The Liberty Counsel, an anti-gay legal group affiliated with Liberty University, is concerned about the recently passed California bill that would prohibit licensed therapists from offering ex-gay therapy to minors. Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, explained that the group believes the government should not do anything to protect the health of its citizens:
STAVER: If the bill is signed into law, Liberty Counsel will sue on behalf of counselors, parents, and minors who provide, refer, or who receive and have found change therapy to be beneficial.
If the governor signs this law, mental health professionals will find themselves in a catch-22. Therapists have an ethical obligation to help clients deal with conflict. If a counselee is experiencing conflict between religious beliefs and same-sex attractions and wants to prioritize these beliefs over such attractions, the counselor is ethically obligated to directly help the client or refer for help. Under this bill, the counselor will be forced to disregard the client’s religious beliefs or change them. This bill will harm minors, undermine parental rights, and interfere with the rights of counselors. This bill and the ethical codes of all of the licensing boards in California are on an inevitable collision course.
The implications of the government determining what counseling treatments are acceptable should concern every counselor and citizen. That decision should be left to the patient, the parents, and the doctors. The government has no place in that conversation.
The government has every responsibility to ensure that people are protected from harmful, unscientific medical practices. Just as the FDA regulates prescription drugs so that individuals’ health is not compromised, so too does it make perfect sense to regulate therapeutic treatments. A religious belief does not entitle an individual to controlled substances that would be harmful, and so neither should it entitle parents to force their children to endure the harmful junk therapy of trying to change their sexual orientation. It would be no different if a patient demanded a doctor treat her with bloodletting or leeches — the patient’s belief does not determine the effectiveness of the treatment.
As Box Turtle Bulletin has noted, the California bill only applies to licensed therapists. Religious ex-gay ministries, unlicensed pastors, counselors, or “life coaches” could reinforce the stigma and self-hatred Liberty Counsel believes in as much they wanted.