Conversion therapy, religious belief and the Church – Part 2

Faith_Sexuality_2018_Border-770x400So here’s a look at the new Ozanne Foundation (OF) survey. You can see it here:

Faith & Sexuality Survey 2018

How much will it really contribute to an understanding of the ‘the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and development of their sexual orientation and identity’?

I have not approached the OF to ask for permission to reproduce parts of this survey for the purposes of criticism, but as it is in the public domain and is open to anyone in the UK over the age of 16, I am assuming that they will have no objection to their survey being discussed publicly. Why would they? If they get in touch with me about this, I will let you know on my blog.

Before we get any further, it’s worth bearing in mind again that research carried out by activist groups, or special interest groups, nearly always ends up too biased to give a clear picture of a situation.  No research can ever avoid some level of bias – all researchers have their pet topics/grievances and so on – but to get as close as possible to the truth of an issue, research must be designed to obtain as wide a set of views as possible without using leading questions (questions designed to encourage certain answers).

Researchers should always be prepared to find that their initial ideas are wrong, or at least not as cut-and-dried as they thought; they should always be prepared to find that the data don’t show what they expected to see. But when you are already very clearly on one ‘side’ of a debate, it is very easy to end up asking questions that are likely to give you the answers you want.

How does this survey fare then?  As it is open to anyone in the UK over the age of 16, I decided to complete it and see how it was designed to meet its aims (or not).  For the record, I’m a middle-aged, heterosexual female who is divorced and single.

Aims of the survey

Let’s start with what it claims to do.  There should be an actual research question here, as well as this statement of aims, but as we shall see when we get to the end of this post, there’s possibly a reason no research question is posed here.

The 2018 Faith & Sexuality Survey is designed to explore the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and development of their sexual orientation and identity. It is as such not designed to understand in any depth people’s gender identity.

Ok.  Those are the aims of the survey.  They sound good.  But let’s ask some questions about these aims before we go any further.

The word ‘explore’ is used, coincidentally, I suspect.  The whole of this survey is exploratory in nature (exploratory research is a specific kind of research and cannot prove that x has a direct effect on y) . It is not a ‘cause-and-effect’ investigation – even though it is made to sound as if it is in the publicity. Exploratory research can provide some answers around who, what, where, and sometimes how. It cannot explain why. And even how explanations or findings will be limited, if they are possible at all.

But here’s the problem – if you really want to find meaningful links (more than just associations) between one thing and another thing (in this case, religion and the development of sexual orientation) you need to be carrying out cause-and-effect research – known as conclusive research.  So straight away we have an issue that affects the type of findings we can expect to see from this survey.  All this research may be able to tell us is that there may be some association between religion-based experiences in the past (define, please) and adult sexual orientation ‘issues’ (again, define, please).  And according to many activists, we already know that.  So that’s problem number 1.  Wrong research methodology (which is different to ‘method’).

What about ‘impact’?  The word means something that has an effect on a person.  It does not indicate the strength of the impact, or whether it is beneficial or not  – merely that something has affected someone.  So ‘impact’ can be positive or negative. We need therefore to see questions that allow the nature of the impact to be effectively assessed – good, bad, strong, weak, short-term, long-term and so on.  You get the picture.

‘Religious belief’. Hmm.  How do you define that simply and effectively?  Speaking as an anthropologist, I can say that belief is a separate concept to religious practice and religious behaviours. For example, a person may go along with certain practices or behaviours without actually believing in them. Christmas celebrations are a key example – most of the people celebrating it in the UK are not actual believers. And taking children to church when they are young by definition involves them in behaviours and practices that they do not, or cannot, understand or believe until they are older or reach a stage of understanding. But here we are already seeing that the phrase ‘religious belief’ is actually used in the survey and the publicity to indicate both practice and behaviours as well as belief. Problem!

