“It’s child abuse,” they told us. “It must be stopped.”
It was the 2014 legislative session and we heard about kids being subjected to shock treatments or being put in ice baths and made to watch gay pornography in an effort to stop them from being gay.
Understandably, everyone was appalled.
These stories, we were told, are the reason it is so critical to support legislation that bans therapy to help a child deal with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Moments before the House of Representatives voted to pass the bill, Rep. Laurie Jinkins told an emotional story about her friend who was involuntarily institutionalized by her parents and subjected to shock treatments. “That is the kind of abuse that none of us wants to see for any child ever. And that is what this bill addresses.”
With that, the bill passed the House of Representatives and moved to the Senate.
After all, no one likes child abuse.
In the Senate, legislators starting paying just as much attention to the bill itself as the stories being told about child abuse.
And when they did, it became apparent that the bill did much more than protect kids from things like involuntary shock treatments.
In fact, it prohibited licensed therapists from using talk therapy to help a minor reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attraction. The ban even extended to church employees and pastors who happened to be licensed therapists.
Under the bill, church employees could have been professionally reprimanded for simply communicating their church’s understanding of human sexuality.
Furthermore, it would have taken choices away from clients and made it impossible for a minor to get help from a licensed therapist for unwanted same-sex attraction.
None of this had anything to do with stopping ice baths or shock therapy.
The bill failed to pass the Senate.
But at the beginning of this legislative session, the issue was reintroduced.
Built on the areas of agreement (let’s stop child abuse) while avoiding points of contention (let’s prohibit speech we dislike), the Senate advanced a narrower version of the bill (SB 5870) which prohibited aversive therapies like shock treatment and ice baths but did not attempt to restrict the kinds of talk therapy a client could request.
On March 11, it passed the Senate without opposition.
However, yesterday morning, when the House Health Care and Wellness Committee held a public hearing on the bill, something amazing happened.
The same people who spent the last year talking about the need to protect children from ice baths and shock therapy suddenly and strongly opposed a bill specifically designed for that purpose.
What was the problem?
The bill didn’t go far enough. “It must restrict talk therapy”, they said.
Last year, not a word was uttered about the need to ban talk therapy because everyone was so horrified by the stories of involuntary shock therapy.
All they talked about was the need to protect kids from child abuse.
But now that they have been given the chance to stop involuntary shock therapy without the ability to regulate conversations…suddenly shock therapy isn’t such a big deal.
There are two things we can learn from this recent development.
First, the advocates of this bill have always been mostly interested in prohibiting conversations they dislike, not stopping physical forms of child abuse everyone opposes.
The attempt to focus on stories of abuse was just part of the bait and switch. People suspected as much before, but now they have admitted it.
Second, and maybe more importantly, the fact that they are willing to oppose a bill to stop child abuse in the hopes that they can pass a bill to ban conversations illustrates the depth of their conviction about this issue.
From their perspective, telling kids same-sex attraction is not necessarily permanent is child abuse. The harm of involuntary shock therapy and the “harm” of a child being told change is possible are the same.
If this tactic is successful now, it won’t just be the therapists who are affected.
If it is “child abuse” for a therapist to tell a child that sexual desires can be controlled or changed, why wouldn’t it be child abuse for someone else to say the same thing?
The only limits are political. You don’t limit “child abuse” selectively. All you pastors, unlicensed counselors, friends and parents who believe homosexuality is wrong and sexual desires can change be warned. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Nonsense, you say. The First Amendment protects my right to say whatever I want.
Arlene’s Flowers believed the First Amendment’s guarantee to the free exercise of religion protected her right to decide which events she celebrated in her business. And once upon a time it did. But now the courts say that the state’s “compelling interest” in stopping “discrimination” in public accommodations trumps the first amendment.
The state also has a compelling interest in stopping child abuse as well.
The First Amendment will be just a speed bump.
Unless we act to stand up for the therapists and the florists who are the current targets.
You can contact your legislators about this issue through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them here.