My Take: Let's protect religious counselors amid 'conversion therapy' debate
December 11th, 2012
02:35 PM ET

My Take: Let's protect religious counselors amid 'conversion therapy' debate

Editor's note: Gabe Lyons is author of "The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World" and founder of the Q, a learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society.

By Gabe Lyons, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Can gay people become straight? Is human sexuality modifiable? Are we really still discussing this?

Yes, according to U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb, who ruled last week that three licensed psychotherapists have the right to practice therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientations of gay and lesbian minors.

In a culturally counterintuitive move, he ruled that First Amendment rights of mental health professionals who engage in "reparative" or "conversion" therapy outweigh concern that the practice poses a danger to their clients. This ruling, albeit temporary, adds a new plank to the debate over gay rights, traditional American liberties and what constitutes good therapy.

At the heart of the controversy over sexual behavior modification is the idea that same-sex attraction is not a permanent and inborn condition but rather an aberration that's often rooted in childhood trauma. As Erik Eckholm of The New York Times writes, “Homosexuality is caused, (conversion) therapists say, by a stifling of normal masculine development, often by distant fathers and overbearing mothers or by early sexual abuse.”

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Today, of course, providers of this persuasion tend to be outcast into the wilderness of the discredited. Most agree that those who once practiced masturbatory reconditioning and genital shock therapy have no place in modern psychology and psychiatry.

But what the Shubb ruling tried to do is carve out space for the non-crazies, the still controversial but credible practitioners who want to help patients who desire to do so to understand the nature of their sexual identity and expression within a larger religious framework. It's a framework that, in its fullest conception, contains psychological appreciation that is at once deeper, more supple and more holistic than the reductive sexual identity assumptions that anchor mere sexual therapy, be it one of conversion or acceptance. If a client asks for help, why would we tie the hands of a professional counselor to provide whatever help they can?

Therapists from this tradition accept that same-sex attraction is not merely a flip-the-switch choice but rather an individual-specific, complex issue that must acknowledge the mysterious interplay between nature and nurture. Because their faith dictates that adherents strive toward a particular sexual ethic - one that confines sexual relations to those between a husband and wife and requires celibacy in all other circumstances - they seek to help patients manage sexual impulses through “cognitive behavioral change.”

Few of these therapists promise that gay and lesbian patients will emerge from their programs “straight.” Rather, they seek to provide guidance, counsel and tools to help reframe desire, its nature and its ends. Such therapy exists to help clients understand the place of their sexuality in the broader conception of who they are.

For example, some Christian therapists might help a client who believes that they are made in the image of God explore what role sexuality ought to play in understanding their full identity: Is it everything, nothing or a piece of the greater whole? These conversations may lead a client to decide how dominant of a role sexual desire will play in their life. Others might counsel a client to abstain entirely from sexual relations. But in doing so, the therapist would seek to help the client find fulfillment, identity and purpose outside of romantic or sexual relationships. There is a long tradition of Christians - from priests to nuns to laypeople - who have chosen celibacy as a higher calling toward spiritual fulfillment.

Whether you like conversion therapy - or these particular outcomes - isn’t the point. Protecting the religious rights of providers who help patients make sense of their sexuality in light of faith is fundamental. And these rights are under attack. Just last week, four gay men filed a civil suit in New Jersey against a prominent counseling group who provided a form of conversion therapy, charging it with deceptive practices under the state's Consumer Fraud Act. If other states follow California's initial ruling, restrictions on religious-based therapy could become the norm.

Gay activists deplore the existence of such options, claiming that it shames patients and represses their natural desires. Yet proponents of civil liberties support it, believing the greater threat is limiting a client's right or the religious therapist’s ability to administer sound judgment in full integrity as she helps her client achieve his/her goals.

Conflicts like this are likely to keep the debate hot and fractured. Here are three big reasons the LGBTQ community may continue to oppose the rights of clients and religious-based therapists and why the religious community must persevere:

Allowing “conversion” therapy to go forward acknowledges that change is possible.

The roots of sexual attraction are hotly debated in both the scientific and psychiatric communities. No one has discovered a “gay gene,” and neither has anyone proved that same-sex attraction can be credited solely to nature and not also nurture. Research and opinions on the matter are evolving.

