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Proposed conversion therapy bans: a 'violation of human rights'

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This week, Voices of the Silenced streamed a live panel discussion on the controversial law being considered in the Republic of Ireland and California that would ban same-sex ‘conversion’ therapies.

The ban would impose fines or prison sentences on any person performing any sort of therapy which sought to help people with unwanted same-sex attraction move away from their lifestyles or feelings.

The discussion was led by Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, an organisation that offers counselling and psychotherapy to Christians and non-Christians who are seeking to reduce their feelings of same-sex attraction.

Mr Davidson has been married for 32 years but has in the past struggled with same-sex attraction but testifies that through therapy now no longer has these feelings.

Panellists were Roger Kiska, advisor to the Christian Legal Centre, Carys Moseley, policy advisor to Christian Concern and Stephen Baskerville, professor and author.

Not just Christians

The discussion helpfully explained the type of people who are seeking to access these services and who would be the ones most at risk if the bans in Northern Ireland and California are passed.

‘There are going to be people who genuinely desire to have this treatment,’ said Mr Kiska. ‘Those who are married and want to stay faithful to their spouse, raise their children, those who are clergy who want to remain celibate and keep their vows, Christians who want to live out their biblical faith. There are valid reasons to want to move away from same sex attraction. They should be able to get the help they desire.’

However, it is not just Christians who seek out this treatment. According to Mr Davidson a lot of the clients who come to the Core Issues Trust for help are non-religious.


Why ban when you can regulate?

The argument against these therapies has focussed on the perceived harm that they may cause however panellists pointed out that many of these studies have not been made public, and therefore the argument that they are dangerous is fairly weak. However, it was acknowledged that there could be people who should not be allowed to offer these therapies.

‘Why would there be a ban when you can regulate?’ said Mr Kiska. ‘There are going to be bad therapists in any area of therapy.’


Banning private voluntary conversations is very disturbing

The human rights of those seeking therapy and the subsequent legal ramifications of a ban was discussed at length.

 ‘What is disturbing from my standpoint is the idea of banning therapy,’ said Stephen Baskerville. ‘The idea of voluntary associations, voluntary conversations between consenting adults - for the state to come in and prohibit this, with civil or criminal penalties is very disturbing. This has obvious, severe implications for personal freedoms, civil liberties – the very concept of a free society.’

‘Freedom of religion is protected under the equality act,’ Mr Kiska said. ‘Under that you have a right to live out your faith. To tell people you can’t access these therapies is a breach of the human rights act.’

By proposing bans on these therapies, governments in California and the Republic of Ireland seem to the be taking the side of the gay lobby and have forgotten that there are people who want to access these services.

‘These are actual people,’ said Carys Mosely. ‘Not just theories in our heads.

‘I think it’s important to develop the ideas about why people should be allowed to access therapy, because there are many good reasons… People should be aware of the welfare and hopes and goals of others are at stake here.’


Families are falling apart

There was a consensus among the panellists that legislation like this as well as the recent discussion on abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland should make the government sit up and take notice of what is at stake.

‘Families are falling apart,’ said Mr Kiska. ‘We have a failing family culture. It’s the duty of government to fix it – to create a healthy marriage culture. One of the ways of doing that is not tell people with unwanted same-sex attractions ‘you can’t access this therapy’. I think we can do better than that… It’s political correctness run amok.’