An Anglican clergyman in the east London suburb of Dagenham is coming under heavy criticism in the UK after calling same-sex relationships and marriage equality sinful and claiming that “people can be cured from being gay.”
Rev. Steven Hanna, the vicar of St. Elisabeth’s of Becontree Church, made the comments in an interview with the Barking and Dagenham Post. The reporter asked him for comment on a recently-released letter signed by 21 local faith leaders voicing “concerns” about same-sex marriage and claiming that granting equal civil marriage rights to same-sex couples, as the government plans to do, would “bring God’s judgment upon us.” Hanna said,
I am not saying that being gay is a sin. I am saying gay practice is a sin and gay marriage is a sin. There is a difference between having gay thoughts and performing gay practice. I can have adulterous thoughts and yet not commit adultery. People can be cured from being gay. Not everyone is but everyone can be.
Of course the claim that “people can be cured from being gay” is absolute rubbish. Literally every single mainstream organization of medical and mental health professionals has denounced “ex-gay” therapy as ineffective and potentially harmful, including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the British Medical Association. So regardless of Rev. Hanna’s personal opinion on sexual orientation change efforts (and isn’t it quaint that he thinks he’s entitled to an opinion on a matter of scientific fact?), the truth is that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed nor “cured.”
According to Huffington Post UK, a Church of England spokesperson emphasized that “there is no place for homophobia in the church,” but went on to clarify that the church has not taken an official position on gay “cures.” Instead, they pointed HuffPost UK to comments the Bishop of Norwich gave last month during an equal marriage debate. The bishop said, “There are Christians who believe it to be curable, but that is not the view I take.”
What an appalling false equivalency. There are not two equally legitimate sides on the issue of “ex-gay” therapy. Opponents of this barbaric practice have the full weight of scientific consensus — you know, the truth — on our side. Proponents of “ex-gay” therapy have nothing but junk science and religion-based bigotry. Frankly, if the Bishop of Norwich’s remarks truly represent the official stance of the Church of England, then there most certainly is a place for homophobia in that church, or at the very least the repugnant and willfully ignorant accommodation of it.
Equality supporters and LGBT rights activists in the UK were quick to pounce on Hanna’s anti-gay remarks. Andy Wasley, a representative of Stonewall — the largest LGBT organization in Britain — told HuffPost UK:
In the run-up to Christianity’s most important festival it seems odd that Rev Hanna is discussing his parishoners’ sex lives instead of asking them to pray for the one billion people in the world going to bed hungry every day.
“Voodoo ‘gay cure’ quackery causes harm and distress and has been utterly discredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It’s sad to hear it being promoted by a man whose first concern should be people’s wellbeing.