‘Understanding and development’…..we need to see questions here that show what level of understanding  respondents have of the nature of sexual identity and orientation.  Likewise, we need to see questions that show how respondents recognised the development of their sexual orientation and identity based on their understanding of the nature of these.  For example, if a person’s understanding of an issue is incomplete or confused, then their development in that area may well be also confused.  In essence, the survey is asking people to demonstrate a high level of insight. Whereas in practice, it is likely to simply appeal to feelings and thoughts – both of which may be wrong, misguided or incomplete.  Of course, they may also be correct.

And finally, ‘sexual orientation and identity’.  Hands up if you understand the difference? Well, sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to and want to have relationships with. Sexual orientations include gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, and asexual (probably more nowadays). Sexual orientation is different from gender and gender identity.  So straight away the survey is slightly confusing in its statements – it should state gender identity, not identity. Given that it is stated that the survey doesn’t want to understand in any depth people’s gender identity, I wonder why this has been included in the aims. However, maybe I’m being too picky.  But in my experience, if you don’t get clarification of your terminology, you can confuse the data and therefore the findings.

The survey sections and questions

The survey is divided into several sections looking at background information, religious background and practice in your childhood, your religious belief/practice (confusion!) now, sexual orientation and relationship status, your interactions with sexual orientation change attempts, your attitude towards sexual orientation change therapy, and whether or not you can be contacted after you have taken the survey.

That sounds quite comprehensive, doesn’t it?  But what are we seeing straight away? Remember how the aims of the study talked about ‘belief’?  Here, we’re seeing ‘religious background and practice’ instead.  They don’t amount to the same thing.  We’ll look at this in more depth when we look at the actual questions that are asked.

The beginning of the survey repeats the aims:

This survey is designed to explore the impact of religious belief on your understanding and development of your sexual orientation and identity.  It is as such not designed to understand in any depth your gender identity.  It is open to all individuals living in the UK who are over 16.  

Ok – that has reminded the respondents nicely.

The ‘basic info’ section asks about your age, gender, which country you live in within the UK, what was your ‘assigned’ sex at birth and your ethnicity. What it misses out is the fact that unless you are computer literate and have easy access to the internet, you won’t be able to access this survey. So straight away, some people are effectively excluded from taking part.  That’s likely to be sick, elderly, isolated or even blind people for starters.  Immediately that provides a self-selecting bias to the research – arguably, this survey is only easily accessed by people from a younger, more socially-active demographic, who use the internet and who are likely to be more ‘up’ on LGBT debate issues.  That doesn’t mean that the sick, elderly, isolated or blind won’t take part, but it is set up in a way that may make participation more challenging.

Throughout the survey a number of questions allow for a response option of ‘prefer not to say’.  Usually such an option is given to enable respondents to ignore questions that probe too deeply into highly personal issues. But this whole survey is about highly personal issues. Would-be respondents are already likely to be very ‘bought-in’ to discussions about sexual orientation and behaviours; in addition, it aims to find out what is going on in (if anything) in relation to respondents’ sexuality and religious something-or-other. To allow an option of ‘prefer not to say’ is probably not appropriate here – all it will do is reduce the amount of data gathered and reduce the reliability and validity of the findings.  In this ‘basic info’ section, for example, respondents are allowed to ‘prefer not to say’ what their gender is and what their assigned sex at birth was.  These are pretty basic requirements if you are trying to investigate respondents’ understanding and development of their sexual orientation and identity’ aren’t they? Problem!

The next section looks at religious background and practice when you were growing up and now.  It tells respondents ‘We would like to understand whether you grew up in a religious context and whether you have a religious faith or belief now. We are also keen to learn how this has impacted your life’.

Ok. Remember what sort of questions we should expect to see in order to meet the aims of the survey? Do we see a comprehensive set of such questions, or just some, or a number of questions that confuse either the issue or the likelihood of getting useful findings?

  • what religion (or belief) if any was practised in your home as a child?

o   response options include ‘other’, ‘non-religious’ and ‘prefer not to say’

o   other options are a range of major religions.

