Writing New Rules

On December 1, a bill, Bill C-4, unanimously passed the Canadian House of Commons. On December 7, it passed the Senate and on December 8 it received Royal Assent. On January 8, it took effect.

Bill C-4 is titled, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code” and it specifically addresses conversion therapy.

Now, in order to be as generous as possible, I am going to give you the definition of “conversion therapy” provided by GLAAD, the organization founded in 1985 as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Their definition is, “Conversion therapy is any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

The key words in that definition, and that lead to the problem I am now addressing, is “any attempt.” I will explain in a moment why that is so problematic.

First, however, I want to make it explicitly clear that I do not support anyone being forced to go through any kind of treatment against their will. You have quite possibly heard some horror stories about such so-called therapy and I do not in any way support such activity…nor do I believe that the Bible does so. There is no denying that some people have suffered considerable harm—emotional and in some cases maybe even physical—under someone’s guise of curing them of homosexuality. I condemn that and I believe that Christians have a responsibility to care for such victims if given the opportunity to do so. But conversion therapy can include much more than that—which is why the words “any attempt” are important. And while there may well be many legislators in Canada who were well-intentioned and want only to protect people against coercive so-called therapy, the Canadian legislation certainly includes more than that.

Why is this Canadian legislation such a big deal that I am talking about it—especially since I do not live in Canada?

One, because the U.S. has shown a tendency to follow in Canada’s footsteps in many areas of law. Canada, for example, legalized same-sex marriage ten years before the U.S. did. In 2018, cannabis became legal in all provinces and territories of Canada. Where are we headed?

Two, and more importantly, is that this is a big deal. It is serious. It is more than it initially meets the eye.

Part of why I say that is explained in this quote from CTV News, a Canadian news outlet. It says of C-4, “It includes wider-reaching vocabulary of what constitutes conversion therapy than what the federal government attempted to pass in the last Parliament, and expands beyond the past proposal which focused on outlawing the use of the practice against children and non-consenting adults.”

The article later says that conversion therapy “can take various forms, including counselling….”

The bill makes it a criminal offense to even promote conversion therapy—including counseling.

More than that, however, the bill includes specifically religious terms and attacks.

The preamble to the bill states that conversion therapy “causes harm to the persons who are subjected to it” and “causes harm to society.”

How?

“[B]ecause…it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, including the myth that heterosexuality…and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”

I don’t know if you are grasping the significance of that, but a bill, that has now passed the Parliament in Canada, received the approval of the queen, and been enacted into law, says that what the Bible teaches about sexuality and gender is a myth.

Right now, if you are in Canada and you believe what the Bible teaches about sexuality and gender, then, according to Canadian law, you and your belief are wrong. They are nothing more than myths.

So much for freedom of religion. And Canada does, by the way, have freedom of religion. Or at least it did. I am not going to go into the structure of the Canadian constitution, but a significant part of it is the Constitution Act of 1982, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that states, in Section 2, that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication….

And yet, the law now says that if you think, believe or are of the opinion that heterosexuality is right and homosexuality is not, or bisexuality is not, or that someone’s biological sex should coincide with their gender identity, that you are wrong. And not only are you wrong, but if you express that to anyone else in any form that could be considered therapy—despite the freedoms of expression press and other communication—you are breaking the law!

Later, the bill states that “[e]veryone who knowingly causes another person to undergo conversion therapy — including by providing conversion therapy to that other person — is (a) guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.”

The information released by the Canadian Department of Justice about this law, and posted on the official website of the Canadian government, links to a policy statement from the Canadian Psychological Association, which says that conversion therapy includes “prayer or religious rites” and “individual or group counselling.”

A Department of Justice news release says that conversion therapy is discriminatory and proven to be harmful even for adults who consented to it.

And the government’s explanation of the changes to the criminal code says that “These proposed new offences would not criminalize interventions that assist a person in exploring or developing their personal identity, provided that they are not based on the assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is preferable to others.”

