A deeper look into how the practice of conversion therapy has done irreversible harm to children and why even as a Christian, I am opposed to its utilization.
A mom supports her son who is gay, as she walks with him at the Massachusetts Youth Pride Parade.
It saddens me as a Christian when I hear about practices that remain legal despite tremendous data expressing how dangerous they are to the populations that they serve. With the overwhelming knowledge we now possess on conversion therapy and its damaging effects on minors, it was disheartening to learn that this practice is still legal in the state of Hawaii.
According to my Christian and social work principles, I believe that any act that causes serious psychological harm to children is something that we as a society should adamantly oppose. I am hopeful that after reading this blog post, my fellow Christians will begin to shift their thinking around the topic of conversion therapy and that my fellow social workers will submit testimony in support of a ban (Senate Bill 1675) on this archaic type of therapy on vulnerable children.
For those who do not know what conversion therapy is, conversion therapy is a type of therapy that aims to convert homosexual individuals into heterosexual individuals. This type of therapy stems from the belief that homosexuality is not only a sin but a choice, that people have control over. Christians who support conversion therapy believe that because in the Bible it states that homosexuality is something that can be “changed” or “fixed”, we should do all we can to prevent it from occurring.
Conversion therapy has been in existence since 1869, however the influx of new information has shown that this type of therapy not only lacks efficacy, but is also highly unethical. Minors who are given conversion therapy have a substantially higher rate of mental health issues as a result of the therapy, which include depression, social withdrawal and suicide.
I can’t fathom how devastating it would be for someone to try to change who I was as a person. It is no surprise that these types of practices lead to self-hatred and severe insecurities.
The Bible is a book that I read almost every day and from it I look for messages from Jesus on acceptance, love and forgiveness. It is a beautiful book written during a much different period then we live in today, and because of this, in order to understand the Bible, it must be analyzed contextually.
Some of the Bible’s messages teach that women shall be subservient to men. In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 it states that:
“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
The Bible also discusses what women should wear in 1 Corinthians 11:5:
“But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.”
In most modern day churches (at least the ones that I go to), there are a plethora of women teachers and speakers. Most female Christians that I know also do not wear head coverings during prayer. The reason why these rules are permitted is because it is known that some of the teachings of the Bible must be looked at according to the time period that they were written. Biblical literature was used by some priests' as a tool that legitimated and furthered their political and religious authority. (Schneidwind, 2008).
In today’s society, most of us (hopefully) acknowledge that women are equal to men but historically many men opposed women’s right to vote because of the belief that it went against their religious beliefs. In my opinion, when the Bible was written, some of Jesus’ loving teachings were overpowered by the incorporation of the values set forth by men during that time.
Slavery, subservient women and strict rules were all things that during that time period were the “norm”. As time has passed we now acknowledge that those rules are not applicable to today's society. Isn't it time that we acted in that same way towards homosexuality?
Biblical literature became a tool that legitimated and furthered the priests' political and religious authority. (Schneidwind, 2008).
Every parent should undeniably have the freedom and ability to raise their children how they see fit, so long that it does not cause their children to suffer from psychological, physical, emotional or other harm. Talking to your children regarding whatever principles and values that are important to you, is much different from engaging in practices or therapies that harm your child.
According to a 2009 report of the American Psychological Association, the techniques therapists have used in conversion therapy include but are not limited to: “inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis while showing the patient homoerotic images; providing electric shocks; having the individual snap an elastic band around the wrist when aroused by same-sex erotic images or thoughts; using shame to create aversion to same-sex attractions; orgasmic reconditioning; and satiation therapy”.
Many religious organizations who support conversion therapy claim that this type of therapy only helps people who want to live their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs, and that they only offer their programs for people who want to change. However, many participants in these programs are youth (minors) who are not in the program by choice but are forced into such programs by parents or religious authorities.
From a legal perspective, the law requesting to ban conversion therapy does not aim to prevent consenting adults from obtaining therapy but rather protects vulnerable minors from psychological and emotional harm. According to the McGeorge Law Review, federal courts have found that a patient does not have a constitutional right to obtain a particular type of treatment if the government has reasonably prohibited that type of treatment.
Providing treatment is not covered under the First Amendment whereas providing advice and guidance are. The bill to ban conversion therapy simply regulates conduct without eliminating the ability to discuss sexual orientation, and therefore does not violate the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech.
Current research shows that conversion therapy is both unethical and ineffective and it is my hope that Christians will begin to advocate for the protection of children as opposed to exposing them to irreversible harm. If you are in support of protecting children as well as supporting a bill that does not infringe on individuals’ rights, please vote in support of Hawaii Senate Bill 2615, banning the use of conversion therapy.