Protesters waved rainbow flags and held placards outside a Christian conference this weekend after they claimed to offer support for people experiencing ‘same sex temptations.’
The True Freedom Trust, which organised the event, has been called ‘a reparative therapy organisation’ but they say demonstrators have misunderstood their message.
They say they only offer ‘pastoral support’ for Christians who are attracted to members of the same sex but want to adhere to the Biblical values of sex between married men and women.
Around 25 to 30 people gathered outside the Windsor Baptist Church in south Belfast on Saturday morning, waving signs with messages like ‘love needs no cure’ and ‘homophobia has a cure – Education.’
Yesterday’s peaceful picket, organised by LGBT health advocacy group the Rainbow Project, was largely silent, with no songs, chants or speeches.
Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty said: ‘The True Freedom Trust is a reparative therapy organisation that believe that there is something wrong with being gay and people should move away from being gay.
‘We will always stand opposed to this type of quackery in Belfast, we will always protest these events.’
He said the message that there is something wrong with being gay, shared by many faith groups, has led to a ‘substantial loss of life’ through suicide.
‘We will always stand opposed to it because this message is harmful to our community and LGBT people deserve to know that they are equal to anybody else within society and their identity is something to be celebrated, not something to be shameful of.’
The conference, one of a series being held by the True Freedom Trust across the UK, is described in promotional literature as being ‘aimed at Christians who experience same-sex temptations.’
Stuart Parker, director of True Freedom Trust, said he respected the protesters’ right to disagree, but urged respect for his right to hold to his Christian beliefs.
He said: ‘We seek to encourage those, particularly those who have same-sex attractions and believe in an orthodox understanding of what the Bible says about sexuality, just seek to encourage them in their faith and their walk with God.
‘It’s very clear in our policies and on our website that we don’t point people toward conversion therapy, we are not a therapeutic organisation.
‘We might point people towards a good quality counsellor but not one who wants to direct people to a certain outcome, so we just encourage good quality ethical counselling, but we are not a counselling organisation ourselves.’
He said the trust’s view that God made sex for the marriage of a man and woman, is the mainstream orthodox position of the church in the UK.
‘We are not out there to change other people’s minds, we are just here to support and minister to those people who agree with that position,’ he added.