Metro Weekly

Evangelism as Therapy

Faith-based advocacy should not be disguised as licensed healthcare

Encountering the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg in the D.C. Council Chambers on June 27 took me back five years to our battles over the District’s marriage equality bill. This time it was a hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Sprigg was furious at the attempt to deny choice to troubled teens seeking to overcome their gay desires.

One should always be skeptical toward right-wing busybodies who use “choice” as a rallying cry, and so it is in this case. Gay and lesbian teens whose ears are filled with cries of abomination know the sound of rejection. If choice is a concern, shouldn’t they be given the choice of a supportive environment? And if professional therapy is the way to help, shouldn’t we mention that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973?

The anti-gay groups represented at the hearing, including FRC, PFOX, and the International Healing Foundation, are frozen in amber on homosexuality, which they deem forever sick, sinful, and illicit. With the pathologizing and criminalizing of gayness having ended in America, and with many faiths affirming LGBT lives, the dwindling band of demonizers resorts increasingly to shrillness and deception at home and proselytizing overseas.

The homophobes conceal their faith-based motivation behind a veil of pseudoscience. The trouble is, they dictate nature rather than observing it.

Testifying in support of the bill were the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, and an array of local and national LGBT groups. Several pointed out that the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association have rejected conversion efforts. Affirming clergy included Rev. Graylan Hagler and Bishop Rainey Cheeks. Rev. Hagler criticized the use of counseling to advocate one’s own religious views. Jud Brown gave eloquent testimony to his own survival of the discredited therapy.

The most frequent source cited by the anti-gay side was the crackpot National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. Time and again, problems were blamed on homosexuality in a way that is never done with heterosexuality. We were told that the proposed bill would bar counselors from helping troubled youth; but approved counseling protocols are unaffected by the proposed law. This is not about tying healers’ hands, but protecting vulnerable minors and parents from being harmed and deceived by charlatans.

One of our opponents’ recurring themes was how much they love LGBT folk. This is like the Inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine expressing love for the immortal soul of Giordano Bruno as he burned him at the stake in the Campo de’ Fiori in 1600. Such love we can do without.

California and New Jersey laws similar to the one being considered in D.C. have been upheld in federal courts. Civil institutions are not subject to religious dictates. Church ministries are constitutionally protected, but no one is entitled to use a professional license to peddle poison brewed from ignorance and contempt.

It is not enough to say that being gay is not a disorder. As Frank Kameny asserted before Stonewall, it is an affirmative good. When our opponents accuse us of corrupting science with political pressure, they are really objecting to the erosion of their supremacy.

The right’s insistence on male-female complementarity as an exclusive, eternal standard ignores not only modern science but Plato’s Symposium, in which people’s “other halves” were recognized as sometimes opposite-sex and sometimes same-sex. Gay love was present at the dawn of Western civilization.

Our struggle to protect LGBT youth is not over, as illustrated by the Texas Republican Party’s recent endorsement of reparative therapy. Efforts like the #BornPerfect campaign by the National Center for Lesbian Rights are vital. But science, justice, and soulmates yet unjoined are on our side.


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