A free speech watchdog is warning about a new proposal in Scotland that could reportedly lead parents to be imprisoned for refusing to comply with gender transitions for their children.
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“You’d think that it was a joke or a piece of satire, but, unfortunately, it is the reality in my country of Scotland,” Lois McLatchie, communications officer at ADF International, told CBN News of the suggested provision. “There are proposals that would ban so-called ‘conversion therapy.’”
McLatchie said many people think of “terrible treatment” and worst-case scenarios when it comes to these methods of attempting to change people’s sexual proclivities.
But, while some claim the Scotland proposal deals exclusively with troubling abuses and methods, McLatchie said it runs much deeper:
“Although it says that it’s about conversion therapy, [this bill] actually goes much, much further and intervenes in what a parent can advise a child — a pastor can advise a congregant — or anything like that,” she said.
McLatchie continued, “If a parent were to … more than once tell their child, say their 11-year-old son, that he was not allowed to wear a dress to school, and lipstick, and high heels, and to dress as a girl when he’s a boy … you could potentially be guilty of committing conversion therapy, of being coercive, and therefore face a criminal trial and potential prison sentence of up to seven years.”
She said the proposal is being discussed right now during a consultation period lasting until April 2 and that ADF International and other activists hope the Scottish people “raise their voices,” weigh in, and help stop the passage and enactment of such measures.
With the Scottish National Party — the nation’s ruling party — and the Green Party behind the bill, she said the two political bodies have a majority of seats in parliament combined and have, thus, essentially formed a potentially powerful coalition.
“So, when the government proposes a bill, there’s a very strong chance that it will be pushed … through with the full weight of the government behind it,” McLatchie said. “It’s very difficult to challenge, but not impossible. We’ve seen situations before in Scotland, where similarly shocking pieces of legislation have been challenged either in courts or through the voice of the people.”
As a result, she said these past bills have been dropped or amendments have been made to the proposals.
“It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of courage from people in Scotland to stand up and challenge,” McLatchie said, noting, though, that the bill is still in the early stages. “It has a lot of rounds through parliament before it gets anywhere near becoming law.”
With that in mind, McLatchie said now is the time for people to speak out and sound the alarm over their concerns.
Christian leaders in Scotland have already been addressing worries over the proposed measures, particularly the damage it does to the parent-child relationship, and defending the truth of “biological reality that is set out in Scripture.”
In addition to imprisoning parents, McLatchie said another measure could preemptively censor people or even stop events from happening if suspected “conversion therapy” would be unfolding. Considering how broadly McLatchie believes the term is being applied, she has profound concerns.
“We have to think about this from a human rights perspective as well,” she continued. “Scottish people have the right to go to a prayer meeting if that’s what they want to do.”
McLatchie said people should have unfettered access to get church opinions on an issue with which they might be struggling.
“Many people … would like to hear a manner of different opinions about seriously life-changing decisions that they’re contemplating,” she said. “And they should have the right to find out information too.”
McLatchie said it’s unclear what might happen and what caveats, if any, could be included in a final legal measure. While proponents have said prayer and biblical advice won’t be banned, she argued the text of the proposal is complex and leaves the door open to profound confusion.
While some might not see the international relevance and significance surrounding what’s happening in Scotland, McLatchie warned of increasing tensions in the West when it comes to issues surrounding religious liberty.
“As countries fall, the pressure on other countries to conform to this new narrative and to conform to these essentially human rights abuses — taking away freedom of speech and the right to parent, the right to have a family private family life,” she said. “If we don’t challenge them outside of our country, how are we supposed to challenge them internally when they come to us?”
The debate over the proposal law persists, with Fox News reporting that legal ramifications can come for someone even if that individual prevented a transition out of a “desire to help or protect the person.”
The Catholic Church in Scotland is among those reportedly preparing to take legal action.
“The worrying lack of clarity about what is meant by the term ‘conversion practices’ could create a chilling effect and may criminalize advice or opinion given in good faith,” a spokesperson for the Catholic church said.