A strident op-ed titled “We Are Under Attack by the LGBTPed Community” was published on 5TJT.com and has been picked up by YWN. The article argues that government bans on so called Conversion Therapy is an assault on religious freedom. This sort of therapy has been discussed on this blog previously. See: Conversion Therapy.
The upshot of the article is that Agudath Israel, OU, and NCYI need to lobby against these bans that, as the author concludes, “deprives both minors and therapists the freedom of seeking out therapies that will encourage redirection for those struggling with unhealthy physical attractions. This is a direct assault on religious freedoms in this state by the LGBTPed community, and we must put in an all-out effort to quash this bill.”
There is so much wrong with this op-ed. Too many of the assumptions in the article are based on familiar, and erroneous, conservative Daas Radio talking points.
The headline is obscene. It implies that there is equivalence between LGBT and pedophiles. Leaving aside the issue of whether these tendencies are inborn or learned, or whether they are deviant tendencies, LGBT and pedophilia cannot be uttered in the same sentence with a straight face. One who is LGBT and acts on those tendencies with a consenting adult may be a sinner in the eyes of some religions or God. However, they are acting in a loving and respectful manner. A pedophile who acts on their tendencies is taking advantage of a child. This is a violent, selfish, abusive act. There is no moral equivalence between the two and we should not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of equating the two under any circumstance.
There is an assumption that Orthodox organizations do not work together with Christian lobbyists. This is incorrect. The frum organizations joined Christian forces in opposing the “contraception mandate” portion of the American Healthcare Act. (See: Controlling Birth Control and OU and Agudah Unite Against Contraceptives on DovBear). There is plenty of evidence that Orthodox Jewish organizations and conservative Christians work together on many things. This is just something that they are (thankfully) choosing to ignore (so far).
Banning Conversion Therapy is not an assault on freedom nor is it an attack against religion. The 9th Circuit correctly ruled that these bans are not an assault on freedom because they do not regulate speech. They regulate professional activity. We are guaranteed freedom of speech, not freedom of professional activity. It’s no different than any law that regulates psychologists or lawyers or really any profession where the bulk of the work being done is speech. When speech is used in a professional context like therapy it is not simply speech, it becomes conduct. The government has the right to regulate professional conduct. Just because much of the conduct is speech, the power the government has to regulate the conduct does not magically become limited.
Also, as Professor Volokh notes, even though the science of whether something is harmful or helpful may change, as long as the government leaves the issue open for reevaluation based on the current science, the law is fair. It’s not an assault on freedom. Orthodox Jews are free to teach Leviticus and we are free to deny any religious rights and privileges to anyone we so choose. But the state can still regulate therapy. This is not an attack on religion.
Further, the horror stories of JONAH participants is enough to discourage any of us from lamenting laws that prohibit them from engaging in dangerous forms of therapy. Disallowing this kind of therapy protects children and teens from potential harms. I’ve been told that JONAH also provides therapy to sex abusers, oftentimes together with LGBT people. This is a clear message to LGBT people that they are viewed as equals to sex abusers. Protecting its citizens is certainly within the rights of a state. The lack of scientific evidence to support Conversion Therapy combined with the harmful activities associated with organizations like JONAH are enough to support the state’s decision to ban it.