Gender is determined by the body’s physiology, the Holy Synod said on Tuesday, calling on MPs to vote against a bill aiming to put an end to conversion therapies in LGBTQI+ people.

The church explained the bill banning conversion therapies, which are also carried out by the church, annihilates the right to religious expression.

Far-right party Elam, which wants to exclude priests from the bill, welcomed church’s intervention.

Although the church does not have the ability to impose its position on people, it retains “the right to express its opinion to advise the faithful,” the Holy Synod said.

The announcement came a day after a meeting under Archbishop Georgios where bishops discussed the proposed law, expected to be submitted before the plenum on Thursday.

The Bible teaches us that God created two sexes, male and female, and gender is a gift given by God to every human which serves the mystery of life, the statement said.

Gender, it added, is determined by the physiology of the human body and is not an element of choice, self-determination or change at will.

The relevant amendment of the law amounts to a levelling of the right to freedom of religious expression and belief of Cypriot people, protected by the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, it added.

Hence, people’s religious freedom, provided by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, is violated and criminalised. The bill, the Holy Synod said, also criminalises the long-standing tradition of our country, where people seek advice from the church.

Furthermore, it makes illegal the inalienable right to decide freely, to choose and seek support and spiritual guidance in matters that are highly personal and sensitive.

“We therefore appeal to our MPs not to undermine what is healthy in this country. The spiritual degeneration of society is not the best thing for a people struggling for national survival,” the church’s ruling body noted, highlighting that most people in the Republic are Orthodox Christians.

“The Church cannot be forced into silence for the sake of globalisation and the so-called new order.

“A group of people cannot impose their way of life on others, under the pretext of protecting human rights, and neither should the work of protecting human rights serve political or other interests of electioneering or public promotion,” the Holy Synod stressed.

Elam also stressed the bill will lead to the “spiritual degeneration of society” and urged other parties and MPS to adopt the position of the church.

The far-right party has already proposed changes to the bill allowing these therapies in cases where there is consent from the individual, as well as granting priests the freedom to do as they please and exempting them from any penalties stipulated by the law.

The Cyprus Family Planning Association said “any discussion regarding the right to consent pseudo-conversion therapies is futile and dangerous.”

Since conversion therapies remain legal in Cyprus, reports emerged of people from the LGBT community who were subjected to hormonal treatments, exorcisms and arranged heterosexual marriages among others.