Credible therapists do not claim that sexual-orientation change therapy turns people into ex-gay, happily married heterosexuals. Although some who participate in this type of therapy do not experience the full transformation they hoped for, others claim conversion therapy helped them achieve the results they sought.

Dr. Nicholas Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Association, stated, “In my twenty years at Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization, 67 percent of the homosexuals who sought help from therapists for issues such as ‘the transient nature of relationships, disgust or guilt feelings about promiscuity, fear of disease, (and) a wish to have a traditional family’ experienced various levels of success obtaining their goals.

“In some cases … individuals who initiated therapy not seeking to change their sexual orientation, actually did so through the process of working through other psychological issues,” he said.

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Everyone possesses attributes we’d like to change: behaviors, character qualities, temptation patterns. Therapy, of all kinds, can help us stare those down and create the life we desire to live. Some may learn to accept these attributes and even embrace their greater purpose, while others seek to minimize or eliminate that characteristic.

If someone is distressed over his or her sexuality, they deserve the opportunity to explore the distress in a safe, well-resourced space. It is up to the individual and the therapist to gauge how that process will best happen.

If altering sexual orientation is possible, the “born this way” ideology has to face a trickier reality.

Acceptance of sexual behavior modification presents a difficult challenge to the gay movement. Much of the ideology surrounding the civil rights defense is built on the premise that sexuality is inextricably tied to identity, just as a person’s race, gender or country of origin is. Thus, because sexuality is assumed to be an inborn trait, it requires civil rights protection. Anything else would be unjust.

To suggest that sexual orientation may be intertwined with nurture, trauma, experience or desire is to complicate the victories the LGBTQ community has won using this civil rights argument. But to ignore these mysteries not only undignifies that community, it limits another constitutionally protected class: the religious.

So we must learn to make room for both religious freedom and personal choice. The LGBTQ community can still fight for the rights it desires while conceding that not every person with same-sex attraction is at peace with their sexuality.

It may not agree with the ways an individual may seek to resolve those tensions, but the gay rights movement must respect individuals’ decisions to pursue their own paths.

In the same way, religious leaders who oppose gay rights must accept that gay Americans are afforded the same religious liberty protections. Human sexuality is a complicated spiritual, psychological and physical issue. Everyone — gay or straight — as minors or adults, deserves the right to wrestle with their sexuality in the manner most appropriate to their needs. Saying so shouldn’t become an impediment to civil rights.

Limiting choice for anyone seeking personal change restricts a fundamental human right.
Any person seeking change — whether behavioral, relational, physical, sexual or emotional — has a fundamental right to pursue it. This must remain a basic freedom for both a licensed therapist and her client to explore all possible options in the privacy and confidentiality of their relationship.

We all have friends or family members who have experienced sexual or psychological childhood trauma. This is a reality for both gay and straight individuals, and such trauma often shapes one’s view of life and the world. While not every individual or family would choose to pursue therapy that is open to the idea of questioning the innate good of one’s sexual impulses, it is a valid avenue to help adults, teenagers and families seek understanding, gain clarity and take action to live in alignment with their values.

In the same way that this therapy should not be forced on anyone, it should also not be forcibly removed. Doing so goes against our Declaration’s insistence on every American’s right to “the pursuit of happiness” and a parent’s right to help his/her child.

Any debate touching on issues of sexuality is complicated, emotional and intensely personal. But each one presents an opportunity for each of us to wrestle with how best to live alongside one another, despite deep differences. Instead of treating these debates as zero-sum games where the winner takes all, we should fight to protect the rights and opportunities for each citizen to seek out truth and wholeness. Because if that freedom goes, so do the rest.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gabe Lyons.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality

soundoff (391 Responses)
  1. Nietodarwin

    I'm a straight male, and there are gay men who claim to be christian, (for the life of me I can't understand why, but there are.) If they tried to convert me, the authorities would incarcerate them in a heartbeat. Most people would intervene or call the police if we see a child being harmed or molested, but when we see them being dragged into church for psychological and intellectual harm we just shake our heads and think "what a shame." We need to doing more to stop this.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Ann

      Eh, I think there's a significant difference between someone trying to convert you, vs. someone seeking a particular kind of therapy.