So bottom line, what does all of this mean? If you are a pastor or a Christian counselor, and you believe that what the Bible teaches about sexuality and gender is correct, and you allow that to influence your counseling or your prayer with someone—even someone who has consented to counseling and therapy with you—you are breaking the law.

Now, that’s a lot of background. I realize that. But it was necessary because it, I hope, makes clear exactly how serious this matter is. If we sit idly by and bury our heads in the sand and think this is not a big deal we are going to find, very soon, that this is happening here. In fact, I dare say we would find that it would not be very long before what I am saying here would be illegal if I were saying it from a church pulpit or in a counseling session.

That is troubling. I am not, after all, looking to go to prison. Far more dangerous than the possibility of going to prison, however, is the possibility that any pastor, any church or any Christian might shy away from standing firm on biblical truth in the face of such a possibility. We must never allow the fear of persecution—and certainly not the fear of prosecution—to deter us from believing and proclaiming God’s Truth. Should that time ever come, we must, like Peter before the Jerusalem council in Acts 5, says, “We must obey God rather than men.”

That sex is intended for marriage and that marriage is intended to be between a man and a woman and that whether or not someone is a man or a woman is determined by their anatomy and their biology, not by their whims or their feelings…none of that is a myth. All of that is God’s design.

The Bible makes no distinction between biological sex and gender.

Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 5:2 – “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Manwhen they were created.”

Mark 10:2-9 – And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Now, maybe I am missing something, but it seems to me that those three passages make it crystal clear that God created male and female. He did not create entities who could then decide. God, in His sovereignty, by His design, created two sexes. Two genders. Male. Female. If you are a male, you are not a female. If you are a female, you are not a male. You do not get to pick which one you will be—it is not multiple choice. You do not get to change which one you are.

And regardless of how anyone feels, it is a scientific fact that there are genetic differences between males and females. Their bodies are made differently—by design. Neither is better than the other, they are just different.

We see this clearly in sports, when the issue of biological males identifying as women and competing in women’s sports is revealing just how different they are. It has been in the news quite a bit recently with the transgendered swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania. That swimmer, who competed for three years on the UPenn men’s team and, after undergoing hormone therapy is now competing as a woman, has obliterated college records this year. This year, that swimmer has the fastest time by any “female” college swimmer, including a time 0.64 seconds faster than Olympian Torri Huske in the 200m freestyle and a time nearly three seconds faster than Olympian Brooke Forde in the 500-yard freestyle.

A few years ago, a study was done comparing the best elite female athletes to men and boys. That study gave a great example: Allyson Felix, the most highly decorated track athlete in U.S. history, male or female, and who holds the record for most gold medals ever at the track and field World Championships—more than Usain Bolt—and who specialized in the 400m sprint for the latter part of her career and had a lifetime best of 49.26 in that event—in  just the single year of 2017, men and boys around the world beat that time by more than 15,000 times.

Now, do all transgender individuals choose to pursue athletics? No, of course not. But these examples give very clear evidence that there are differences—real differences between men and women.

Of course, the most obvious difference is that men are biologically and anatomically incapable of giving birth. And, despite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s claim to the contrary in September, only women menstruate.

God created male and female. There are only two options, despite what Facebook or others may say—some organizations claim there are as many as 72 gender options. There are two, male and female, and you don’t get to pick. God chooses for you.

The Bible is just as explicitly clear about homosexuality. The passage that we already looked at in Mark 10 makes it clear that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. Clearly, then, homosexual marriage is contrary to God’s design. Even if you were to take marriage out of the picture, however, homosexual activity is also outside of God’s design.

Leviticus 18:22 – “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Romans 1:26-27 – “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Paul includes homosexuality in I Corinthians 6 when he presents a list of behaviors that are not pleasing to God. Paul addresses homosexuality again in I Timothy 1:8-10. Not only does he specifically name homosexuality in addition to the broader category of sexual immorality, he states that such behavior is “contrary to sound doctrine.”