Straight away, we see a confusion of religion, practice and belief.  We all know that many people attend places of worship (however rarely) and claim to be adherents to a specific religion without actually believing any of it or bothering much about it.  Even devout religious people don’t necessarily agree with all the required beliefs of their religion. So this question is too general to be meaningful.

  • what is the best descriptor of the church (if any) you attended?

o   response options include ‘other’, ‘none, ‘don’t know’’ and ‘prefer not to say’

o   other options are a range of Christian denominations.  The ‘other’ box naturally appears to seek answers about other Christian denominations.

Just a minute!  The Ozanne Foundation says that it work(s) with religious organisations around the world [implying a multi-religion approach] to eliminate discrimination based ‘on sexuality or gender in order to celebrate the equality and diversity of all’. That sounds quite inclusive of many religions, right?  Even the previous question asks about a range of the major world religions – good.  But now we’re just quizzing down specifically on Christianity. Why?  Where are the questions about the type of synagogue, mosque, gudwara, temple and so on that you attended as a child?

Are people with a Jewish, Muslim or other religious background supposed to fill in ‘other’?  Isn’t this discriminatory?  Isn’t it in fact a leading question to get people to assume ‘other’ refers to another Christian denomination?  What does this tell us about the real interests of this survey?  Apart from anything else, it certainly casts some doubt on the commitment of the survey designers to trying to find out about the experiences of non-Christian respondents.

And finally for this question, we’ve got the options not to answer the question again.  But surely an answer to this question is crucial if the survey aims to understand how ‘religious belief’ has an impact on the development of sexual orientation?

  • how active/committed were you in this religion/belief in the following age groups?

o   response options include ‘under 12’, ‘12-18’’, 19-24’, ‘over 25’.

o   the five-level choice of options goes from ‘completely inactive’ to ‘very active’.

How many under-12s do you know who are active or committed to their family’s ‘religion/belief’? They may be active in Sunday School but surely that’s a pretty limited engagement with the big issues of a church or denomination?  Or is that what is actually sought here?  Is this question looking for ‘evidence’ of indoctrination or alienation among under-12s?  What do you think? Besides, many children are taken to church by their family and don’t even think about what it means in terms of day to day life.  Looking at activity in the older age groups is an interesting and important issue, but the response options are so vague as to be meaningless.  No specific beliefs are even mentioned, let alone the respondent’s reactions to them.  There is no chance for a respondent to explain the implications of his or her levels of activity at church (or wherever) and the development of their sexuality.

The other point here is that of the definition of ‘active’ and ‘committed’.  The response options only refer to activity, not commitment.  As we all know, you can be very active at church without being very committed to the beliefs (or at least some of them) of that church. So what exactly is the difference in the question between activity and commitment?  This is possibly the most flawed question so far.

  • What religion/belief do you practise now (if any).

o   response options include ‘prefer not to say’, ‘other’ and ‘non-religious’

o   and again cover the major world religions.

  • If Christian, what is the best descriptor of the type of church (if any) you attend?

o   response options include ‘none’, don’t know’ and ‘prefer not to say’

o   and again the list of Christian denominations only plus ‘other’.

  • How active/committed are you in this religion/belief now?

o   response options include four choices from ‘completely inactive’ to ‘very active’.

As before, there is the confusion between activity and commitment and there are no options relating to commitment. Plus, again, activity does not equal commitment.  There is nothing here to link sexual orientation development with religious involvement.

  • To what extent do you agree/disagree with the following statements?

o   the options listed can be graded on a five point scale from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ and there is a ‘not applicable’ option for all the statements:

  • my religion/belief plays a central part in my life
  • my religion/belief used to play a central part in my life but no longer does
  • my religion/belief is a source of strength to me
  • my religion/belief has been a source of conflict in my life given my sexual orientation
  • my religion/belief has taught me to accept myself as who I am
  • my religion/belief has caused me to hate myself for who I am

 The last two options appear to be ‘equal’ but they are not.  Being taught to accept yourself is something active that is being done to you.  Being ‘caused to hate yourself’ is a leading statement – your actual response may bear little or no relationship to what you were actually taught. It relates to your response to something, not to what you were necessarily taught.  Plus, this statement directly implies that some Christian teaching is directed at making LGBT people hate themselves.  That is insulting to most Christians who do not wish to upset LGBT people, no matter what ill-judged activities have gone on in the name of the Church before.

