London Mayor Boris Johnson will be facing off against Christian groups in court this week. They allege that he denied them their right to free speech by banning an ad campaign promoting ex-gay therapy. Doctor Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust will appear in the High Court this Thursday to argue that the decision by Mayor Johnson to pull the bus ads was an unlawful stifling of free speech.
Ex-gay, conversion or reparative therapy has been discredited repeatedly despite the continued pushing of it by so-called Christian groups. The dubious nature of ex-gay therapy goes back to Sigmund Freud, who refused to treat patients if their desire was to be cured of their homosexuality. While Freud may not have viewed homosexuality as proper, he appears to have felt that curing it was problematic and possibly even damaging.
The ad created by Core Issues Trust and Anglican Mainstream read “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” The ad was parodying an ad from Stonewall which read “Some people are gay. Get over it!” The two groups had been hoping to promote therapies which they claim cure people of being gay; however, their therapies run contrary to the official position of the British Government is that such therapies are harmful and should not be condoned.
The ad campaign made it past the Committee of Advertising Practice, but Mayor Johnson pulled the ad before it could run.
Davidson claims to have benefitted from ex-gay therapy himself, and is hoping that the judical review will allow the ad to run in London. He stated “It was a mistake to assume these views we were expressing came from entrenched homophobia, and failed to recognize that people who want to walk away from their homosexual feelings are a group in their own right.”
Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre is supporting the Davidson’s case ans argues “The ban on these advertisements was the beginning of a kind of reverse discrimination which threatens to obliterate debate in the public sphere. Boris Johnson needs to realize his mistake and ensure there is freedom for all in the marketplace of ideas. He cannot prefer one group over another.”
The plaintiffs plan to point to a bus ad campaign from 2009 by noted atheist Richard Dawkings and the British Humanist Association which read that read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying. And enjoy your life.” They hope that this ad will show that they were discriminated against.
It seems highly unlikely that such a campaign is going to be successfully used to show discrimination due to the fact that the debate Dawkins was pushing is one of religious expression, and the one that Davidson was pushing has been pretty much conclusively settled by the academic community except for a few stragglers on the edges such as Davidson.
Recently, CBS went into the damage that ex-gay therapy can cause in an episode of Criminal Minds.