Drafted 'conversion therapy ban' in Belgium Raises Concerns for Religious Freedom
At the end of October, a draft bill was approved by the Council of Ministers to ban so-called "conversion practices" against LGBTQ+ people. The bill was carried out by the Minister of Equality Opportunity Secretary, Sarah Schlitz. The adoption of this specific bill will allow the ban to take effect immediately. While the protection of victims from abuse and manipulative practices is extremely important, the bill could threaten religious freedom, as the Minister affirms she wants to ban "ALL forms of conversion therapies". Given that there is not a clear definition of what counts as "conversion practice", the bill could ban simple prayers and private conversations among Christians.
Sarah Schlitz commented: "The commitment to introduce this ban is part of the plan 'For an LGBTQI+ friendly Belgium' that will be adopted in the Council of Ministers. I want it to be as advanced as possible, to cover ALL forms of conversion therapies."
The bill includes a jail term from one month up to one year or a fine of up to 300 euro for people that violate the ban. Also, proposing or encouraging conversion therapy is punishable as well.
"This ban is a powerful deed to protect victims against this symbolic, psychologic and sometimes even physical violence", Sarah Schlitz says.
The Minister of Equality refers to controversial and abusive practices that were mostly documented in the United States back in the 1970s, where victims were subjected to electric shocks or sickening medications or suffered extreme psychological pressure. But there is very little, if any, direct evidence of the existence of these 'therapies' in the country.
Belgium is following several other European countries, such as France, Germany, Malta and some Spanish regions, that have already forbidden the so-called "conversion therapy".
In countries that are proposing the ban, some Christians are concerned that it can restrict freedom of religion, like private prayers and conversations. There is also the concern that praying for homosexuals or minors doubtling their sexual identity, or having a conversation with them about their sexual orientation could become illegal as well.
Source: Brussels Times; sarahschlitz.be; rtbf.be, Cne.news