There are also a few glaring omissions in this list of statements.  Why are these not included?:

o   I am openly LGBT at my place of worship, or at least to some people there

o   I am not openly LGBT at my place of worship

o   my sexual orientation is not formally accepted by my religion/ place of worship but I have always been welcomed and made to feel part of the place of worship family even though I am openly LGBT

o   although my sexual orientation is not formally accepted by my religion/ place of worship, I have never met with /experienced any discrimination or other upsetting behaviour from people at my place of worship even though I am openly LGBT

o   As an LGBT person I have met with some problems at my place of worship but we have been able to discuss them and resolve the issues without too much upset on my part

Given that according to the OF website, Jayne Ozanne apparently recognises that for some LGBT people conversion therapy has worked:

However, she recognises that there are some for whom this [conversion therapy] has claimed to work, and she is keen that the national survey captures their experiences too…

…it would also seem reasonable to expect her to want to capture the thoughts of LGBT people who have had good experiences at places of worship in cases where they are openly LGBT.  If not, why not?  Surely asking about experiences like this can only add to the understanding of how LGBT people feel about their orientation and acceptance at church or wherever?

 The next section looks at sexual orientation and relationship status.  Respondents are told at the beginning of the section:

‘Please help us understand how you choose to define your sexual orientation and your current relationship status’.

  • Which of these describes your current marital status?

o   married to someone of the opposite sex

o   married to someone of the same sex

o   in a civil partnership

o   in a longterm committed relationship with someone of the opposite sex

o   in a longterm committed relationship with someone of the same sex

o   separated or divorced

o   widowed

o   none of the above

o   prefer not to say

What about plain ‘single’? ‘None of the above’ makes it look as if being single is less valuable or relevant to the researchers.

  • Please tell us a little bit more about your previous marriage/partnership

o   response options include ‘to someone of the opposite sex’; ‘to someone of the same sex’ and ‘prefer not to say’

  • Which of these best describes your current relationship status?

o   response options include:

  • cohabiting with a partner
  • in a steady relationship but not cohabiting
  • currently dating or seeing someone but not in a steady relationship
  • not currently dating or seeing someone but interested in doing so
  • single, not interested in dating or seeing someone
  • single, do not believe I should date someone but would like to
  • other
  • prefer not to say
  • Please tell us who you are or would like to be in a relationship with:

o   someone of the opposite sex

o   someone of the same sex

o   either – their gender is not a determining factor for me

o   prefer not to say

  • At what age did you become aware of what you understand your sexual orientation to be?

o   response options include ‘under 12’, ‘13-15’, ‘16-18’, ‘19-24’, ‘over 25’, ‘don’t know’, ‘prefer not to say’.

What are the implications of understanding your sexual orientation at a specific age?  What may inform this? The answer to this question is not particularly illuminating given than no link is sought between religious input and development of orientation.  The only associations that could emerge here are those in the minds of those who will analyse the data – not the respondents.

  • how open are you now about your sexual orientation with the following groups of people?

o   response options include ‘family’, ‘friends secular’, ‘friends religious’, ‘religious  leaders’, ‘work colleagues’

o   there is a five-level scale of options from ‘not open at all’ to ‘open to everyone’ and a ‘not applicable’ option.

What does this have to do with the religious input to the development of your sexual orientation?

The next section looks at interactions with sexual orientation change attempts.  Respondents are told:

The following questions address any attempts you may have made, been advised to make, or been forced to make to change your sexual orientation. These include attempts through a range of religious practices (e.g. prayer, deliverance, emotional healing and fasting) through to counselling , aversion therapy and sexual activity.

