A group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders have secretly passed around a “Torah Declaration” on “The Torah Stance on Homosexuality.” It rebukes homosexuality as being “not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity” and assumes that gays are by definition “unable to find happiness in a loving relationship.” To abide by the Torah, the Declaration stridently demands ex-gay therapy, including of teenagers, to repair “childhood emotional wounds”:
We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel. [...]
The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the individual’s emotional development…There is no other practical, Torah-sanctioned solution for this issue. [...]
It requires tremendous bravery and fortitude for a person to confront and deal with same-sex attraction. For example a sixteen-year-old who is struggling with this issue may be confused and afraid and not know whom to speak to or what steps to take. We must create an atmosphere where this teenager (or anyone) can speak freely to a parent, rabbi, or mentor and be treated with love and compassion. Authority figures can then guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.
This declaration is incredibly more dismissive of the lives of gays and lesbians than the more affirming Statement of Principles many Modern Orthodox rabbis signed in July 2010. These theology-based therapies, along with the notion that gays are incapable of love and doomed to loneliness, present an incredible potential for harm to young people. Jayson Littman, who published the declaration publicly for the first time today, shared a quote from ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Rapoport: “I am not obligated to believe in a failed therapy because it fits my theology better.” Point in fact, these rabbis are using their theology to deny decades worth of scientific knowledge, oblivious to the incredible threat they pose to young people’s mental health in doing so.