The Government has rejected a call to make so-called gay conversion therapies illegal.
But Josh Parry, who started the petition has been told that there is no intention to discuss legislating against gay conversion therapy.
A statement from the Department of Health said: “The Government totally condemns any attempt to treat being gay, lesbian or bisexual as an illness. However, the Government does not believe creating a criminal offence is the right way forward.”
It continued: “Gay conversion therapy is an attempt to use therapeutic approaches to change a person’s sexual orientation. It is sometimes known as ‘reparative’ or ‘gay cure’ therapy. The Government fully recognise the importance of this issue and the adverse impact this treatment could have on lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people.”
Liverpool Echo journalist Josh Parry went undercover at a church in September and was offered ‘gay cure’ advice by an assistant pastor.
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry, was found offering gay people the chance to “cure” themselves of their homosexuality through a three-day prayer and starvation ordeal.
Mr Parry attended a private counselling session with the church’s assistant pastor, where he was told that being gay is biologically wrong.
He was advised to ‘humble his soul’ by starving himself and not drinking water for 24 hours before taking part in a weekly prayer session.
Church pastor Dr Desmond Sanusi told the Liverpool Echo that the church does not discriminate against anyone’s sexuality and that his assistant was not acting under his guidance.
He is also quoted as saying that in 20 years of similar programmes running, “nobody has dropped dead”.
Since the publication of the story, the church has placed a statement on its website. It states: “Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries and the pastor in charge of Liverpool branch, Dr Desmond Dele Sanusi do not discriminate against people based on race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age or other beliefs.
“Within any large organisation, including churches, there can be diversity of human nature, knowledge, thoughts and opinions on various subjects that cannot be stifled, but this can stimulate constructive dialogue through mutual understanding, respect, tolerance amongst others.”
In its response to the petition, the Government defended its decision not to criminalise so-called ‘gay cure’ therapies: “This Government has already taken the necessary steps to prevent the practice of gay conversion therapy in the UK.”
But Mr Parry says the DoH response is ‘disappointing’: “In one breath they have acknowledged how dangerous and damaging these so-called therapies are, and in another, the Department of Health has essentially said they’re going to do nothing about it.
“They’ve simply said they do not believe it is the ‘right way forward’ but have offered no alternative and no other suggestions.
“LGBTQ+ and their allies should now make it their mission to sign and share the petition in the hope it gets 100,000 signatures and gets debated fully in parliament.”
Dan Carden, MP for Walton, who raised the issue in the House of Commons earlier this year, called on people to sign the petition to force the government to fully debate the issue.
He said: “I’m deeply disappointed by the government’s refusal to take any meaningful action on an issue that so clearly risks that wellbeing of our LGB community.
“Recently uncovered incidents of ‘gay cure’ therapies in my own constituency illustrate that this practice continues today, often hidden behind closed doors, where the effects on individuals may never be found out.
“I encourage more people to sign the petition to force a full debate in parliament on the need for action, proper guidance and legislative change to protect vulnerable and all too often young people from this despicable practice.”