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Scotland looks to imprison parents for refusing to “transition” their children

  • ADF UK reacts to government proposals that could jail parents for up to seven years for refusing to “transition” their child
  • Christian leaders raise concerns new law could censor even pastoral support

EDINBURGH (11 January 2023) – Scots could soon find themselves facing jail time if found to be attempting to “change or suppress” another person’s “gender identity,” including in a family setting. 

In a vague and wide-reaching attempt to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” parents who are deemed “controlling” or considered to have “pressured” their child to “act in a particular way” when it comes to “gender identity” could be committing a crime. Criminal penalties could result if the actions cause “fear, alarm, and distress”. 

The legislative proposals, published this week for public consultation, give the example of “preventing someone from dressing in a way that reflects their sexual orientation or gender identity” as an action that could become illegal if repeated on two or more occasions. The threshold for criminality could still be met regardless of whether a parent believed they were acting in their child’s best interests.  

Penalties for such a crime include imprisonment for up to seven years, an unlimited fine, or both. 

Though LGBT-identifying people are already protected from verbal and physical abuse by existing law, the new proposals seek to criminalise a much broader set of actions – including what may be intended as a thoughtful challenge or loving advice, should this behaviour occur more than once and be deemed “coercive” (seeking to change a person’s mind regarding “gender identity”). 

Explaining their rationale, the government proposals state: “…the evidence from those with lived experience tells us that the most common form of conversion practices in Scotland is that of a series of “informal” actions conducted over a period of time.” 

Severe threat to religious freedom 

Church leaders across denominations in Scotland have raised concerns that the vague and ambiguous wording of the proposed new law could also punish Christians who offer mainstream pastoral care, advice, or opinion in good faith. The law, if passed, could violate the basic human rights to religious freedom and free speech, in addition to the rights of parents. 

To prevent instances that cause subjective “harm” but do not meet the threshold of criminality, the government additionally would create a new “civil protection order”. The order could grant courts sweeping powers to curtail the free speech of individuals. 

Lois McLatchie Miller, ADF UK spokesperson for Scotland, reacted to the proposals: 

“Common-sense parenting is not a crime. Under these draconian proposals, the Scottish government would place parents under a terrifying and well-founded fear of losing their children or being locked up in prison for saying something contrary to the favoured ideology of the day. The proposed law would violate fundamental human rights, starting with the right and duty of parents to protect their children, in addition to religious freedom and free speech rights, including for those in a position to give pastoral support. 

Children are not adults, and parents are not children. The vast majority of parents are committed to doing the sometimes difficult job of raising their children well. They deserve support and protection, not suspicion. Many hold firm, science-based beliefs in the immutability of biological sex. They have concerns grounded in the real-life testimonies of those who felt pushed into life-altering decisions that proved to be no solution. Parents must be supported to raise their children; not criminalised for protecting them.” 

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