AN SNP MSP has been blasted for “disgusting and insulting” comments he made comparing conversion therapy to encouraging people to eat less chocolate.

John Mason (below) urged caution from the government in legislating to end conversion therapy, which sees LGBT young people subjected to therapy and prayer in an attempt to make them heterosexual or cisgendered.

The National:

The practice is called “abuse” by Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT charity, which says people who undergo conversions face long-term psychological harm as a result.

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Mason raised concerns a ban – which is planned by the Scottish Government – would restrict prayer as this is a common form of conversion therapy.

He said sexual orientations must be accepted “to a large extent” but said the issue for conservative religious communities was around “self-control and choosing not to put your thoughts or desires into action”.

“I might have a natural desire to eat the attractive food I see,” he added.

“Many of us are tempted to eat too much chocolate or drink too much alcohol, so that is where self-control comes in; we sometimes need to say ‘no’ to ourselves.”

He said he would support a ban if it contained specific provisions “not to interfere with freedom of belief or freedom of religion”.

Earlier in the discussion, he likened religious groups having rules “above and beyond the law of the land” as similar to a dress code being enforced at a bowling club.

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Mason’s comments have sparked fury among the LGBT community and he was reproached for his comments by other religious MSPs.

Ross Greer, Greens MSP for the West of Scotland, said it was “wrong” to characterise the debate as being a “conflict between LGBTQ people and people of faith”.

He said most religious leaders have supported a ban on the practice.

Blair Anderson, a prominent campaigner against conversion therapy, described Mason’s comments as “genuinely sickening crap”.

He said: “Disgusting and insulting to hear John Mason MSP compare the experiences of conversion therapy - widely seen to be a form of torture - to being in contravention of a dress code at a bowling club or eating too much chocolate.”

Stonewall urge a ban on the basis LGBT people “don’t need to be cured”.

Forms of conversion practices include counselling sessions, people being forced to swallow “purifying” substances, being prayed for and threats.  

Mason has been at the centre of a number of controversies in his time as an MSP, including claiming that the Bible teaches people of the same sex should have sexual intercourse with one another and his opposition to abortion.