A Birmingham LGBT charity is locked in a row with church ministers over moves to outlaw conversion therapy.
More than 2,500 church officials - including over 25 from the West Midlands - signed a letter to Equalities Minister Liz Truss expressing concern that "broad" legislation to ban the practice was so wide-ranging it risked criminalising what they termed their "duty as ministers".
But Birmingham LGBT - the city's leading charity advocating for LGBT rights in Birmingham - said any kind of conversion therapy was “fundamentally wrong.”
The term "conversion therapy" refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person's sexual orientation or to suppress a person's gender identity.
Under existing criminal law, physical conversion therapy practices are already illegal and covered by a range of criminal offences such as assault.
But under the proposed plans , all forms of non-physical forms of conversion therapy would be banned for under-18s, or anyone with impaired decision-making capacity.
In response to the letter, the government confirmed Christian teachings would be protected from the ban on conversion therapy.
LGBT rights organisations have campaigned for years for an outright ban on conversion therapy, though faith groups have opposed the call, claiming it infringes religious freedom.
The "coercive and abhorrent' practice will soon become illegal with a draft bill expected to be put before Parliament this year.
The open letter from church officials read: “Christianity has always held that God created humanity with the lifelong marriage of one man and one woman as a gracious gift to humanity and a central part of his design for human society.
“To violate that pattern, by sexual activity outside marriage or denial of our created sex, is sin. It is a central part of our calling to bring Christ’s compassion to a broken world.
"The internal desires to commit sexual sin... are certainly defects and deficiencies."
Steph Keeble, director at Birmingham LGBT, said: " Birmingham LGBT believes any kind of “conversion therapy“ that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is fundamentally wrong and unethical.
"It can lead to considerable damage to LGBTQ+ people who already experience poor mental health often as a result of prejudice and discrimination.
"It is important that LGBTQ+ people are affirmed and able to be their true selves. Any form of talking therapy should be non-judgmental, ethical and LGBTQ+ affirmative.
"We are opposed to any misuse of counselling or psychotherapy to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identification.
"Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders and anyone accessing therapeutic help should be able to do so without fear of judgement or the threat of being pressured to change a fundamental aspect of who they are.”
An Equality Hub spokesperson said: "The government's proposals to ban conversion therapy will not impact everyday religious practice.
"The freedom to express the teachings of any religion will not be affected by the ban, and there should be no doubt that individuals will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders.”