The 4 Problems With Reparative Therapy Laws

This article first appeared in The Good Men Project March 15, 2015

IBelievedYourJunkScience

 

A former “ex-gay” leader rips up the argument against laws  that ban therapists from trying to convert LGBT kids.

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Last week in Colorado, the House voted to pass HB15-1175, which prohibits licensed therapists and other mental health workers from using conversion therapy, also known as ex-gay or reparative therapy, on minors. Similar bills are making their way across the country to protect LGBT youth from often misinformed and misguided parents on the harm and dangers of this outdated practice.

House Republican Gordon Klingenschmitt, however, wasn’t content with just a vote of dissension, but chose to write a two-page letter outlining the main problems he has with the bill. With similar bills at various stages in other states, Klingenschmitt raises common concerns among other conservative opponents.

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Anti-conversion therapy laws prohibit free speech
This is true, if you are of the opinion that lying, misleading, misinforming and providing false hope are considered free speech from a licensed professional. Along that line of thinking, we should also no longer punish contractors, doctors, lawyers, or any other professional making a promise he or she cannot deliver.

In February, 2015, Superior Court Judge Peter F. Barsio Jr. said that conversion therapy is “a misrepresentation in violation of [New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act], in advertising or selling conversion therapy services, to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent thereof.” Homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses in 1973.

Today, nearly all mental health organizations, after over 40 years of research, have determined that sexual orientation cannot be changed, only behavior, and that usually for only a short period of time, or the behavior is driven underground, creating more mental anguish for the person attempting to change it.

While free speech allows the general public to say anything they want, it does not allow doctors to practice medieval and outdated practices on their patients, particularly when those practices have been repudiated and proven to cause harm.

While free speech allows the general public to say anything they want, it does not allow doctors to practice medieval and outdated practices on their patients, particularly when those practices have been repudiated and proven to cause harm. Preventing the practice of reparative therapy holds mental health professionals accountable to their peers for acceptable therapeutic practices.

Anti-conversion therapy restricts religious freedom
This is also true, as was the case when laws were enforced to end slavery, provide for interracial marriage, end segregation, create gender equality and force religious people to treat other human beings with dignity, because they are human beings, not because they have the same religious beliefs.

The famous astronomer, Galileo, was also accused of stepping on religious principles when he used science to discover that the earth was not at the center of the universe. It would be another 350 years before the Catholic Church finally apologized for calling him a heretic and trying to burn him at the stake. (Whoops!)

Religious thinking is traditionally years behind scientific discoveries, and further behind when it comes to adjusting dogmatic and often inhumane beliefs. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”

These bills take away parental rights
This is not true. This bill reinforces what the mental health and medical communities have known for years, that conversion therapy not only doesn’t work, it is potentially harmful. The bill does not (unfortunately) stop parents from sending their children to ex-gay camps, pastoral counseling, or other types of non-licensed therapy, or even impede on their religious liberties to enforce their unfounded beliefs on their children. What it does do is send a clear message that the practice of reparative therapy has been found to be ineffective at best, and harmful, dangerous and deadly at worst.

Many of these therapists make an enormous amount of money from parents willing to do anything to change their child’s sexual or gender orientation, in spite of the facts.

Again, these bills are aimed at holding licensed mental health professionals accountable for their actions. Many of these therapists make an enormous amount of money from parents willing to do anything to change their child’s sexual or gender orientation, in spite of the facts. These bills do not attempt to change a parent’s perspective on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of homosexuality, but they do acknowledge that seeking professional help does not change the child’s orientation and removes the legitimacy of attempting to do so by a licensed therapist.

The bill would threaten freedom of press
This particular dissension is probably the most telling of all the opponents of reparative therapy. As Klingenschmitt noted, “There is a manual for conversion therapy. Many of you, when you swore your oath to defend the constitution, raised your right hand to God, and you placed your left hand on that book.”

Naturally, Klingenschmitt, who holds a PhD in theology from Pat Robertson’s Regent University, is implying that the bill would ban the Bible, as he understands and believes it. As in the case of Galileo, it is a particular interpretation of the Bible that is at odds with ending the practice of reparative therapy.

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia (2001) there are over 33,000 Christian denominations and sects. Each believes that their interpretation and version of the Bible or Scriptures is correct and the others are wrong. Essentially, it is people like Klingenschmitt who deny this type of protective legislation to legitimize their view of Christianity and invalidate the research and experience of others who do not hold their world view.

Until homophobia is eradicated from society and religious bigotry, reparative therapy belongs in the realm of belief.

Anti-reparative therapy laws most certainly do not threaten the freedom of press. There are many books on reparative therapy, written by a number of prominent proponents of the practice. Most of them are ministers, but all claim to be Christians who believe that homosexuality is sinful and something that can and should be changed. Until homophobia is eradicated from society and religious bigotry, reparative therapy belongs in the realm of belief. It does not belong in a society that believes its constitution was to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, [and] promote the general Welfare…”

The reason our country was not founded on religious principles is because there is never any agreement on unfounded ideologies, other than those based on a common “belief.” However, belief must be suspended in light of evidence. The two are not always mutually exclusive, but in the cases where they are, truth, a verified or indisputable fact, trumps belief.

The arguments against reparative therapy are purely religious arguments at their core, often shrouded in first amendment jargon to disguise their lack of reasoning and substance. Right-leaning representatives are often persuaded by anecdotal stories of those who share either personal beliefs, or the beliefs of their financial supporters.

Click here to see which states currently have active laws and legislation on reparative therapy.

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Photo – Flickr/Daniel Gonzales

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