California has passed a law stating psychotherapists may not defraud their clients. Advocacy groups have filed suit to defend their right to be defrauded. Quick-witted readers have deduced I’m writing about the Golden State’s new law banning conversion therapy for children under 18.
Conversion therapy promises to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. It’s persisted for years despite a near-total lack of success; Freud himself rejected it as unlikely and unnecessary nearly 80 years ago. In the United Kingdom, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy formally declared conversion therapy to be unethical this month. Their decision came in the wake of a scandal sparked by an exposé of conversion therapists who insisted the reporter must be depressed, compared homosexuality to cannibalism and showed peculiar interest as to whether his family members were Freemasons.
The Pacific Justice Institute and Liberty Counsel have filed suit in Federal Court, demanding therapists be permitted to offer these services to kids. They pose the issue as a matter of free speech and religious liberty. Here’s why they’re wrong.
1. What about the success stories?
Which success stories? In his 2009 review of extant studies, B.A. Robinson found conversion therapy’s failure rate ranged from 99.5% to 100%. He notes that Joseph Nicolosi, founder of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, an advocacy group for conversion therapy, had a strange definition of ‘success’. Per Robinson, Nicolosi stated that one-third of his conversion therapy clients became celibate but remained attracted to same-sex partners. Another third limited their sexual activity with same-sex partners, and one-third didn’t change at all. Nicolosi considered the first two categories to constitute success. You could call that “celibacy therapy”, but not “conversion therapy”.
Religious groups’ success has been minimal to non-existent as well. Two of the founders of Exodus International left the organization in 1979. They lived and loved together in a committed relationship until death parted them twelve years later. The Rev. John Smid, who spent more than 22 years with another ex-gay ministry, Love in Action, admitted, “Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.” As the former Executive Director, you’d think he would have.
2. What’s the harm in trying?
Suicidal depression, for one. The American Psychiatric Association condemned conversion therapy in 1998 and again in 2000 because of the considerable anecdotal evidence of emotional harm.
Bamboozlement, for another If a patient asks his doctor to cure him of lupus, the correct response would be, “There is no cure. Let’s talk about managing your symptoms.” To take the client’s money without stating plainly that lupus is incurable would be fraud – even if one’s faith teaches lupus is against God’s will. Lupus, of course, is (a) a disease that (b) causes pain and suffering in and of itself, and (c) can be eased with medical treatment. None of those things are true of homosexuality. For therapists to promise to treat a condition that has no effect on mental stability is exponentially more deceitful.
Consider the suits state boards filed against L.Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s. They successfully charged him with teaching medicine without a license through his Dianetics Foundation. Hubbard kept peddling Dianetics, but repositioned it as a religion called Scientology. Discomfited by allegations the Scientologist ‘church’ exploits and abuses its members? How you would feel if your insurance premiums helped pay for it?
3. Isn’t this political correctness run amok?
No. Religious groups have the right to their view that gay sex is wrong. When they ask courts to rule that homosexuality is a treatable mental illness, they’ve long since left their bailiwick.
@ 2012 Jonathan Miller All Rights Reserved