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Maine bans ‘conversion therapy’ for minors

by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 5/30/19, 10:31 am

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed a bill into law Wednesday that prohibits so-called “conversion therapy” for minors struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. The law defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment that seeks or purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” but it says the definition does not include “any practice or treatment that provides acceptance, support, and understanding to an individual.” It is unclear who may determine what constitutes “acceptance, support, and understanding.” The law specifically mentions “marriage and family therapists” and “pastoral counselors” on the list of licensed professionals who cannot provide such therapy to anyone under the age of 18.

“This bill would equate sound Biblical counseling with torture and abuse under the name of conversion therapy,” the Christian Civic League of Maine said on its website. Although the bill does not explicitly equate conversion therapy with child abuse, it places it in the same section as abuse as grounds for revoking a professional counselor’s license.

Maine joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in banning the therapy.

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Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 05/30/2019 01:41 pm

    The Christian Civic League's statement does not make sense to me when I read its summary of the bill.  Is it a Trojan Horse?

  •  DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Thu, 05/30/2019 03:06 pm

    I do not believe SSA can be 'cured' by therapy. The Bible condemns homosexual behavior, and lust would be included as a behavior of the mind, but it does not condemn SSA any more than it condemns heterosexual attraction. It is, however, an affliction of varying degrees of severity.

    A praiseworthy obedience:

    "The obedience of faith only works when it’s rooted in a person, not a rule."

    "There is no biblical command to be heterosexual."

  • TheAbundantLand
    Posted: Thu, 05/30/2019 04:02 pm

    I've seen people freed from drug addiction, habitual pornography use, significant smoking addiction, alcoholism, chronic over-eating, eating disorders, debilitating anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, and more.

    Our Savior is in the business of setting the captives free from any type of bondage! 

    "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Phil 2:13)

    God is indeed God of our will, wants, and desires. 

    As we give our will and desires over to His Lordship, He changes us to how He wants us to be, He "works in you to will" Godly things. 



  •  DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Thu, 05/30/2019 04:14 pm

    Yes, he can and does heal all sorts of afflictions, but not every one nor every one the same way. He is not a vending machine that we can plug our prayer quarters into and expect the requested product to be delivered. It is cruel to suggest that someone has not been healed of whatever affliction because they did not have enough faith.

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 05/31/2019 02:12 am

    While I believe some people ARE set free all at once from things that are harmful like addictions (and I believe God gave us his laws to PROTECT us), that doesn't seem to be the way it is with everyone. I have NEVER reached a point where I was completely free from sin, and I have always needed help from other believers to remain accountable.  (Even biblical characters have needed this-e.g., Nathan confronting David and Paul confronting Peter)  I've even had UNBELIEVERS call me out on stuff, and that was humbling!   

    I have not experienced same sex attraction, but I have been attracted to someone who was not my spouse.  I didn't ask for it, it just happened.  But I had a choice about what to do with it. I could have acted on my feelings or let myself continue to fantasize about them, but the result would have hurt me and others I care about.  God isn't trying to shame people.  He is trying to protect us from pain.


  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 05/31/2019 08:29 pm

    Dale, I agree that the "not enough faith" comment is very often used in an inappropriate and hurtful way (and I might add unhelpful too). But that seems a little beside the point to this discussion. God sometimes does use professionals (or even lay volunteers) to heal our body and mind. (And of course miracles are allways a possibility, but he seems to have a policy of sending them infrequently.) And I think that it is fair to say that a mind that is persistently filled with sexual attraction toward innapropriate objects (heterosexual or homosexual) is unwell to some degree. Now some of that may just be the sin nature that we'll all have to fight untill we die, but there's always the chance that some of it could be eased (or in some cases removed entirely) through psychological help and counseling. (Especially in the case of gender identity, quite a lot of kids do become comfortable in their own body after puberty.) It's unfair to deny kids that chance entirely because of abuses by a few.

  •  DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Fri, 05/31/2019 11:31 pm

    Laura –

    The gender to which you are attracted is not a choice. Could you, merely by willing it, choose to be attracted to the opposite gender from which you are now? 

    "A mind that is persistently filled", dwelling on an attraction, is a behavior and a choice*, so you are actually changing the subject. We were talking about attraction. And gender identity is another topic, too.

    Regarding choice, this from Tim Keller is good:


    *What we pay attention to is a continuous moral choice that we make.


    [I inadvertently touched the Report Comment button on your comment. Sorry. ; - ) ]

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 06/01/2019 05:00 am

    It sounds like we agree on a lot of points. For starters, I would class SSA as a temptation, not a sin, and it sounds like you do as well. I also agree with you that no matter what sin we are tempted with, we bear responsibility to resist that temptation and not dwell on the desire to sin. And I don't think SSA is a choice either, at least not for most people (there could be exceptions). (To answer your question, I don't know, and it doesn't seem wise to try the experiment--I've occasionally succeeded too well with such things.) But neither are depression, eating disorders, etc. There are all sorts of things that aren't conscious choices that can still often be helped through appropriate counseling and therapy. They may or may not ever completely go away, but sometimes they do, to the point that the person is no longer tempted in that particular way.