      I think conversion therapy is ridiculous, but I also think that "healers" waving around crystals and shining colored lights to balance "energy" is ridiculous, too, and we haven't outlawed that. Let the buyer beware.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Ann, explain to me how a "healer" waving a crystal over your body while you relax on a massage table is damaging to you or likely to drive you to suicide, and then maybe your comparison will hold weight.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Akira

      When I was about 8 years old, a large Baptist church sent out a bus in our neighborhood, promising that they would give us hamburgers and soda if we took a "tour" of their church.
      Of course my friends and I went.
      Well, we were all dunked into a cool pool of water, repeated a few words, and then we got out burgers and soda.
      We were then taken back to our neighborhood.
      We were gone for a few hours.
      My parents were not happy.

      I am told that I was saved that day, and it's still in effect...LOL.

      Way to recruit...
      Of course, this would not happen in today's society, but the underhanded recruitment memory is still there.

      The soda was flat, BTW.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Ben

      Reminds me of Archie Bunker baptizing his grandson without his parents consent. The ends justifies the means, I suppose?

      December 12, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I hate to tell you this Akira but as well intentioned as your abductors may have been, most religions require the consent of teh parent or, in the case of an adult, the intention of baptism. Your baptism is probably not theologically sound. I understand from previous post that this may be irrelevant to you but I thought the point should be made clear. If it is something you'd like to amend, I'm sure a local pastor can give you better guidance than I can.

      December 12, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Akira, Holy cr@p, where did you live?

      December 12, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Ben

      If you're encouraged to really believe in something that ends up not working, and this causes you stress that could have been avoided, then damage has been done, right? If Ann spent lots of money on it and was made to feel that it was her fault why it did not work, then it is similar. Plenty of cancer patients are being preyed upon by such "alternative" treatments, and they are just as desperate emotionally as these gays are trying to fit into their families and faith communities.

      December 12, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Ann

      Well put, Ben.

      And, myweight, I didn't mean to suggest that crystal therapy would make one suicidal (I believe you're generalizing to the absurd, there). I simply meant that it's an unproven treatment, and, in my opinion, a ripoff. Yet, it isn't prohibited. People seeking that type of thing voluntarily are responsible for their own choices.

      However - how about fortune-telling, astrology, etc? If one really believes in that stuff, a bad prediction could be extremely distressing and life-changing, but we don't legislate against that kind of thing either.

      (To be clear, I'm completely against the idea of conversion therapy and would be extremely upset if anyone suggested it for my transgender grandson.)

      December 12, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Akira

      MWIW: Hammond, Indiana.
      Hammond Baptist Church.

      Bill Deacon:
      I didn't take it seriously then, and I do not now; I have had this conversation with many Baptists, and they say that no matter what, I am still "saved".
      My problem with them is that they are under the impression that one can commit any atrocity one wants, and if one asks Jesus for forgiveness, even on one's deathbed, and after a life of total debauchery and bad acts, one will be granted instant forgiveness and a place in Heaven.
      It's my opinion that it doesn't work quite that way.

      I don't think they were well-intentioned at all; if they were, they would have invited the adults, instead of gathering up the kids like the Pied Piper of Bad Burgers.

      Today, those people would be arrested for kidnapping, and rightly so.

      December 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Akira

      Oops, that answer, Hammond, Indiana, was meant for Saraswati.

      December 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Ben

      I think that fortune tellers, mediums and the like are careful to label what they do "for entertainment purposes only" in order to avoid liability. I can't imagine how much somebody like that Long Island Medium could screw somebody up if she misreads a relationship and tells some woman that her dearly departed father who killed her mother is "with her" right now. The only cure is for people to wise up to such superst ition, right?

      December 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Thanks...wow...Indiana...weird... I do kind of wish I'd had that experience, though...just for the story. Except I'd want better food. The Hari Krishna's always made good food to go with their proselytizing

      December 12, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      @BillyD: there are pretty few cases where child abduction could be considered "good intentions." A church full of religious hoodlums out for an unsanctioned mass baptism doesn't qualify.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • End Religion

      @Akira: I am sorry those dirty bastards gave you flat soda. I hate to think what condom-ents the priests used on the burgers...