So prayer is clearly counted here as an attempt to change someone’s orientation.  Given that the stated aims of the survey are to ‘explore the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and development of their sexual orientation and identity’ we are actually asked here about a religious practice – prayer.  There is no definition of the context, or of who is praying, whether the respondent was present or not, whether they agreed to it or not, or if they had requested it. We also see that counselling is included.  There is no definition of counselling given – are we talking about a therapeutic setting, or just friends providing advice when asked?  See where this is going?

  • Have you ever considered, been advised or been forced to go through attempts to change your sexual orientation? Tick all that apply:

o   yes, I have voluntarily considered attempting to change my sexual orientation

o   yes, I have been advised to consider attempting to change my sexual orientation

o   yes, I have been forced to go through attempts to change my sexual orientation

o   no.

Interesting that here there is no ‘prefer not to say’ option.

  • If you were advised to consider attempting to change your sexual orientation, who was this primarily by? Tick all that apply.

o   response options include:

  • parent,
  • other family member,
  • religious leader,
  • religious friends,
  • secular friends,
  • other,
  • prefer not to say.


  • If you were forced to attempt to change, who was this primarily by? Tick all that apply.

o   response options include:

  • parent,
  • other family member,
  • religious leader,
  • religious friends,
  • secular friends,
  • other,
  • prefer not to say.

Ok.  Three questions back, we were asked if we had ever ‘considered, been advised or been forced to go through attempts to change your sexual orientation?’  Then we have two questions building on that.  One asks if you were ‘advised’ and the other asks if you were ‘forced’.  But what about a question for those who ‘considered’ it themselves without being advised or forced?  Why isn’t there a question about this?  Could it be that the survey designers don’t want to know about this information?

Isn’t it a bit strange that this is missed out when the survey wants to ‘explore the impact of religious belief on people’s understanding and development of their sexual orientation and identity’?  If Jayne Ozanne really wants to hear about the experiences of LGBT people who have gone through change therapy (whatever that is) successfully, then surely such a question for people who have chosen themselves to consider change would go some way towards illuminating us?

  • Have you had actual experience of attempting to change your sexual orientation?

o   response options are ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Can we define ‘actual experience’?  It could be a range of things, not necessarily ‘conversion therapy’.  The survey claims to be looking at ‘conversion therapy’.  Yet we are now referring to ‘attempts to change your orientation’ which could cover a vastly greater field of activities and experiences.  The wording of this question is therefore too vague and general to be meaningful.

The next section looks at the respondent’s attitude towards sexual orientation change therapy.  Respondents are told:

Whatever your experience of Sexual Orientation Change Therapy we would like to understand whether you think it should be made a criminal offence or not.’

Here we’ve got the confusion of terminology again.  All the publicity about the survey refers to ‘conversion therapy’.  Now it’s ‘Sexual Orientation Change Therapy’.  Stick to the same terminology!  Or is the use of the word ‘conversion’ specifically chosen to make people think of religious conversion, which is actually a different thing?

  • Which of these comes closest to your attitude towards sexual orientation change therapy?

o   it should be made a criminal offence

o   it should not be made a criminal offence but should be stopped

o   it should not be made a criminal offence bit should be practised with the informed consent of the individual

o   it should not be made a criminal offence and should be allowed

o   other

What about a question on ‘what is your understanding of what conversion therapy actually is?’  The respondent’s attitude may be based on a flawed understanding of what this ‘therapy’ is.  How can you rely on answers to this question if a clear definition of the concept is not given?  Is it only a psychotherapy intervention?  Is it a religious intervention with prayer, teaching and so on?  Is it both?  Is it someone asking you if you have ever thought about change therapy?  What does it actually consist of?  How long does it last? Who leads it? And so on….

The final section looks at your health and wellbeing.  Respondents are told:

‘We would like to understand a little about your current health situation.’

