I noticed this photo on Facebook that shows the Banbridge Leader/Dromore Leader (part of Johnston Publishing) appearing to give a platform to a counselling organisation that has probably not signed up to the kind of professional bodies Patrick mentioned in his post yesterday. To recap:
Now Britain’s biggest professional body for psychotherapists, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has instructed members that it is unethical for them to attempt to “convert” gay people to being heterosexual. The other main professional body for British psychotherapists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, had issued similar guidance to members back in 2010.
The Leader ran a short piece in reaction to correspondence between the Mid-Ulster Christian Helpline and UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson but offered no challenge and referenced nothing about
A Christian counselling group claiming it can “cure” homosexuals through telephone prayer with the help of God has appealed for anyone with that kind of “problem” to contact them for help.
The group, which contacted Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson to explain its opposition to legalising gay marriage and received a letter of response from her on the issue, said it has had no calls of that nature to its helpline service from this area so far, but would gladly welcome all enquiries.
Mid-Ulster Christian Helpline, run for more than 20 years by married couple Freda and William Kerr, takes calls from people on all kinds of issues according to Mrs Kerr – including people in tears saying they “do not want to practice a homosexual lifestyle anymore”.
When contacted Freda explained her beliefs on the issue to the Leader. “We get calls from all over the UK,” she said.
“We are not a helpline specifically for homosexuals – our helpline is for people with all kinds of problems.
“We are not condemning people but rather the sin to which they have got involved. People come to realise that the lifestyle they are leading is not right.
“We have to warn people of these sins that are going to take them down the wrong road.”
It is understood the letter sent from Jo-Anne Dobson to the Helpline said the MLA would continue to pray that marriage would not be redefined. The Government is currently consulting on changing the status of civil ceremonies to allow gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales to get married, and wants to make the change by 2015.
The helpline – which said it has been in touch with people in this area regarding biblical literature – has a website which cites their beliefs on the evils of Hallowe’en, Harry Potter and Aternative Therapies among others.
Freda said anyone wishing to contact them for further detail can do so on 028 7964 4499 or visit www.muchpublications.co.uk.
The Leader has been careful to put the words “cure” and “problem” in quote marks. However, with no challenge to the group’s claim to “cure” gays reported in the piece, and by advertising its contact details [Ed – which you’ve just done too], readers would be forgiven for believing that the Leader is endorsing the group and its activities that they have reported.
Small scale helplines and counselling services will never be fully regulated. But how should groups know where the limits of their expertise and knowledge lie? No doubt the Mid-Ulster Christian Helpline does some good work. But LGBT counselling may be something they want to drop.
The Leader also linked the correspondence back to Westminster rather than to Steven Agnew’s motion in the NI Assembly on Monday 1 October, though it wasn’t well publicised until very recently. For the record, Jo-Anne Dobson voted No in Monday’s Marriage Equality debate at the NI Assembly.
Perhaps next time Mid-Ulster Christian Helpline write to MLAs, they’ll include a copy of their booklet on the Good Friday Agreement, which (as a non-denominational group) they describe as a betrayal of “the people of Northern Ireland The Forces of Law and Order” and claim that “the ultimate aim of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement” is “a United Ireland”, all “part of ‘The Greater Conspiracy’ operating for world control”.
(Photo of Leader taken from a discussion on Facebook via Andrew Smyth)