      December 12, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      @Ann, the difference I'm seeing is largely that you are talking about informed, consenting adults. Most people that I am personally aware of that are undergoing this conversion therapy are minors being forced into it by parents/guardians or young adults who have already been so damaged psychologically by family convincing them they are evil, sick, etc that they really are not capable of giving informed consent.

      As to fortune tellers/mediums/et al...Yes, I'm sure that there are those out there who could drive someone with psychological issues over the edge. I even know a woman who has a degree in psychology who uses her knowledge of the working of the mind, dresses it up in mumbo jumbo and a Jamaican accent and uses it to fleece money off of gullible people. I don't see anyone forcing people to see her though. I don't see anyone pressuring others to change who they intrinsically are by sitting with her once a week.

      And yes, if anyone tried this crap with my transgendered nephew or my bi-niece, I'd rip them to shreds.

      December 13, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  2. Nietodarwin

    "The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World" RESTORE THE WORLD??? From all the harm xstianity has done??? Good luck , you're 20 centuries behind. "Made in god's image????? "If I'm made in god's image, how come I'm not invisible? This guy needs to be locked up or made to be quiet, (like all religious people.)

    December 12, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • lol??

      Isn't that SPECIAL.

      December 13, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  3. myweightinwords

    Your freedom of religion ends where my rights begin. No human being has a right to damage another human being.

    This type of conversion therapy is damaging.

    Should be a pretty simple thing to understand.

    If your religion taught you to beat gay folks, whip them, enslave them, kill them we wouldn't be giving you a pass on it because it's your religion, you'd be getting prosecuted for your crimes. This should be no different.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      good heavy words. We "nones' need to start using our voices and the laws of our SECULAR nation to put a stop to these people.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:17 am |
      • myweightinwords

        Mind if those of us who aren't "nones" join you in that effort? *grin*

        December 12, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Lisa

      Actually, its the right of the person being suggested for this "therapy" to accept, or reject it, but if there is major psychological damage being done to those who reject it, or to those being pressured into it, then your point is well made. Are these people free to choose therapy, or do they risk being ostracized by their family and community unless they seek out this "cure"?

      December 12, 2012 at 10:30 am |
      • myweightinwords

        I of course can not speak for all, but of those I know who have gone through this type of thing, they were forced into it as teens by parents who believed they were sick, evil, horrible people destined for hell.

        There was no accepting or rejecting, there was "do this and convert or we're kicking you out" and there was "do this or me and your uncle are going to beat it out of you".

        I know one lesbian woman in her 60s now who told me that her own father told her that she would learn to like dick if he had to line up every one he could find to fill up her hole.

        December 12, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • lionlylamb


      Social menageries voices do leverage upon others, an addendum to be challenged. Broad is the spaces in-between and narrow is the way. Fearfulness of social routing makes for ill courses to be followed by many mobs amassing within the labyrinths of life. The changing of guardianships does rise and even fall upon stepped tepidness regularities. Changes are malleably ensnared via voices of socialized menageries.

      Thus we have what is called Life. Therefore live by ones rules and make valiant measures to errant a change whenever by whatever but be ever aware of whomever while many why's are ever to be spotted forsaking sociologic issued trends that do bewail one's tenured euphoria.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:39 am |
      • myweightinwords

        I'm sorry, man. I can't even pretend to make sense of 98% of anything you say.

        When I do make the effort I find your mass of words has little to no actual meaning...it's just words pretending to be sentences.

        The first rule of good communication is K.I.S.S, Keep it Simple Stupid.

        Want to try telling me what it is you actually mean, in plain English?

        December 12, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Saraswati

      @myweight, I think a difference here is that, at least when we are speaking of adults, it's like people who are voluntarily asking to be whipped. I'm not sure in all states, but in general I think this is allowed (mostly outside of religious contexts), and we know, too, that some pretty mainstream religions even allow members to whip and in other ways injure themselves.

      With something potentially this harmful I agree there should be some hoops to jump through before administering such "therapy", and they should be particularly large when minors are involved, but to ban it outright would, I think, be going too far. This isn't chopping one's head off which we know kills everyone. The one person I know who personally went through this as a minor learned from it what a crock his church was and is now living happily and openly as a gay man with no real scars. Of three kids in that family two of them escaped an oppressive church as a result of seeing how stupid this was.

