Conversion Therapy: is it either?

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The campaign against conversion therapy is gaining momentum, but there is also resistance.

Last May, then-Green Party leader Andrew Weaver introduced a bill in the BC Legislature to end the practice of conversion therapy.

In December, Canada’s Senate gave first reading to a private member’s bill which would ban advertising for conversion therapy and receiving financial consideration for offering such treatment to youths

And last Saturday CTV’s W5 ran a show which challenged the practice and featured federal Justice Minster David Lametti stating he is planning to amend the Criminal Code to ban the practice of conversion therapy.

(For more detail on these three matters, see below.)

In the face of such initiatives, Kevin Cavanaugh, pastor of Cedar Grove Church and a founder of the OneAccord movement, released a video January 29 titled Conversion Therapy: is it either? Following is the text of the video, posted by permission.

Kevin Cavanaugh, with his wife Cynthia.

A news blast came out of Victoria last November, from Ken Hardy the honourable Liberal MP from Surrey. In speaking about the highly controversial conversion therapy issue. He was quoted as saying,

We’ll ban it. I’m not exactly sure what mechanism we’ll use, but whatever it takes. It’s something that the science isn’t there for, and it’s harmful in our view. We’ll find a way to get rid of it.

Why is this conversion therapy ban so controversial today? Some would say it’s because it has little to do with either conversion or therapy. It’s controversial because its proponents are purposefully linking its definition to harmful and coercive practices which, by and large, were rejected and denounced decades ago.

Lack of clarity

To be clear . . .

  • Conversion is a theological term! It describes the transaction that takes place when a willing person repents of their sin and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
  • Therapy Is a psychological term. Describing the skilled process by which a counsellor or psychiatrist goes about administering mental or spiritual guidance to a client seeking help.

I have been working with pastors, leaders, counsellors and organizations across Canada for over 22 years now. I am personally unaware of anyone using, or for that matter who has ever used, shock therapy or corrosive measures of any kind, seeking to force anyone to either ‘believe’ or ‘behave’ differently. Neither am I aware of anyone who knows of any such persons. If any of you do, then please, by all means report those persons or organizations to governmental authorities.

Our concern

The concern of those of us who oppose the ban is this. It is a very open and notorious effort on the part of the Liberal government to remove the personal rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens.

Every Canadian citizen, including those in the LGBTQ movement, should have the right to choose whatever health care options, be they mental, physical or spiritual that they desire. Canada is all about diversity and personal choice, not about governmental intervention.

What we can all agree should be banned in Canada is this – that no one should be subjected to forceful, invasive or corrosive treatments of any kind, by anyone, for any reason, including the government.

Let me close with a scripture whose relevance is growing day by day in Canada. I would like to paraphrase Esther 4:12-13 for our time:

Do not think because you are a pastor, that you alone of all Christians will escape, for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come but you and your church will perish. For who knows if you did not come into your royal pastoral position for such a time as this.

Pastors, you and I are nearly the only ones left in Canada who can still speak out on these issues. Let’s not cower but let’s use our voices for the sake of those God loves and wants to see saved. This issue will be coming to a city near you. We would like to help prepared you to be ready to stand with grace, truth and great compassion when it does.

If you are interested in receiving templates for presentation or testimonies of Canadians who have been helped with their dysphoria, please contact us at preparetostand@the-grove.net

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Following are three fronts of the debate over conversion therapy:

1. Proposed BC legislation, Concerned Citizens respond

I wrote an article last fall (Concerned citizens oppose ‘highly problematic’ conversion therapy bill) which began with these words:

A group of concerned citizens has banded together to oppose a Bill [M 218: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act] opposing conversion therapy. They point out the proposed legislation now before the BC Legislature is poorly drafted, being both too vague and too broad.

The article links to the website of a group of ‘Concerned Citizens’ who have done a good job of analyzing the problem and offering a 30-page ‘Cautionary Response.’ They also created a petition against the bill.

