Earlier this year, Illinois became the fifth state to ban conversion therapy for minors. Now, a group of pastors in Illinois are attempting to overturn a historic conversion therapy ban ruling by claiming it infringes on their religious freedom.
“Conversion therapy is an act of violence against LGBT persons, especially LGBT youth,” Eliel Cruz, executive director of Faith In America said. “Any pastor willing to promote conversion therapy, which has been debunked by all leading medical professionals, is actively promoting harm against the LGBT community. This is not about religious freedom. Sexual orientation is natural and as scripture says we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ These pastors are trying to fit their outdated theology into the narratives of LGBT people. It hasn’t worked in the decade’s past, it doesn’t work now.”
The lawsuit filed aims to exclude clergy from the ban on conversion therapy. Of course, the majority, if not all, conversion therapy comes from religious communities. It is only through a religious lens that sees homosexuality as something to be fixed that conversion therapy is performed. An exclusion of clergy from the conversion therapy ban would make the ban completely useless.
“Pastoral advice and support is one thing; conversion therapy is another. As a pastor, same-gender attracted man, and former president of the world’s largest ex-gay ministry, I have never seen one instance where sexual orientation has changed,” said Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International, the now defunct ex-gay group. “Over the course of 25 years, I have seen countless lives and families damaged by simply telling someone they can ‘change’ from gay to straight. This is not about religious liberty, it is about ensuring teenagers aren’t subjected to a faulty and archaic opinion that God’s love and acceptance is conditional. Sexual orientation change efforts promote shame, fear, and a culture of death.”
All leading medical professional organization have condemned these practices. Anyone that offers counseling – licensed or not, religiously affiliated or not – should not be able to cause harm to their patients. Conversion therapy, in all of its forms, is harmful to the recipient.
“The key issue here – that clergy members also be held responsible for conversion therapy damages – is an important milestone in legislation aimed at banning this practice,” Garrard Conley, conversion therapy survivor and author of “Boy Erased: A Memoir On Conversion Therapy,” said. “The most extensive damage I suffered as a victim of conversion therapy was at the hands of pastors, in private offices, and within a methodology that often felt more clinical and loveless than that of my ‘ex-gay’ counselors’. All states should adopt bans that also prevent churches from inflicting harm against LGBTQ youth.”