      Of course I know that's not the case for everyone, and that's why I think it needs to be allowed only under very narrow parameters when you're talking about kids. You can do it if, for instance, the kid also gets to spend a few hours a week talking with people at the local LGBTQ teen center or with a real psychologist. Whatever....but trying to ban it outright is going to get us into more trouble than it's worth.

      December 12, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • lionlylamb


      I am not stupid nor will I bow to simpleton minds by denaturing my wordage natures. Only stupid people need simple answers to be endured by lowliness pleasing ways. In time I do hope some people will gain insights upon my wordage uses as to their nature becoming uplifted. Just because some cannot fathom sounded reasoning yet does one slowly rise up above the snaring drifts of unfathomable resoluteness's congenial issues marked and made to be above as being waters flotation devices? Only stupidity does want others to be simpletons for stupidity tends to ruin others' transitioned wordage.

      December 12, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • myweightinwords

        I did not call you stupid. Your "wordage uses" are not useful if they do not convey meaning.

        That is all I'm saying. You can have a vast vocabulary and use it in a way that communicates meaning to those around you, or you can string together a bunch of words that no one is going to bother to read.

        That choice is yours. I was only explaining the reason I do not generally respond to you and expressing my desire to actually attempt to understand you.

        It isn't stupid to use the common tongue to communicate. It's common sense.

        December 12, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      "Wordage natures"? Really?

      December 12, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • lionlylamb

      Lionlylamb responds to myweightinwords, “Did you not state ‘Keep it simple stupid’?” You’re stating, “I did not call you stupid” is itself denying you did not call me stupid when in fact you did in the previous post said otherwise! Could it be that your stupidity belays your non-desire to raise your verbal orientations of wordage uses to a higher degree than those simpletons who crawl inherently upon the pants’ legs wanting to ever lower the degrees of higher thoughts much the way in which mathematicians are not fully reasoned by simple-minded folks who can hardly add 2 numbers together?

      If one wants to ever be simple minded in their usage of verbalized wordage then so be it but don’t tell me I am stupid and I should bow to stupidity issues for someone’s lowly welfare issues of verbal c o n s t I t u t I o n a l sakes!

      December 12, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Primewonk

      " If one wants to ever be simple minded in their usage of verbalized wordage then so be it but don’t tell me I am stupid..."

      But you ARE stupid. You are a stupid asshole who thinks his verbal diahrrea is cute. It isn't. It just shows what a moron you are.

      December 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Lisa

      Then it's up to those teens to take their cases to civil court, at least, and put the onus upon the therapists to demonstrate that their methods actually work, right? They will keep doing this until they lose enough cases to big settlements not to make the practice practical anymore, religious convictions aside. Of course, all the therapists have to claim is that the kids didn't pray enough for their cure to get out of liability, I suppose.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        We're talking about teens who are so psychologically damaged that the only out they see is to kill themselves. How, exactly, do you expect them to function enough to realize that there isn't something wrong with them, get themselves out of the situation, find an attorney, file a suit, testify in court, etc?

        December 13, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  4. Lisa

    In one sense, this is no different than other weird religious practices, like scientologists using e-meters, Catholics using exorcism, Muslim women wearing burkas, Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusions, and Mormons wearing special underwear and baptizing Holocaust victims. Some Jews even still sacrifice animals, something that the voodoo people are also still into. So, why is this really a special case?

    December 12, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Huebert

      Because conversion therapies have been linked to a dramatic increase in suicides.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Those practices harm no one but the practitioner themselves (if there is any harm). Reparative therapy has been proven to be destructive. It ruins lives. It drives people to suicide and years of depression.

      There is no religious exemption for that.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Lisa

      Oh, I think that a case can be made regarding the destructive effect e-meters, exorcism, burkas, refusing blood transfusions, and baptizing Holocaust victims has had. My intent was simply to juxtapose this practice with others that the average evangelical wouldn't hesitate to call crazy and destructive.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Lisa has it right. Anything "I" do is bona fide religion – what "you" do is evil cult behavior.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Oh, I think that a case can be made regarding the destructive effect e-meters, exorcism, burkas, refusing blood transfusions, and baptizing Holocaust victims has had. My intent was simply to juxtapose this practice with others that the average evangelical wouldn't hesitate to call crazy and destructive.

