Pickets planned at ‘gay leper’ conference

Stephen Gray January 19, 2012
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Picketers are planning to target a religious ‘ex-gay’ conference in Northern Ireland which refers to gays as ‘lepers’ in its name.

But organisers of ‘The Lepers Among Us’ insist they did not mean to cause offence.

They claim to disagree with the way leprosy sufferers were shunned in biblical times and compare that with how people with “conflicted in religious and sexual identity” are treated now.

On Friday and Saturday of this week, the conference is set to “explore the role of evangelical and orthodox churches in supporting men and women with unwanted same sex attractions”.

Protests were held last year at the conference, hosted by the Belvoir Church in Belfast who said last year they were not ideologically attached to the group.

The event says it is concerned with theology rather than psychotherapy and the group respects the rights of gays who do not “seek change”.

Organisers said in a statement: “Core Issues Trust does not offer so-called ‘Reparative’ or ‘Conversion’ therapy but does offer support to individuals conflicted in religious and sexual identity, within a specific ethical framework.”

That framework advises therapists to seek “clarification of tailored pathways appropriate for future identity integration, consistent with personal values. This clarification may lead to a quest for celibacy, integration (to the LGB community) or to change.”

It also reminds therapists to tell clients that “reorientation” therapy could be psychologically damaging and that there is no evidence it works.

Dr Paul Miller, the infamous psychiatrist who was the subject of an expos√© in 2010 that led to him being reported to the General Medical Council, is on the conference’s Council of Reference.

He has recently been put under a supervision order by the GMC, who confirmed to this week that he is under investigation.

A statement by the Trust last week says it “recognises the fundamental human rights of the LGBT community to live in partnerships that are happy, fulfilled and respected. It acknowledges that Christians have different understandings of the teachings on the bible around human sexuality.

“It reserves the right to offer alternative orthodox views to those who choose to prioritise a religious identity over a sexual identity, or when these identities collide.”

But it also requests the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy recognise the “dangers” of a conflicted person “prematurely foreclosing” on a gay identity.

It “requests more thorough discussion about how to deal with competing religious and cultural values, and for these groups to recognise the poor quality of currently available scientific data and the lack of adequate evidence around both proving or disproving sexual orientation change efforts.”

Talks at the conference have titles including: ‘All of us Get Healed Together or Nobody Gets Healed: Marriage, Chaos, Love Disorders, Sexual Inversions and Gender Confusions’, ‘Fallen church leaders and members’ and ‘Naming the sin, lifting the shame’.

John Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project told the Belfast Telegraph: “We are very upset that these types of conferences are continuing.

“We will be protesting between 9.30am and 11am next Friday and Saturday to run alongside the opening of the conference.

“We have a number of issues with the event. Firstly, the name which refers to lepers. Regardless of the organisers’ intention, we consider it to be homophobic to the LGB community. And, secondly, we consider the practice of reparative therapy to use methods that are possibly dangerous.”

More: Northern Ireland

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