Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

Bait and switch

Society | Mormon leaders change their stance on a conversion therapy ban
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 12/06/19, 06:48 pm

Mormon leaders in Utah last week announced their support for a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors who identify as LGBT. The proposed state regulation would prohibit licensed therapists from providing counseling that might result in minors renouncing their homosexuality or transgender identity.

The Utah Legislature considered a bill in February banning conversion therapy, but it failed in committee. Over the summer, Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican and a Mormon, revived the issue, proposing it as a state regulation instead of a law. Some Latter-day Saints groups pushed back on the proposed rule, including LDS Family Services, the counseling arm of the Mormon religion made up of more than 250 licensed professional counselors serving more than 28,000 clients a year.

In October, the agency issued a letter arguing the rule “would imperil entirely legitimate and helpful therapies to the detriment of minor clients,” adding, “Preventing harmful conversion therapy is important, but it does not justify rigid, overbroad, or ambiguous regulations that will have the effect of denying desperately needed therapies and guidance to gender-dysphoric children and their parents.”

Last week, Herbert announced that Mormon leaders supported a new rule that included similar language. It explicitly grants exceptions for clergy members or religious counselors acting in a religious capacity as well as parents and grandparents who are licensed therapists but does not address many of the larger concerns expressed by LDS Family Services.

The shift in the Mormon position on a conversion therapy ban is a “confusing contradiction,” said David Pruden, executive director of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, a national organization of therapists, academics, and researchers advocating for the rights of individuals to obtain therapy that honors their values. He also is a member of Protect All Teens, a coalition of Utahns who oppose the rule.

Mormon doctrine defines marriage as between a man and a woman, bars homosexual activity, and teaches gender is an immutable characteristic.

Pruden called conversion therapy bans a “bait and switch.” Advocates point to horror stories of children with same-sex attraction subjected to discredited aversion therapy techniques that Pruden claims no ethical therapists are doing today. Then they argue a conversion therapy ban will solve the problem.

But conversion therapy bans are a blunt instrument. In Utah, Pruden said, the proposed regulation is so convoluted and vague that people don’t understand they are banning any therapy that could result in a person deciding to change his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. He advocated for a law with a sharper point.

“It’s been a mistake through the years to turn this into a ‘their bill or no bill’ deal,” Purden said, noting that a better measure would ban abusive and discredited practices, not limit the ability of ethical therapists to do their job.

The state likely will publish the proposed rule on Dec. 15 and then go through a 30-day public comment period. That means it could take effect as soon as mid-January, a result that proponents, like LGBT activist group Equality Utah, are declaring as a given.

But it’s not yet a done deal.

A stamp of approval from Mormon leaders is significant—the majority of state lawmakers and nearly two-thirds of the state’s 3.1 million residents are Latter-day Saints—but it might not be enough to move the rule across the finish line. It wasn’t enough when the state legislature considered it earlier this year.

Pruden also said some state lawmakers believe the measure should return to the legislature for consideration when it is back in session in January, a move that would almost certainly mean it goes back to the drawing board.

Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig Sisters Teresa Forteny-Miller (left) and Carolyn Fortney, who are suing the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey and the Diocese of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, during a news conference in Newark, N.J., on Monday

Flood of abuse claims

Recent extensions of statutes of limitations in the United States for child sexual abuse could open the door to at least 5,000 new lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, with payouts topping $4 billion. Fifteen states passed laws that allow victims to file sexual abuse suits going back decades. Some laws, including those in New York and New Jersey, have already taken effect, and others start in the new year. Attorneys are signing up clients by the hundreds.

“A trickle becomes a stream becomes a flood,” said New York attorney James Marsh. “We’re sort of at the flood stage right now.”

The flood could devastate the Catholic Church, which is turning to compensation funds and bankruptcy to weather the storm. Compensation funds offer victims a payment if they agree not to take their claims to court—fast cash but much less than what they could get if their cases went to trial. The Diocese of Rochester in New York filed for bankruptcy in September, facing as much as $500 million in claims from alleged abuse survivors. It was the 20th diocese or religious order to do so.

Others are fighting the new statutes of limitations laws: A Long Island diocese filed a motion last month challenging the constitutionality of New York’s new law, arguing it violates due process. —K.C.

Associated Press/Photo by Larry Stoddard (file) Associated Press/Photo by Larry Stoddard (file) Australian Margaret Court competing in 1977

Bridled praise

Organizers of the Australian Open tennis championship last week confirmed they will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Margaret Court’s Grand Slam (winning women’s singles titles in all four major championships in the same year) despite speculation they would avoid honoring the outspoken countrywoman who is a Christian and a supporter of Biblical marriage.

Court won a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles in her career, one more than current American star Serena Williams.

“As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” the group said in a statement released Saturday. It stressed the commemoration during January’s tournament will applaud Court’s tennis achievements, not her personal convictions.

Court, now 77, is the senior pastor of Victory Life Centre, a Word of Faith Pentecostal church in Perth, Australia. In 2017 she released an open letter urging Australians to vote against same-sex marriage, “for the sake of Australia, our children, and our children’s children.” —K.C.

Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig (file) Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig (file) A Juul pack at a smoke shop in New York

Juul under fire

The state of Minnesota sued vaping giant Juul Labs this week, claiming the e-cigarette company used “Big Tobacco’s playbook” to intentionally market its nicotine products to minors.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed the suit in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis on Wednesday. “They have deceived and misled Minnesota consumers of all ages, creating a public nuisance, and especially harmed our young people,” the former Democratic congressman said.

The suit seeks to force Juul to stop marketing to young people, fund a public education campaign on the dangers of youth vaping and vaping cessation programs, disclose all its research on vaping and health, and surrender all profits from its allegedly unlawful conduct.

Juul maintains it targets only adult smokers and has not tried to attract underage users. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 12/07/2019 03:18 pm

    Tennis Australia does not much want to honor Margaret Court because of her personal views, “which have demeaned and hurt many...”

    What some believe is calling out sin has turned into hate speech. Can’t be hurting or demeaning people. Except maybe a few particularly heinous categories. 

    Still ok to hurt and demean those who abuse dogs. Or Nazis. Or Trump supporters.  

    Hmm...  Seems like I’m overlooking one group who it’s acceptable to hurt and demean. Who could it be?  

    Ah. Evangelical Christians. 

    Posted: Sun, 12/08/2019 11:15 am

    And we should not have openly anti-semitic people in DC who are leading our country into more hate.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Sat, 12/07/2019 11:00 pm

    With a history of delegitimising polygamy when the culture demanded it, is it any surpise Mormon leaders could be changing their tune to fit in yet again?

    Posted: Sun, 12/08/2019 11:24 am

    Is it ok to drink Coke now. ;-) 

    I used to know a "jack Mormon". He called himself that because he was Mormon but did stuff like smoking, etc. which Mormons did not approve.

    Mormons are another group that want your chldren anyway they can get them. I've witnessed some stuff. Not illegal, but which hurt families.

    Mormons are very nice people unless you become one and then change your mind.