  • How would you rate yourself against each of the following?

o   ‘physical health’’, mental health’, ‘emotional wellbeing’

o   a five-level scale goes from ‘very poor’ to ‘very good’.

This question sounds reasonable on the surface and it can provide some useful information, but it is also very subjective. Who defines ‘poor’ or ‘good’?  And what is the clear difference between mental health and emotional wellbeing? Besides, poor health in any of these areas can be due to a myriad of reasons, not necessarily your sexual orientation.  So this question is too general and can be misleading in terms of its interpretation.

  • If relevant, how satisfied are you with your religious or spiritual life nowadays?

o   response options are on a five-level scale from ‘very unsatisfied’ to ‘very satisfied’.

This is neither a relevant or useful question.  Dis-satisfaction may be due to other things apart from problems with sexual orientation.  Yet anyone answering on the ‘dis-satisfied’ side of the scale will be interpreted as saying that it is due to discrimination or whatever because they are LGBT.  Besides, ‘religious or spiritual life’ does not only relate to church or other place of worship.  It could refer to private devotions (or lack of), interactions with other believers and so on.

There should be a further question with options around the perceived causes of satisfaction or dis-satisfaction. This could highlight other issues that matter to LGBT people in the religious aspects of their lives.

So that’s the survey, folks.  Back at the beginning of this post we looked at the kinds of questions we would need to see in order to achieve the aims of the survey. Did we see them?

In general the exploratory nature of this survey is problematic.  We saw that exploratory research can provide who, what and where answers.  It may sometimes provide how answers.  It cannot provide why answers.  The questions do ask about who is taking the survey, although the repeated option of ‘prefer not to say’ is problematic as it diminishes the amount of data, and often on key questions. Exploratory research cannot really assess the impact of anything on the development of sexual orientation.  All it can do is ask some exploratory questions that might inform further research by asking ‘is there any impact’ present?.  If you want to assess impact you have to carry out conclusive research – which looks for cause-and-effect.

The other major issue is the focus on Christianity when some questions allow for answers from non-Christians who belong to other religions.  This is poor design.  If the survey was really only planned to look at Christianity, then why bother including answers about other religions?  As it stands, the survey does not look as if it has any interest in non-Christians.

What about ‘impact’?  This is where the survey really falls down. People are asked to say what their religious background was but there are no definitions of what ‘religion (or belief)’ are as they were ‘practised in your home as a child?’ There is a vast difference between a religious fundamentalist household and a twice-a-year attending family who consider themselves to be religious on a general level.  Yet these differences are not considered – even though they are crucial to understanding the ‘impact’ of ‘religion’ on individuals.  This survey does not even allow us to find out if there is any impact from religion onto the development of sexuality – because impact is already assumed. 

Neither is there any ‘measure’ of impact asked for.  It is assumed, I suppose, that if you gave up on religion as an adult then it was because your religion didn’t accept your sexual orientation.  This is not the same as measuring or even trying to define ‘impact’.  There are many reasons why a person may give up on religion, but none of these are explored, even in a single question.  The assumption is that all negative responses to religion are due to sexual orientation issues.  But they don’t have to be.

I’ve already made the point about the confusion of religious belief, practice and behaviours so I won’t repeat this.  Suffice to say, this confusion has the potential to really mess up the findings of this survey.

There are no questions included that specifically address people’s ‘understanding and development’ of their sexual orientation.  We are asked when we recognised our orientation, and who we are open with about our orientation.  But that’s it.  Nowhere are we asked to consider specifics about what it was about religion (if anything) that affected the development of our sexual orientation.  There are no questions requiring people to show how they understood anything about orientation before they identified as LGBT.  This means that the survey cannot really produce any answers about what the relationship is between religion and sexual orientation.

The questions about marital and relationship status are presumably to elucidate any confusion about sexuality earlier in life, but this fails to consider that marriages and relationships can fail for dozens of reasons.  Without asking what respondents think about their relationship history, this doesn’t tell us much.