      My point was that all of those things are destructive (if they are destructive) to YOURSELF, not to others (except in the case of a parent not allowing medical care for a minor child, which is more and more being prosecuted...as it should be).

      The point is, practicing reparative therapy causes OTHER people harm. The shrink can believe all he wants, but it's the patient that is harmed.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Is the need for an exorcism self-diagnosed and administered? Seems to me there is always some crazy priest involved too.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Lisa

      In all of these things there is a pract itioner, or clergy preforming, or telling people that the ritual is necessary, and the people who accept this advice and take it. The clergy that do exorcisms and the workers who use the e-meters, for examples, believe that what they are doing works as well, right? People undergoing exorcisms could be harmed too, or at least, this treatment may not deal with whatever mental illness led people to believe that they were possessed. In all cases there is an establishment that most likely believes that what they're offering works and lay people who choose to take the service either for themselves or their children. I see nothing about this therapy that sets it apart from the others.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  5. Mohammad A Dar

    I don't see any issue if some church limits its so called "Conversion Therapy" as part of church services to its members only, but it should not be turned into medical practice by priests, supported by tax payer $$$. Period.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      of course in the same way the Catholic churches oppose federal funding or free access to contraception in health care plans

      December 12, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  6. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    This ruling is entirely consistent with the way religion has been treated for centuries. That is, regardless of the facts and findings of science and professional bodies, and the complete lack of evidence for their beliefs and in spite of evidence to the contrary, allow delusional (mentally ill) believers to carry on spewing their crap. Just another example of the "free pass" religion enjoys – a pass that is less warranted with each passing day.

    December 12, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      First Amendment.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls


      December 12, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Lisa

      If they want to call it religious counselling, then okey, but if they want to call it psychological therapy then isn't there some professional standard that such therapy has to adhere to? I mean, psychology is supposed to be a medical science, right? Are they falsely portraying this as anything other than religious sermonizing?

      December 12, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Primewonk

      RL – I think there is pretty good case law that parents do not have a 1st amendment right to cause harm to their children.

      If an adult nutter wants to undergo reparative therapy and ends up killing themselves, fine. But children cannot give consent to be abused by religious idiocy.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Lisa, search for "California governor OKs ban on gay conversion therapy, calling it 'quackery'." Short answer is yes some therapists offer the treatment counter to the APA's findings but I suspect the APA does not carry the force of law, hence the California legislation that is now on hold.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Lisa

      0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls
      I don't know the law, but do these "therapists" charge a fee for this service that would put them under the blanket of consumer protection legislation? If these people are going to these guys voluntarily, and they know beforehand that it's all just religious counselling, then I don't know if the law can touch them, but if they're selling this service for a fee then I think the lawmakers can get involved and civil suits could be made by anyone dissatisfied with it.

      December 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  7. Rational Libertarian

    Should they be allowed to practice? Yes.
    Does it make them any less retarded? No.

    December 12, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Primewonk

      Do parents have an absolute religious right to abuse their children?

      December 12, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  8. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

    Humans, Can Taliban, my goon brothers, denier of truth absolute GOD, become straight too?

    December 12, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  9. Sane Person

    The author is basically saying that just because these "therapists" are religious we should allow them to continue these damaging practices on people. He is saying that your religious rights should allow you to continue these practices even though they have been proven to be psychologically damaging and to cause suicide and depression. Lets protect the religious people's right to harm others while ignoring the rights and well being of those being harmed. What a ridiculous, spineless argument. The author should be ashamed.

    December 12, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • mama k

      Absolutely agree.

      December 12, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • lol??

      Socies are always assuming power with the almighty "WE".

      December 13, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  10. Primewonk

    I've asked these ignorant sockpuppets before to explain the rational for creating fake IDs, stealing IDs, etc. The dipshits are invariably fundiot nutters. You would think that their god would frown on this behavior.

    December 12, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • mama k

      Yes and the same idiot troll isn't smart enough to not use a hyperlink for those that don't use them for their moniker. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't all have the same target web page.

      December 12, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  11. Honey Badger Dont Care

    I'm a l e s b o

    December 12, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      In at least two posts you have shown that you cant even spell simple words. This just confirms your lack of education. Why dont you go somewhere that you are wanted? Like standing in the middle of an interstate.

