Conservative Party lawmakers promised to ban the despicable practice of conversion therapy as far back as 2018. This week it did a double U-turn, leaving Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking like a fool—again!

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Left reeling by the outrage that followed his announcement that his government would not, after all, ban the practice of conversion therapy, which attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, Boris Johnson did a hasty retreat, promising that a ban would go ahead.

According to The Guardian, yesterday (Thursday) a government spokesperson confirmed that, instead of outlawing conversion therapy, politicians were instead looking at ways of preventing it through existing law and “other non-legislative measures”.

His retreat was blamed on “pressures on the cost of living and the crisis in Ukraine”.

But within hours of the announcement, a journalist who broke the original story quoted a senior government source as saying legislation would be included in the Queen’s speech in May.

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ITV News UK editor Paul Brand, above, tweeted that the Johnson had “changed his mind” after seeing the furious reaction to the earlier announcement.

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Brand said in this YouTube interview that some Conservative MPs “were considering their positions” and were thinking of resigning after hearing that Johnson had reneged on the promise that both he and his predecessor, Theresa May, had made to outlaw the practice.

The Liberal Democrats’ equalities spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse MP reacted to the initial announcement by saying:

This is not just yet another U-turn from the Tories, but giving the green light to a form of torture in the UK. This is an utter betrayal of the LGBT+ community. Conversion therapy should have been banned years ago, but the Conservatives are looking the other way on this abusive and dangerous practice, this is a complete injustice. The government must ban it without dither or delay.

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Jayne Ozanne, above, a prominent campaigner against conversion practices and member of the Church of England’s General Synod, said after learning of the first U-turn:

This is by far the most significant betrayal of trust that the LGBT+ community has experienced in years and flies in the face of all the commitments that [the prime minister], his ministers and other senior Tory MPs have made. It is incredulous to believe that he has backtracked on such a promise, particularly given the clear evidence of significant harm to vulnerable LGBT+ people highlighted in his own government’s research.

She added that if conversion therapists, in the main members of homophobic organizations such as Northern Ireland based Core Issues Trust, would leave:

Countless LGBT+ people completely undefended from degrading abuse, often from those they trust most, and will embolden perpetrators to continue their horrific acts with impunity.

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Writing in defense of faith-based “gay cures”, Andrea Minichiello Williams, above, who heads an anti-LGBT pressure group called Christian Concern, said:

Imagine you are a pastor or youth worker. A Christian teen in your church is struggling with their identity as a man or woman and wants to understand what the Bible teaches.

You arrange to study relevant Bible passages on these topics and pray together. You encourage them to embrace both their created identity—the physical reality of how God made them—and find comfort in their Christian identity.

Not only could this be deemed conversion therapy, but if the Christian was under 18 or didn’t sign a government approved consent form, this could easily be considered a criminal act … The plan to ban ‘conversion therapy’ is an attack on the central Christian message of hope, of change, of forgiveness, and of transformation.

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However, numerous clerics in the UK support a ban, and at least one UK, David Walker, above, the bishop of Manchester, insisted the practice should be criminalized. He told The Guardian last year:

Faith leaders should face prosecution if they fail to comply with the government’s promised ban on so-called gay conversion practices. Where activity has harmed someone, the person who has caused the harm should face prosecution.

That activity should include prayer aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation, he added.

The bishop warned the government against dragging its feet over the ban, saying as long as the practice continued people, would be harmed.

The bishop also said the term “conversion abuse” should be used instead of “conversion therapy”. He told The Guardian:

The word ‘therapy’ medicalises a process which uses no bone fide medical techniques.

Walker added that he had made it clear to all clergy and lay leaders that exorcism and deliverance was not appropriate in relation to a person’s sexual orientation.

Charismatic evangelical churches in the C of E and other denominations have used exorcisms, “deliverance ministry” and other prayer sessions in attempts to change people’s sexuality or gender identity. Some LGBT+ people have been driven to self-harm and suicide or suffered years of psychological trauma as a result, say campaigners.

Four years ago, the C of E’s governing body, the general synod, condemned conversion practices, saying they had “no place in the modern world”, and called on the government to ban them.

I detailed my own brush with conversion therapy in an OnlySky story in January.

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Veteran journalist and free speech activist Barry Duke was, for 24 years, editor of The Freethinker magazine, the second oldest continually active freethought publication in the world, established by G.W....