2. Bill S-202, EFC response

Late last year the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) posted Q & A: Bill S-202 and Conversion Therapy. Here is a portion:

Q: What are the concerns with Bill S-202 and other efforts to ban conversion therapy?

A: Bill S-202 should not directly impact churches. It could affect organizations who advertise conversion therapy or receive payment for offering support groups or counselling for individuals seeking to live out their sexuality in the manner they choose.

We are also concerned with the breadth of the definition in S-202 and by the prospect that the government could adopt this definition in its anticipated changes to the Criminal Code. Further, while the activities prohibited by S-202 are focused on advertising and paid services, future government legislation could apply this definition to a broader range of activities, which could then be problematic for churches, religious officials and/or parents. . . .

The EFC is monitoring the issue of conversion therapy closely and working on preparing responses.

Second reading debate on Bill S-202 will resume in the Senate this month.

3. CTV’s W5: Thy Will Be Done

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti is pushing for a new law preventing conversion therapy.

CTV’s W5 presented a half-hour feature on the issue January 31: How religious organizations use conversion therapy to try to make LGBTQ people straight.

Here is a portion of the accompanying article:

In 2012, Harper Perrin was desperate. Parents and friends made it clear; being gay was sinful and unacceptable. (Harper prefers the gender neutral pronouns they or them).

They went to a church in Langley BC and began conversion therapy with a worship leader to change their sexual orientation. The practice is based on outdated and unproven medical beliefs and is mostly performed by Christian groups under the radar. . . .

Despite efforts by Christian activists to stop Edmonton’s ban, on December 10th, 2019 the city passed the most comprehensive legislation against conversion therapy in the country. Anyone caught trying to change a person’s sexual orientation will be automatically fined $10,000.

But gay activists aren’t content with Edmonton’s municipal ban. They’re hoping the federal government will criminalize conversion therapy in Canada and they may get their wish.

In December 2019, Federal Justice Minister David Lametti received his mandate letter from Prime Minister Trudeau that included instructions to: amend the Criminal Code to ban the practice of conversion therapy.

“It’s a detrimental practice. It’s a tragic practice,” Lametti told Sandie Rinaldo. When asked if he thought there was the political will to ban conversion therapy quickly he answered, “I think that’s absolutely right.”

Journey Canada, which has its national office in Vancouver, responded to the W5 piece February 5:

CTV’s W5 investigative reporting program aired a documentary regarding conversion therapy practices in Canada on February 1, 2020. One short segment of the documentary referenced Journey Canada, including video footage taken by an undercover reporter/actor posing as a Journey Discipleship Course participant. The program got some things right, and some things very wrong about our ministry which require response.

First, what W5 got right: We were pleased to see the documentary states that “When the actor arrived, nothing seemed sinister. People were welcoming and supportive. They even offered to pray for him to overcome the shame he told them he felt over his homosexuality.” And the episode accurately notes that only five percent of Journey Discipleship Course participants identify same-sex attraction as one of the issues that they are dealing with.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of what is stated on the documentary about Journey Canada was simply wrong. . . . 

Journey’s Canada’s program participants are not victims, they are mature, consenting adults who know that they are choosing the road less traveled; a road which the broader culture says they can and should avoid by fully embracing, identifying by, and acting according to, their sexual orientation. Journey Canada’s program participants are aware of this and are freely choosing a different path. In a free and democratic society which tolerates a diversity of religions and sexual expressions, this is permissible.

Journey is proud, not ashamed, to walk alongside such people. Doing so is one of the purposes of our ministry. Yet we do not impose our beliefs on anyone.

So while we are disappointed that CTV’s actor deceived Journey Canada and his fellow program participants, and took video footage of private small group time without consent and in breach of his contractual promise (in the application package) not to do that very thing, we are pleased that what he found was a welcoming and supportive environment, a place of acceptance and prayer. We wish him, and all those interviewed on W5’s documentary, all the best.

Go here for the (very helpful) full statement.

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