      December 12, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Equalizer357

      good, now hang yourself on a tree...

      December 12, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • The only kind of "trickle-down" that actually works

      "Equalizer357" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:

      and many other names, but of course we all know this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      December 12, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  12. Honey Badger Dont Care

    In gay

    December 12, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • midwest rail

      Hilarious. Rich will now spend his oh so valuable time stealing anyone's handle who supports equality. And further embarrasses himself by misspelling a two letter word. Well done, Rich.

      December 12, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Equalizer357

      excellent, now bring your fellow freaks to Iran..

      December 12, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  13. tallulah13

    I'm gay

    December 12, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Equalizer357

      who cares....FREAKS..

      December 12, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • tallulah13

      And again, some miserable coward steals a name that doesn't belong to them in order to make a statement that they think is insulting.

      Tallulah13 is the only screen name I've used when posting on this blog. I did not make this original statement. If I was gay, I would say so, and be proud. I am not gay, but I support equal rights for all Americans.

      December 12, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  14. midwest rail

    Yes, I am gay and proud of it

    December 12, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • midwest rail

      Oh, how cute. Now Rich replies by stealing a handle. Who got their feelings hurt, l'il man ?

      December 12, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  15. Richard

    Who cares! With all the crap that's going on in the world. Who cares about gay people, spend your time with a real issue

    December 12, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • midwest rail

      Well, Rich, you took the time to read the story and post a comment. Why not spend your time on a "real" issue ?

      December 12, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Richard

      Midwest rail got his feelings hurt, you must be gay

      December 12, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • midwest rail

      And now you've wasted more of your "valuable" time here, Rich. You seem fascinated by the subject. Something you'd like to share ?

      December 12, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Sounds like Dick is the one who is all butt hurt. Got something you want to get off your chest Richard? Or out of the closet?

      December 12, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • JWT

      Civil rights are always an important issue.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Richard's Boyfriend

      After what you did to me last night I would have to say you are pretty gay yourself, lover.

      December 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  16. saggyroy

    "Why in the world should the label of "religious" protect the a practice that has been proven to be nothing but quackery..." Because it has a religious label. No one in authority pursues faith healers either. Religion is the golden ticket to performing quackery.

    December 12, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  17. tallulah13

    Why in the world should the label of "religious" protect the a practice that has been proven to be nothing but quackery? Why should the act of spreading potentially harmful misinformation be allowed, just as long as it done in the "name of god"?

    If you want to use god as a license to harm, prove your god exists and that the bible is his word. Then prove that your interpretation is the correct one. Until such time, keep your bible in your homes and your churches. If an adult wishes to buy some of this "conversion" snake oil, that is their business. But it is not real therapy, and it cannot cure them of being exactly who they were born to be.

    December 12, 2012 at 2:43 am |

    Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to announce a startling and effective new treatment for people struggling with an aberant behavior! Now at last you can come to Dr. Serge's Conversion Therapy!

    Yes, with a carefully structured program, in only a few months your loved one burdened with a terrible abomination can and will be cured of or the curse of religion! We can't discuss our methods in too much detail due to copyright laws, but needless to say, we will gay the pray away!

    Yes, there is hope for those benighted by the darkness of religion! Conversion therapy will work!

    For what goes around, comes around.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Yes, all people should have access to systems that will cure mental illness.

      December 12, 2012 at 5:56 am |
  19. Reality

    One more time:

    o "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biological and physical differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  20. Saraswati

    I actually know someone who was sent to one of these treatments when he was 15 or 16. He went in sincerely not knowing anything else but figured out it was a crock pretty much after the first session or two. The whole experience of seeing how obviously wrong the church was on this led him to question everything else about his religious upbrining.

    My concern, however, is for kids who aren't quite savvy enough to figure this out or who are much younger. I do want to respect the rights for alternate medical treatments (to the extent of minimal harm) and religious freedoms, but you have to ensure that there is, in fact, minimal harm. To that end I'd want to consider allowing this (much though I suspect it's largely ineffective and harmful for minors) but requiring that those "treated" be exposed to the fact that this is against standard practice and the beliefs of all major psychiatric bodies.

    December 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.