both male and female.
“Whatever arguments are made to support people to fulfil these desires cannot be made on Biblical grounds without seriously impugning Biblical scholarship over millennia and the theological heritage of the Christian Church in general. In England, Archbishop Justin Welby knows this, whether he admits it or not. It would be surprising if Archbishop Charles Scicluna does not know it too. Both are pragmatists, and both are in danger of failing to stand in historical continuity with the Gospel of Christ.
“Where the archbishops have erred, it seems, is in failing to secure the right of individuals who don’t wish to act on their acknowledged feelings and homosexual inclinations, to obtain professional help for these unwanted feelings. Almost nobody in the Church, whether state or non-conformist, stands with those of us who have benefitted from psychotherapeutic interventions that have successfully helped us to achieve our goal: to move away from unwanted homosexual desires. The Church, cowering under state pressure, has refused to support professionals who offer such help.
“They have believed, and now practise the lie that such help is unsafe, doesn’t work, is unnecessary and is morally repugnant. If they don’t believe that is the case, one would expect them to say so. If they do believe it, they remain silent at the expense of those who walk out of homosexuality – either way they fail to stand where the Gospel stands.
“The fact is, banning “conversion therapy” (a self-condemning pejorative) will simply strengthen the determination of groups and individuals all over Europe, America and the East to stand together and develop alternative means by which client rights will be recognised and professional interventions sanctioned – in the area of support for leaving homosexual practices and feelings. If the existing mental health orgnisations will not support this option in respect of client autonomy, the future will be to develop alternative, self-regulating sanctioning bodies. And no doubt, a legal wrangle will ensue.
“The Church then, has a choice to make and Archbishop Scicluna appears to have made it for the Christians of Malta, despite earlier attempts to resist this move. The future of the Church in the world as the ambassador of Christ, is dependent on such a choice. It must either stand with therapists and counsellors who work in this niche, or it must continue, by disowning and shaming them, in its noncommittal path – to its own extinction.
“If it chooses the former, the path will be towards a slow recovery of the ministry of chastity. If the latter, it will sign its own death warrant for the loss of the freedom of its pulpits. It can then expect its ministers to be prevented from preaching the whole counsel of God in the matter of Christian sexual ethics bequeathed by the ancients of Israel.
“The choice is clear.”