Experts’ Call to Ban ‘conversion therapies’

Time to “shine a light” and ban conversion therapies – experts

NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Treatments that claim to “cure” gay people are making headlines, with a new movie winning praise, another yanked off the screen and a tiff at the Winter Olympics reigniting calls for banning so-called conversion therapy.

Despite global gains in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, many gay people are still forced to undergo archaic and invasive therapy based on the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or medical condition.

Such treatment – often in religious settings – can involve psychoanalysis, injections and electric shocks.

While the practice has been widely discredited, only Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have nationwide bans, says the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

In other nations, the practice is prohibited by medical associations. It remains legal in most of the United States, but several states, cities and counties have ruled it illegal.

Campaigners said public awareness is rising following an award-winning movie unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival and the recent cancellation by a London cinema of a screening of a conversion film after protest from the LGBT community.

“These moments are moments to shine a light,” Xavier Persad, legislative counsel at the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Conversion therapy is still happening,” he said, calling it “ubiquitously condemned” and “incredibly harmful”.


At Sundance, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”, about teens sent to conversion therapy, won the Grand Jury Prize last month.

“We want to dedicate this award to the LGBTQ survivors of sexual conversion therapy,” said actress Chloe Grace Moretz, in accepting the award.

In the United States, nearly 700,000 LGBT adults have undergone conversion therapy, according to estimates by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law in California.

At the Winter Olympics in South Korea, openly gay U.S. skater Adam Rippon hit headlines worldwide for reportedly turning down an invitation to meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has expressed staunchly anti-gay rights views. Pence has been caught up in accusations that he supports conversion therapy based on statements he made during his first run for Congress. His spokesmen have denied the claims.

The practice has been discredited by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, Britain’s Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Church of England.

“There are times when conversion therapy is brought to attention, and this is one of those moments,” said Graeme Reid, head of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.

Medical and psychiatric associations in such countries as Turkey, India and Argentina have stated opposition to conversion therapy, keeping it from occurring in medical settings, he said.

Brazilian evangelical groups have lobbied to repeal its ban, and a legal challenge is going through the courts, ILGA said.

In Britain, the government is facing pressure to ban the therapy, and several lawmakers have vowed to press the issue.

Laura Russell, head of policy for Stonewall, a UK-based gay rights group, said these recent developments reinforce that “all forms of ‘therapy’ that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are unethical and wrong”.

“Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are not ill,” she said. (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Robert Carmichael and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit


Following on the Church of England’s General Synod call for the British Government to ban the controversial ‘conversion therapies for same-sex-attracted persons in the U.K., (see link below*) the Australian ‘Daily Mail’ has published this article which affirms the call from ‘experts  in the field’ to all countries of the world to outlaw such therapies as both unjustified and, in some instance, positively dangerous.

 The past history of therapeutic intervention in the lives of intrinsically gay people has often brought tragic consequences – including, in the case of Christians who have been encouraged by over-zealous pastors that their sexual orientation is unnatural and the work of the devil – instances of suicide. The very few people who claim to have benefitted from such intervention may just have been already ambivalent about their true sexuality – perhaps even bisexual – and therefore amenable to social encouragement to change – not their actual orientation but their attitude towards it.

In today’s enlightened understanding of the origins of the phenomenon of same-sex attraction, the place of the Church in its attitudes towards both gay people and their search for meaningful relationships (akin to marriage) has become vital – especially in this very important area of intentional therapeutic interference with a person’s God-given sexual orientation.

Sadly, there are still a few people in Anglican Churches around the world (most notably in the GAFCON Provinces but also even here in ACANZP) who really believe that people with same-sex attraction are able to choose their own sexual orientation, and are willfully (and sinfully, according to their critics) persisting in rebelling against what they say the  Bible says about binary sexual relationship.

At least, the TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada, and now the Church of England have recognised and accepted the fact that – in the vast majority of cases, one’s sexual orientation is irrevocably determined in the womb, and this has special connotation for words of Jesus  (Matthew 19:12) about “eunuchs, who are so from their mother’s womb.

One hopes that in our upcoming diocesan and General synods in ACANZP – in their consideration of the recommendations for the Blessing of Same-Sex monogamously faithful and intentionally life-long relationships – synod members will take note of the importance of the recommendations of Motion 29 in attending to the social and spiritual needs of those Church members either in, or contemplating, the Church’s acceptance and Blessing of their committed, faithful, same-sex  relationships.


Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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