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.
I am the first in line to support the freedom to choose any treatment you wish for what ails you. In a free society, everyone should have that right. The only question is whether that right trumps the harm such treatment may cause.
That is what the dispute between the Agudah and Governor Chris Christie seems to be all about. The State of New Jersey has banned conversion therapy (sometimes called reparative therapy). It was signed into law a few weeks ago by Governor Chris Christie.
Conversion therapy is designed to turn people with same sex attractions into people with opposite sex attractions.
The Agudah has expressed righteous indignation about this law – saying that it denies people the right to seek the treatment they choose. There are people who desire to be changed that way, and are now being denied the opportunity to seek such change… calling it “a trampling of personal rights, including religious and free speech rights.”
“efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks, including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.”
Agudah believes that people can change their sexual orientation. Since the male homosexual act is biblically forbidden, it is in the best interest of a homosexual to change it. For Agudah conversion therapy is therefore seen as a must. Taking that option away from them is tantamount to taking away their ability to change and thus condemns them to a life sinful sexual desires – and the likelihood of acting on them. Conversion therapy advocates claim major successes at conversion. How can Agudah be silent when this highly successful option is made illegal?
I don’t blame them for having this approach. But I question the success rate claims made by conversion therapy advocates upon which Agudah no doubt relies…
Their claim of success is questionable at best. And in some cases this therapy has been shown to be very harmful. There is also no question about the high expense and the degrading way their therapy works.
What may be successful is their treatment of people who are confused about their sexuality but are in fact heterosexual. How does one get confused about his sexuality? Consider the following scenario. A Yeshiva high school is entirely male. Students – especially those who dorm – have no hope or any expectation of interaction with females. Although the vast majority of Yeshiva students never have any sexual encounters with either a male or a female – on rare occasion some do.Of those, some interaction is with females. But in some cases males may experiment sexually with each other. That may confuse them about who they are naturally attracted to.
My guess is that in most cases these people are not homosexual. They do not need conversion therapy at all. They probably just need conventional psychotherapy to help understand their true sexual orientation. I’m sure that conversion therapy works with them since they are not really homosexual to begin with. That is of course seen as a successful conversion and touted by these treatment centers.
But truly homosexual people will not have a high success rate (if any) at converting to heterosexuality. My guess is that it never happens. All claims of success by these programs are with people who are naturally heterosexual but confused.
That seems to be what expert opinion says. Conversion therapy has been discredited and condemned by the American Psychiatric Association as a pseudo science. Anecdotal testimony in Jerusalem Post by Chaim Levin who went through it illustrates how humiliating and even harmful it can be.
I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture. Is there a ‘gay gene’ that determines one’s sexual orientation at birth? I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that once someone discovers what they are attracted to, it apparently does not change with even the best of therapies. Trying to change it can sometimes bring tragedy.
It’s kind of like buying snake oil. The people who sell it promise you all kinds of healing and have many anecdotes to tell you about how effective it is. One might ask, what’s the harm? Snake oil can’t hurt you. Besides – there is something called the placebo effect. Which means that believing something will help actually does make it helpful in some cases. But not every snake oil is harmless. And it will certainly hurt you at least in the pocket book.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-right-to-buy-snake-oil/2013/09/17/
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