Suppressing Reparative Therapy Is Suppressing Freedom
I saw the crawler go across the screen on a news broadcast recently, and it said, with an incredulous tone, that "praying away the gay" was still being done. From the context, it was clear the news editor did not think much of it.
Neither a counselor nor a lawyer, I can come at this issue only as a straight citizen concerned about freedom.
It is not difficult to imagine the following scenarios.
You're a registered marriage and family therapist in California. You're counseling a 16-year-old boy who says he's being recruited into the gay lifestyle at high school. (Yes, aggressive recruitment really does happen.) He recently had a bad breakup with a girl. With their ongoing recruitment playing over and over in his mind, he's now confused. Are these feelings natural? You tell him that they are unnatural and that reparative therapy can help him stay straight.
If he's already experimented sexually, you tell him that he can return to heterosexuality. He's not necessarily gay for having experimented. Or if he's had same-sex feelings for a while, you tell him he can be restored to heterosexuality. The youth just needs to get reparative therapy. It will be a long journey, but he can do it, if he's open and willing to change. He's willing, and now you lead him through the therapy.
However, you, as a mental health provider, practicing your beliefs, are breaking the law and could get "disciplined."
The California law states:
Under no circumstances shall a mental health provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under 18 years of age.
Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject a mental health provider to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.
NARTH is saddened but not surprised by this unprecedented legislative intrusion and will lend its full support to the legal efforts to overturn it. California citizens and especially parents should know the indifference that supporters of this bill have toward their freedom of choice, as reflected in Senator Lieu's recent acknowledgement that, "The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill..." The Senator went on to equate the harms to minors of smoking and alcohol abuse, which have been documented over decades of research, with the reported harms of sexual orientation change efforts, the prevalence of which the American Psychological Association admits we have no way of knowing.
Anecdotal stories of harm are no basis from which to ban an entire form of psychological care. If they were, the psychological professions would be completely out of business. We fully anticipate that activist groups like Equality California will be back next year to see what further erosions of parental rights and professional judgment politicians and mental health associations will authorize in California and other states. Counselors adhering to traditional values cannot be blamed for wondering what other practices disliked by these activists are going to be targeted as "unprofessional conduct" in the future, particularly in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.
I don't imagine that all reparative therapists are religious, but many are. Should Christian reparative therapists be forced by law to give up this practice and care?
The law does not specify pastors and youth pastors, but how much longer will that hold up? And what if the pastor or youth pastor is also a licensed marriage and family therapist? What about the growing social pressure from the media that puts down the therapy of "praying away the gay"?
As reparative therapists say over and over, these gays and lesbians want to change and come to them for help. Can people change from gay to straight? Thousands have. Just ask Andrew Comiskey, who founded Desert Streams Ministries. Visit the sites Voices of Change and Path Info.
I for one refuse to sacrifice on the PC altar these courageous men and women who have "converted" and now live happy straight lives. With persistence they have moved past their old way of life. The counselees voluntarily and freely wanted to change and sought help. They got it.
It is true that sometimes this therapy does not "take." And of course the news media use those cases as a weapon against the therapy. However, the changed lives are the evidence that reparative therapists need to keep this therapeutic practice going.
Let's look at the big picture: another left-wing big-government assault on freedom, for our own good, whether we like it or not.
No one has to share that theology, or even believe in reparative theology, to see the danger of government wielded as a weapon to order society by utopian standards -- as the left defines utopia. Utopianism limits options by purging perceived "imperfections"(reparative therapy in this case) from society. People on the left conclude that their perceptions are true and offer the most benefit to society. It's all for our own good.
The left are entitled to their beliefs, but what if they're wrong? They're entitled to be wrong, but what if they pass laws imposing their wrong beliefs on everyone else? Are the left ever wrong about these issues?
The standard objection: but what about the right imposing restrictions on abortions? Reply: first, abortion is a physical act, an operation. It is not a therapy of words over time, limited only to knowledge and speech, while reparative therapy is limited in that way. Second, abortion eliminates the life of a baby (or fetus, if you're pro-choice), while reparative therapy at least lets the sixteen-year-old live. Third, states can make exceptions for extreme abortion cases. The California law banning reparative therapy makes no exceptions and offers no concessions. It punishes knowledge and speech. Therefore, there is no comparison between the two issues.
What about protecting minors? All people -- under or over eighteen -- have the right to know that they have access to therapeutic options. If the state censors this knowledge and option and access, the state goes too far.
Reparative therapy is not unjust, but California's law proscribing it is. It's oppressive, not progressive; it's restrictive of freedom. It's censorship. In the government banning reparative therapy, basic freedom is at stake.
In the name of liberty, this oppressive and restrictive California law must be fought before it spreads.