Michigan became the 22nd state to ban any kind of professional therapy for minors with unwanted homosexuality or transgenderism, with Governor Gretchen Whitmer signing the legislation last week.
The governor, who has a lesbian-identified daughter, said in a press release:
Today, we are banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan and ensuring this is a state where you can be who you are.
As a mom of a member of the community and a proud, lifelong ally, I am grateful that we are taking action to make Michigan a more welcoming, inclusive place. Let’s continue working together to ensure anyone can “make it” in Michigan, expand fundamental freedoms, and fight back against any and all forms of discrimination.
There are several problems with this statement; here are four things you should know about bans on so-called “conversion therapy.”
1. There is no “horrific practice” known as “conversion therapy.”
No counselor or therapist ever put out a sign saying, “I offer conversion therapy” or “I’ll convert you from gay to straight!” There is no such clinical practice.
The term was invented by activists who oppose the truth that some people with same-sex attractions or gender identity confusion don’t want to embrace those thoughts, feelings, identities or behaviors.
Joe Dallas, a counselor and author who left homosexuality to follow Christ, writes, “‘Conversion Therapy’ is the new Boogeyman, the rallying cry of today’s LGBTQ movement.”
He says that activists spotlight bizarre cases “in which counselors or ministry leaders used weird, harmful techniques” and then “lump all counselors or ministry leaders who deal with homosexuality in with the extremists by slapping the label ‘Conversion Therapy’ onto them.”
Ethical therapists don’t use force, coercion, shame or violence with clients seeking help for unwanted homosexuality and transgenderism. Minors should be able to work with professional counselors who are respectful, safe and responsive to their values and desires.
2. Homosexuality and transgenderism are not a person’s central, essential identity, as phrases like, “You can be who you are,” would have us believe.
Scripture is clear that there are two types of humans – male and female, created in the image and likeness of God. Science affirms this reality.
LGBT activists and their allies, on the other hand, believe that humans are self-defined by internal thoughts, desires and feelings about their sexuality. They divide humanity into unbiblical and unscientific categories, such as “gay and straight,” or “transgender and cisgender.”
Rosaria Butterfield is an author and speaker who came to faith in Christ and left lesbianism. In an essay about the increasing use of the term “gay Christian” as an identity label in Christian circles, she writes:
Gay Christianity adds things to the gospel (specifically Freud’s idea that sexual orientation is immutable and describes who you really are) and subtracts things from the gospel (the Genesis account in which being born male or female is an eternal feature of our image bearing). Gay Christianity presents the church with serious, even deadly, errors.
Alan Medinger, who also left homosexuality to follow Christ, wrote an article, “You Are Not a Homosexual.” He writes:
The word “homosexual” was a nineteenth century innovation. For millennia mankind recognized homosexual behavior, but they saw it as just that – a behavior engaged in by some people. And although some people were clearly observed as engaging in frequent and/or exclusive homosexual behavior, no need was found to see these people as different beings, rather than as individuals with a different behavior pattern.
3. Michigan’s ban on therapy for those with unwanted homosexuality and transgenderism infringes on religious freedom.
The ban doesn’t “expand” freedoms, as the governor stated.
Some people with same-sex attractions or sexual identity confusion have strong Christian beliefs – and want to live according to those beliefs.
Therapy bans prevent individuals who find their faith in conflict with their sexual thoughts and feelings from having access to trained, professional and supportive Christian counselors. This is a direct assault on their religious freedom.
Likewise, these laws forbid Christian counselors, who believe God’s design for sexuality, relationships and marriage, from expressing those views in a counseling session with a minor. Ethical counselors don’t impose those views on anyone. These laws violate religious liberty by forbidding them from integrating their faith with their work.
4. Rather than fighting discrimination, as the statement claims, Michigan’s therapy ban discriminates based on the viewpoint of the counselor and the client, limiting free speech.
In a recent case involving similar ordinances in Palm Beach County and Boca Raton, a judge affirmed the free speech of counselors who challenged similar therapy bans. Judge Britt Grant wrote:
We understand and appreciate that the therapy is highly controversial.
But the First Amendment has no carveout for controversial speech. We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.
People have intense moral, religious, and spiritual views about these matters – on all sides. And that is exactly why the First Amendment does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender.
Liberty Counsel won the free speech case on behalf of Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, licensed marriage and family therapists. The cities were ordered to compensate the two counselors a combined total of $175,000 and to pay attorney’s fees and costs.
Other federal courts have ruled differently in these types of cases, setting the stage for a possible Supreme Court showdown over the First Amendment rights of counselors and clients.
Therapy bans are just one way that LGBT-identified activists and their allies attempt to silence Christians who believe in God’s good design for sexuality, relationships and marriage. The bans also promote a false picture of humanity, promoting the idea that a person’s self-defined sexuality is the very center of a person’s being – their true self.
Ethical pastoral care and counseling should be available for people whose homosexual or transgender struggles conflict with their deeply-held beliefs.
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Focus on the Family exists to help families, and that includes help navigating the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism. Focus offers a free, one-time counseling consultation with a licensed or pastoral counselor. To request a consultation, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) or fill out our Counseling Consultation Request Form.
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