Remember all the sturm und drang about cities and states banning “conversion therapy?” (For the uninitiated, that is therapy that seeks to change one’s homosexual desires to heterosexual ones).
New York City was a leader in banning this therapy on the grounds that it doesn’t work and leads to depression and suicide. The idea of banning this therapy has become such a cause célèbre, there’s been two films, both released in 2018 about the issue.
Then New York decided to rescind its law.
Why? Because it was afraid of a lawsuit. That’s a big, big news story. Right?
As the New York Times tells us:
Nearly two years ago, the New York City Council celebrated when it passed a far-reaching ban on conversion therapy, a discredited practice to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Thursday, Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, who is gay, said the Council would act swiftly to repeal the ban.
The move is a gambit designed to neutralize a federal lawsuit filed against the city by a conservative Christian legal organization; if the case were to be heard by the Supreme Court, advocates for the L.G.B.T. community fear that the panel could issue a ruling that could severely damage attempts to ban or curtail conversion therapy.
As columnist Dave Barry used to say: You can’t make this stuff up. The article adds the city has amended a regulation in the past in the face of a lawsuit.
Supporters of repealing the conversion therapy ban say that it is a regrettable but necessary step given the Supreme Court’s conservative makeup under the Trump administration.
“Obviously I didn’t want to repeal this. I don’t want to be someone who is giving in to these right-wing groups,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview. “But the Supreme Court has become conservative; the Second Circuit, which oversees New York, has become more conservative.”
Wait a minute: If the law was so needed, why are its backers abandoning it two years later? Are they really saying that the anti-conversion law was based on a faulty premise? The article doesn’t say. It merely quotes the following:
In January, the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based group, filed a lawsuit challenging the law on the grounds that it violated free speech, suggesting that the measure was “the first in the nation to censor speech” between counselors and adult patients.
“This law was a textbook violation of free speech and the right of individuals to pursue the lives and identities they want to exercise,” said Roger Brooks, a senior lawyer for the group, which says its mission is to defend religious freedom.
The article does not follow up on the free speech implications but instead swings back to critiques of conversion therapy. The ADF lawsuit, by the way, was on behalf of a therapist in Brooklyn.
The NBC video atop this page points out that the lawsuit was on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish therapist, which trashes the idea that gay conversion therapy is only the province of some misguided evangelicals.
The ADF folks must partying at this point. Here they show up to file a suit and the city council flees for cover? And no one in the media scolds them for abandoning the cause?
What’s odd about the whole thing is that Supreme Court cases often take years to reach the bench. Trump may only be in office another year and if a Democrat succeeds him, you can bet that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be resigning her seat as fast as she can. Her replacement will be cut from the same cloth. So, why does the New York council assume their case would fail?
Other articles such as this one in Time magazine; this one in the New York Daily News and this one from the New York Post — none of which really added to the story. I do think the Post could come up with a better description of the ADF than “anti-LGBTQ Christian group.”
Instead, I hear a lot of talk about gay conversion therapy “survivors.” (Wish these same media were as zealous at interviewing abortion survivors, but I digress). None of these reports points out that the city council’s law was really bad legislation that any First Amendment expert could have told them had a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of going unchallenged.
Nothing in the Times piece –- nor in other pieces I’ve listed about anti-conversion therapy — lets the practitioners themselves actually talk about what they do, much less allows them to respond to their critics. Will anyone allow these people to discuss what they believe and teach?
One story that does is this Religion News Service story about an ex-gay couple who’s rebranding the whole conversion thing. The couple is involved in the famous –- and sometimes infamous — Bethel Church in northern California.
(RNS) — Elizabeth Woning and Ken Williams have a simple message to LGBTQ people: God can radically transform their sexual orientation. It’s the motto of their new campaign, “Changed Is Possible.”
If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is. “Change is possible” was the slogan of Exodus International, the interdenominational ex-gay Christian ministry that shut down in 2012 after its president, Alan Chambers, renounced conversion therapy, saying it did not work and was harmful.
Woning and Williams — she once considered herself a lesbian and he once considered himself gay — have added a “d” to “change” and have launched what they call “a community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+.”
The two pastors at Bethel Church, an independent charismatic megachurch in Redding, California, are rebranding the mostly discredited notion that gays can become straight with a sleekly designed, visually updated website that features stories of people who consider themselves #oncegay.
The pair doesn’t offer therapy, the article said, but they will pray with whomever wants it. Which goes to show, the article continued, “that for a large segment of Christianity including evangelicals, charismatics, Pentecostals and Catholics, the belief that homosexuality is a sin — and therefore a choice — is pervasive and deeply ingrained.”
Much of the secular world can’t imagine such sentiments and lots of religious folks aren’t exactly advertising the fact that they feel this way. Who wants the hate mail that will result?
As for the Bethel couple, they’ve gone to the state capital in Sacramento to protest anti-conversion bills.
At the most fundamental level, Woning said, she sees efforts to ban the practice as a matter of religious freedom.
“We should all have a right to shape our own personal sexuality as we feel led by our convictions,” she said.
So here we finally have a piece that allows the ex-gay folks to actually state what they’re about in their own words.
Hopefully, the MSM will pick up this RNS piece. It’s about time they saw an example of something that actually tells both sides.