Author, pastor and counselor Joe Dallas has written a blog post asking a good question, “What Exactly Is ‘Conversion Therapy’”?

The phrase – fabricated by those who oppose anyone leaving homosexuality – continues to be part of the news, political and entertainment worlds. In addition, 26 states and more than 100 municipalities currently ban this nonexistent “practice” for minors with unwanted same-sex attractions.

But the bogus term has broadened to include Christians who believe what Scripture teaches: God designed sexual expression to take place in the context of marriage between a husband and wife.

As Dallas explains, “More and more people are throwing out the term ‘Conversion Therapy,’ applying it to anyone who believes homosexuality falls short of God’s will.”

Even some Christians have picked up the term, using it to disparage pastors, counselors and ministries that help people find freedom from bondage to homosexual sin.

Dallas goes on to write that “conversion therapy” is used to describe people who believe “God can free anyone from the power of any sin,” as well as believers who disciple “people to apply Biblical standards to their own lives.”

The author explains the problems with the term. He writes, “Conversion therapy is an overused and misapplied term.” He adds that someone who offers “conversion therapy” would need to be a trained therapist who believes homosexuality is a mental disorder, and the goal of any such “therapy” would be to “change sexual attractions from homosexual to heterosexual.”

Dallas points to Christian ministries like the Restored Hope Network, Courage, Exodus Global Alliance or ReStory Ministries. None of them promise to “convert” people from “gay” to “straight.” Nor do they teach “that homosexuals are mentally ill.”

Focus on the Family could have been included in the list, as our ministry is often accused of offering or promoting “conversion therapy” and promising to change a person’s “sexual orientation.” Neither of those allegations are true.

The author, who has been a frequent guest on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, then details how proponents of homosexuality have created an image of “conversion therapy” by highlighting a few extremists who have harmed individuals by promising to change their “sexual orientation” and using unethical practices.

He compares this to some schoolteachers and therapists who have harmed students or clients through sexual abuse or unethical behavior, but adds that “no one is saying public teaching should be banned” or “psychotherapy should be criminalized.”

Dallas writes:

But when the wrongs of some within a group get ascribed to the majority of the group, then a false image is created, an injustice is done, and propaganda is spread.

Opponents of Christian help for unwanted homosexuality often claim “that some churches, ministries, or Christian counselors subject homosexuals to electroshock therapy,” he writes. But such aversive therapy practices were used by secular psychiatrists – and ended some fifty years ago.

“Batteries aren’t included,” Dallas quips about counseling and ministry for Christians with unwanted homosexuality.

Instead, talk therapy, biblical counsel, support groups, discipleship, spiritual formation and healing prayer are just some of the normal means of assisting people who want freedom from homosexuality.

Finally, Dallas argues that “personal anecdotes aren’t proof of harm,” pointing to testimonies such as that given by “Brielle Goldani,” who testified in favor of a “conversion therapy” ban for minors.

Goldani, born male, completely fabricated a story about alleged abuse – stealing scenes from the movie But I’m a Cheerleader about “therapy torture.” Goldani claimed he was forced to attend a “conversion therapy camp” just like the one depicted in the movie. Subsequent investigations showed such a camp never existed in the real world.

The American Psychological Association investigated so-called “Sexual Orientation Conversion Efforts” (SOCE) in 2009. Dallas points to their lengthy report, written by a heavily biased group of investigators. The report honestly concluded:

We conclude that there is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE. Early and recent research studies provide no clear evidence of the prevalence of harmful outcomes among people who have undergone efforts to change their sexual orientation or the frequency of the occurrence of harm because no study to date of adequate scientific rigor has been explicitly designed to do so. Thus, we cannot conclude how likely it is that harm will occur from SOCE.

Dallas writes that we should listen to and investigate claims of abuse, adding:

Then, if their claims are confirmed, let’s weep with them, demand corrective action be taken, and pray hard for them and their families.

But he also exhorts the church, saying that believers must refuse to bend when the culture condemns “our service towards those who, by God’s grace, realize their sexual leanings are outside His will.”

Dallas concludes:

As long as there are people wanting to live sanctified lives, contrary to whatever their sexual desires may be, I hope always to have the honor of walking with them.

Related articles and resources:

Joe Dallas:

“What Exactly Is ‘Conversion Therapy?’”

Can Minors Receive Counseling Help for Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction or Sexual Identity Confusion? Federal Courts Split on Local Prohibitions.

Counseling for Sexual Identity Concerns: A Measured, Careful, and Compassionate Approach.

Does Focus on the Family Promote “Gay Conversion Therapy”?

Focus on the Family: Homosexuality Resources

Freedom from Homosexuality – What’s the Controversy?

Therapy Bans Threaten Religious Freedom, Free Speech and Parental Rights


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