The questions sound good on the surface but when you get down to looking at what the answers can show, then the weaknesses appear.  What is the point of asking how active/committed were you in your household’s ‘religion/belief’ in certain age groups?  There is nothing linking the answers to this question with any of the later questions.  What difference does it make how active/committed (confusion!) you were at these ages: ‘under 12’, ‘12-18’’, 19-24’, ‘over 25’ in terms of how you came to identify as LGBT or not?   The options going from ‘completely inactive’ to ‘very active’ tell us nothing about what may have happened to you at your place of worship or at home due to religious belief or activity.

The absence of certain response options that could engage positive responses from LGBT respondents is concerning, to say the least.  Likewise, the focus on Christianity over other religions and over clinical therapeutic interventions is out-and-out biased.

This is a survey about feelings.  It may possibly show us some associations between certain denominations and leaving religious belief as an adult.  It may possibly show us something about associations between LGBT people and marriage/relationship patterns.  The question asking people to agree or not with a series of statements (section on religious background and practice) may show us what respondents feel about their religious background and beliefs, but these will not inform us in a meaningful way about the development of sexual orientation – just what people feel or think about their religion.

So, I’ll leave you to decide whether or not this survey will tell us anything important or move the debate on in any way.  I’m not convinced it will.  To really get into the relationship between religious belief (or practice and behaviours) and the development of sexual orientation, the research needs to be designed around a cause-and-effect methodology, not an exploratory one.  Only conclusive research will allow for how and why answers and findings.

The key question that is really being asked here, I suspect, is ‘Does religion, specifically Christianity, cause damage to LGBT people?’  If researchers can’t be honest and upfront about that, there’s little point in dressing their ‘research’ up as anything else.

Finally, I will be very interested to see how the ‘findings’ of this research will be trumpeted in the media and at General Synod next year.  There is an illicit practice known in the research world as HARKing.  I suspect we are about to see a lot of it.  HARKing means that exploratory research is wrongly used to make claims about it that can only be made of conclusive research (cause-and-effect research).  It’s called HARKing because it means ‘hypothesis after the results are known’ – which you can’t do based on the findings of exploratory research.  It’s also referred to as the ‘We knew it all along’ method of interpreting research findings.

You can certainly devise a hypothesis after exploratory research – that is one of its key uses – but you cannot claim that you have proved your ‘after the event’ hypothesis before you have tested it by further conclusive research.  So let’s see what happens when the ‘results’ of this flawed survey are in.  I suspect we all know what the ‘findings’ will be, regardless of the failure of the survey to actually ask the questions that could have led to a proper initial understanding of the possible relationship between religion and the development of sexuality.

Just as a parting touch, our Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt MP, has been quoted as saying, referring to research into conversion therapy:

‘This is not about curtailing religious belief or guidance. This is about stopping harmful practices that induce self-loathing or harm.’

If she – and anyone else – wants to stop harmful practices that induce self-loathing or harm, she might do better by aiming some efforts at controlling social media and its impact on young people.  Rather than pursuing churches and Christians, most of whom wish LGBT people well and would welcome them into their church families.

Remember that you can take the survey yourself here:

Faith & Sexuality Survey 2018
























5 thoughts on “Conversion therapy, religious belief and the Church – Part 2

  1. Bear in mind that one of the standard textbooks for “Women’s Studies” is “Race, Class and Gender”, written by Margaret L. Andersen. It contains the following quote: “Objectivity, as found through rational thought, is a western and masculine concept that we will challenge throughout this text”.

    This is not a reasoned area of discussion. By all means be thorough but, sadly, do not expect too much.


  2. Hi Alastair,
    Yes, I get it. But I like to keep challenging it anyway! It amazes me that the CofE is going along with all this stuff and just not recognising the problems. Ho hum. It’s always interesting to me how the views of those at the top are so far removed from those of us in the parishes. I will be watching out for what is said at Synod in due course.


  3. Pingback: Conversion therapy, religious belief and the Church – Part 3 – View From The Crow's Nest

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