California bans ‘praying away the gay’ therapies

California became the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to “overcome” homosexuality, a step hailed … Continued

California became the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to “overcome” homosexuality, a step hailed by gay rights groups across the country that say the therapies have caused dangerous emotional harm to gay and lesbian teenagers. In a statement, California Gov. Jerry Brown said, “This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

This law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, will prohibit attempts by mental health providers to perform therapy on minors intended to change their sexual orientation, including efforts to “change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and director of its LGBT rights project, commented on the significance of this law:

Emphasis here on the phrase “junk science.” The American Psychological Association denounced the use of ex-gay therapies . Furthermore, in 2012 Dr. Robert Spitzer refuted his earlier infamous claims touted by the ex-gay movement as gospel that “highly motivated” gay people could reach their “heterosexual potential” through prayer and therapy. Even the ex-gay group Exodus International backed away from promising a cure for “homosexuality” though they and other like minded groups still maintain that “homosexuality” represents a sin that one must overcome.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, notes that while the California law might be a milestone, it should be seen as a first step. He said that “the ideas in reparative therapy have been widely adopted by church ministries and others promoting the idea that homosexual urges can be banished .”

As expected organizations like the Liberty Counsel and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) who advance the view that “homosexuality is a choice” took to the airwaves and Internet to justify their use of debunked medical practices under the guise of “religious freedom” and “parental rights.”

These “pro-family” activists conveniently ignore the glaring reality that this law does not force any religious entity or individual to go against their individual conscience. Within the confines of their church or home school scenarios, clergy and parents have considerable latitude when it comes to teaching the doctrines of their particular faith tradition. (In a similar vein, no law supporting marriage equality will force anyone to perform a same sex wedding. Ordained clergy have the right to refuse to marry anyone for any reason, a simple fact lost on those determined to legislate their view of Americana Christianity on to an ever increasing pluralistic public square.)

Under this law, unlicensed “Christian” counselors can continue their practice of “praying away the gay.” Hence, parents can still find resources should they wish to “cure” their children from the “sin of homosexuality” provided they can pay for the cost of these treatments. However, this law denies those mental health professionals who hold licenses issued by the state of California from engaging in practices deemed to be harmful to minor children. Should they continue to practice ex-gay therapies, they will risk censure and loss of their license. Simply put, if one wants the benefits that comes with having a state issued license such as insurance reimbursement, then one has to follow the civil laws issued by that state.

This law continues in the spirit of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bob Jones University vs. United States (1983) where the SCOTUS decreed that those faith-based organizations who choose to avail themselves to financial incentives offered by the U.S. government like tax-exempt status and federal funding must abide by civil laws or risk losing said financial incentives.


Becky Garrison is a religion writer and author whose books include “Jesus Died for This?” and “Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church.”

  • SODDI

    Quackery is such a mild word in this case.

  • F Young

    “Calif. bans ‘praying away the gay’ or reparative therapies for minors”

    This headline is misleading. The California law only applies to “sexual orientation change efforts” by licensed therapists. It does not apply to most “pray away the gay” sessions, since they are delivered by unlicensed “Christian” pastors and counsellors.

  • larryclyons

    Next step tighten up the licensing requirements and who can do therapy. I cannot see why someone who got a so-called bible degree from Billy Bob’s Discount Garage and Bible College is as qualified as someone who has a BSc, MS and PhD in Clinical Psychology then got accredited and licensed.

  • jay2drummer

    Unfortunately, separation of church and state means we can’t pass laws telling pastors what they can preach or how they have to treat people. It’s sad that they get to hide behind the first amendment as they try to bully gays, but throwing out the Constitution to target religious groups is no better than religious groups trying to throw out the Constitution to legislate Christianity into our laws.

  • OldUncleTom

    We legislate protections for our children against other sexual predators, why not these as well?

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