Friday, June 16, 2023

Statement of the Church of Cyprus on the Criminalization of Sexual Orientation and Gender Conversion Therapies

Over a year ago, the activist group Accept-LGBTI Cyprus surveyed around 100 people and revealed that conversion therapies for sexual orientation or gender identity are still being carried out in Cyprus. According to this report, it found that

1. A victim was forced by a priest to kneel in front of a statue of Jesus Christ and apologize for having sinned.

2. Another was forced by an endocrinologist to take a course of testosterone (male sex hormones) because the doctor said he was too effeminate.

3. Another was exorcised by a priest.

4. Some people had attempted suicide following the so-called therapies.

This prompted lawmakers to propose a ban on all forms of conversion therapies for sexual orientation and gender identity, and make it a crime if any attempt is made at such conversion therapies.

On Thursday, 25 May 2023, the Cyprus Parliament passed a bill that criminalizes any attempt at conversion therapy on LGBTQ+ people, becoming the seventh European country (Spain, Greece, France, Germany, New Zealand, Belgium and Scotland) to introduce a legislative ban against the practices.

The bill amends the country’s penal code and designates any practice, technique, or service by a person attempting to convert or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression as a criminal offense.

Anyone found guilty of carrying out the practices on an adult will now face up to two years in prison and a €5,000 fine, and any attempt to practice conversion therapy on a minor will carry a three-year prison sentence and a €10,000 fine. Advertising any type of conversion therapy or technique is also prohibited and punishable by up to two years in prison and a €5,000 fine.

The amendment came about after lobbying from the Church, which feels pastorally responsible to help those who come to Her for help in these matters, while respecting the freedom of those who choose not to.

A few days before the bill was passed (May 22, 2023), the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus issued the following statement:

Announcement of the Holy Synod on the 
Proposal of the Law "Conversion Pseudotherapies" 
(May 22, 2023)

The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus convened today, Monday, May 22, 2023, in an emergency session, under the presidency of Archbishop George of Cyprus and dealt with the proposal of a law that amends the Criminal Code Law, with the addition of a new article 233B: "Conversion Pseudotherapies".

The Holy Synod remains faithful to the teaching of Holy Scripture that there are two genders, "God created them male and female." She also believes that sex is a gift given by God to every human being, which serves the mystery of life. Gender is determined by the physiology of the human body and is not an element of choice, self-determination, or change at will.

The Church does not have nor does it wish to have the possibility of imposing its position on people. The Gospel words are clear: "Whoever desires to come after Me...". However, she retains her right to express an opinion and to advise the faithful.

The amendment of the Law and the introduction of the above article into the Criminal Code is equivalent to leveling the right to free religious expression and the beliefs of the Cypriot people, which are protected by articles 18 and 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and the European Convention on Human Rights. Based on this, we consider that:

a) The person's religious freedom is violated and criminalized, which is guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which clearly provides for the free and unimpeded expression of one's religious beliefs, "publicly or privately, through worship, of the teaching and practice of religious duties and rituals."

b) The age-old tradition of our Country is penalized, which wants the faithful, who freely entrust themselves to the pastoral care of the Church, to resort to her for counseling.

c) It criminalizes the inalienable right of man to decide freely, to choose and to seek, within the framework of legality and religious freedom, support and spiritual guidance in matters which are highly personal and sensitive, for which he can, in the end, decide on their acceptance or not.

The State should recognize the rights of all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus without exception. Citizens who practice their faith, which is expressed in the rules and doctrines that have been valid throughout the ages in our Greek Orthodox Tradition, also have these rights. The Church cannot be forced into silence for the sake of Globalization and the so-called New Order of Things. The right of the citizen to freely express his views and his lifestyle choices is respected by the Constitution and the Laws. It should, however, be reflected in the special characteristics, which reflect the ethos and values of the Church and the Social structure of the Cypriot State, which consists in the majority of Orthodox Christians.

Under the guise of protecting human rights, a group of people cannot impose their way of life on others, nor should the work of protecting human rights serve political or other interests of vote hunting or public display.

The Church is the mother of all without exception, she does not criticize or condemn. She is a refuge to which we all turn, in order to find through her holy spiritual experience her sanctifying mysteries, support, inspiration, consolation and reinforcement in the existential struggles and psychological pressures we face.

The Church can cooperate perfectly with people who do not have any religious faith or metaphysical reference and share with them the respect for human freedom. "Know the truth and the truth will set you free" (Jn. 8:32).

We therefore appeal to our members of parliament not to destroy everything that is healthy in this place. The spiritual degeneration of society is not the best option for a people that is fighting for its national survival.

If the light of the Resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ can illuminate the human heart, then it can also transform the whole person. The Church always in love and humility prays for the person who struggles and repents.

From the Sacred Synod of the Church of Cyprus

Sacred Archdiocese of Cyprus,

May 22, 2023

Source: Translation by John Sanidopoulos.