    Maybe we're not using the same definition of SSA, though? In my understanding, that term does imply some sort of continuous or ongoing temptation, regardless of whether one chooses to dwell on it. If it was just a passing thought here and there, I don't think most people would choose to describe themselves as having SSA. And to clarify, I also don't think there's anything sinful per se about not desiring a romantic relationship with the opposite sex. Though this is also something that could potentially be helped by counseling, depending on the reason for it.

    The reason I brought up gender identity is because that is also affected by this law. I took your comment, "I do not believe SSA can be 'cured' by therapy" to mean that you didn't think the sort of counseling that is now prohibited in Maine would actually be beneficial to anyone, but maybe I misunderstood. Do you mind clarifying what point you were making with that statement? And do you think that counselors should be able to help (or at least attempt to help) minors in these ways, if that is what the minors desire?

    And by the way, I do agree with the Tim Keller article you mentioned, and I like his illustration. (The Christianity Today one requires a subscription.) Although in my experience, the impulses I choose to ingore and/or discourage tend to diminish and eventually go away over time. (Yes, I understand that this is not always the case for everyone.)

  •  DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Sat, 06/01/2019 07:51 pm

    SSA is exactly analogous to heterosexual attraction. So yes, it can be a temptation, but it is not a sin in itself. I don’t think it is analogous to psychological disorders, though, in that, like cerebral palsy, it is an affliction involving our basic makeup.

    It appears that I think there is more choice involved with maladies like depression and eating disorders, at least initially, than you. It harks back to what we pay attention to. If we pay more attention to the culture's lies about what is important and then lie to ourselves about our body image instead of finding our identity as a beloved child of our Father, or pay too much attention to the evening news instead of remembering that he's got the whole world in his hands, but especially that he is holding ours in his, we will fall into habits of sinful thinking and other habitual behaviors that we may well need help to break out of.

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 06/01/2019 11:11 pm

    As I said, I don't have personal experience with same sex attraction.  However, I do have experience with depression, eating disorders, and alcoholism; so I'm going to comment about them.  I didn't do a scientific study, but I think there can be some kind of genetic component involved in depression and alcoholism-in addition to choice and environmental factors, of course.  There are people who pray and go to counseling and are completely healed of depression. But I also know people who were strong believers and who made a choice to go to counseling, to attend groups, to pray very hard and seek the Lord, to focus on the positive, to reach out to others, to have others pray over them-basically ALL the things you are supposed to do-and, although they were helped by those things, without meds they would still become psychotic and/or suicidal. 

    Regarding alcohol, there are people who are healed to the point of never desiring another drink.  Praise God for them!  But most that I know have to work at sobriety.  And some people seem particularly predisposed to addiction.  One person I know initially swore off alcohol because there were so many addicts and alcoholics in her family; but she was given a drink by a family member on vacation and was shocked to find that she felt an intense craving for it the very first time, and that she couldn't stop.  Even when she drank to the point of blackout (which was almost always), she never got sick or had hangovers like her friends did.  She was not healed of all deisre to drink but she considers her sobriety a miracle. (I do believe that some people are healed instantly, but I have also seen cases where people who talked the most about being fully healed wound up falling really hard. And I have known believers who never not got sober despite intense prayer, counseling, rehab, etc.)

    I am unsure about eating disorders because with everyone I knew who had anorexia and/or bulimia, it wasn't about the food but about some other issue or conflict; and they were using food to try to take control and/or numb pain. What I've seen was not encouraging as far as cure rates go and even the few I knew who eventually began eating normally still struggle with body image.

    Regarding things I have experienced like heterosexual attraction, depression, alcoholism, and eating disorders: I have seen believers try to use shame to guilt people into addressing those things, but I don't think that's God's way.  Besides, the issues are often very complicated and multi-faceted. God can heal and he does heal, but he doesn't miraculously heal everyone-not with physical illness and not with mental illness. He doesn't miraculously remove temptation from everyone in every case.  Sometimes (usually) it's a day-by-day struggle.  God may send others to help like doctors, counselors, and friends/family.  While he certainly uses miraculous healing, he can also use daily struggles with illnesses and temptation to help people grow closer to him.  

  •  DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Sun, 06/02/2019 12:09 am

    I can agree with everything you've said, especially about issues being complex and multifaceted. My remarks were broad brushstrokes and generalities and thus maybe simplistic. I certainly did not mean to diminish the value of Christian counseling, and some afflictions – bipolar disorders, for example – certainly may require medication.

    I still maintain that "conversion therapy" under the guise of Christian counseling is misguided and a false wisdom, however, and not the "sound Biblical counseling" that the Christian Civic League purports to be defending.

  • DS
    Posted: Wed, 06/05/2019 01:56 pm

    So the legal definition of "conversion therapy" is “any practice or treatment that seeks or purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity”?  So if the media or public schools or secular counselors try to convince any individual that they are not "straight" or not really the gender they were actually born with, they violate this law, right?  Sounds like the Maine Democrats just dug a pit they might fall into (albeit one that violates the First Amendment protections for free speech and religion).  Psalm 7:14-17