Homosexuality is not okay. It is not just an “alternative lifestyle.” And certainly no one is made by God to be a homosexual. Homosexual behavior is very real, but that’s what it is—a behavior, not an identity. Not who a person is. And homosexual behavior is sin. There is no other way to honestly and legitimately interpret Scripture.

Plenty of people—some of them prominent and influential—have argued that the Bible’s teaching about homosexual behavior is out of date and no longer relevant, but no one has ever argued sincerely that the Bible does not teach that homosexual behavior is sin.

Back to why I am addressing this even though I do not live in Canada…consider an ordinance under consideration right now in West Lafayette, Indiana. Proposed Ordinance 31-21 has an odd title: “AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE PRACTICE OF CONVERSION THERAPY AND DISCOURAGING ITS USE BY LICENSED PROFESSIONALS.” Hopefully you noticed why I say odd; I do not think it is common to have a law that both prohibits and discourages something! But the ordinance begins with this as the first of its many “Whereas” statements: “contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity.” That is a bizarre statement because all of those things are anything but natural. Indeed, Scripture specifically refers to homosexuality as going against nature.

Further troubling is another assertion, citing the Committee on Adolescence of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 1993 claim that, “Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety….” Oddly enough, yes, when you tell someone that they are doing something wrong, they might feel some guilt. That is how it is supposed to work in a healthy mind, actually.

But the point of the ordinance is specifically to ban so-called conversion therapy being performed by unlicensed individuals—unlicensed, that is, by the State of Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency. That would include many pastors and biblical counselors. And what exactly will they be prohibited from doing? The ordinance bans “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”

The Lafayette Journal & Courier reported that Dr. Steve Viars, an area pastor, raised concerns about the proposed legislation. “Imagine a scenario where an area teenager voluntarily visits a self-identified faith-based counselor, but because the counselor used the Bible as their source of truth, the local police department imposed a fine of $1000 per day,” Viars said. The article further notes, “Concerns of protecting free speech and freedom of religion have been raised, and [David] Sanders [a council member and co-sponsor of the ordinance] assures that these protections are being considered as the ordinance’s wording is being reworked.”

I do not know anyone in West Lafayette and I am not going to assume anything about anyone’s motives. But the law in Canada and the proposed ordinance in Indiana are both examples of why it is so important to be aware of proposed legislation/ordinances and the consequences, intended or otherwise, of the language they contain. Hopefully the Indiana ordinance can be amended to ban what is truly inappropriate while protecting both the freedom of religion and the freedom to counsel someone from the perspective that homosexuality and alternative gender identities are sin.

Now, let me transition a little bit because there are two other important points to make.

First, plenty of people have criticized the Church for picking on or singling out homosexuality when there are so many other sins. I oppose that sentiment. Yes, there are many other sins in the Bible. And I both believe and hope that I would be just as adamantly opposed to those other sins if our society tried to normalize them and force us to accept them. If this afternoon a movement began to make some other sin acceptable and normal and legally protected—and also to prohibit Christians from speaking out against it and taking a stand for what Scripture teaches, I hope that we would stand up and oppose that.

I am not naïve enough to think that our society is going to embrace the Bible and build our legal code around it completely. In fact, I don’t even know that I would want that completely. After all, if you look at colonial New England where it was against the law to break the Sabbath, that wasn’t a very effective way to win people to Christ or to cultivate sincere faith in Christ.

But I will not—and we as Christians must not—allow the world or the government or any other entity or person to tell us that what God says is sin is not sin. If God calls it sin, it is sin. Period, full stop. It is not up for debate.

Finally, we must be careful not to treat those who support homosexuality or transgenderism as rejected by God. Meaning, therefore, that we cannot reject them. We do not have to approve what they do or stand for. In fact, we cannot approve what they do or stand for. But we must always remember that every human being is created in the image of God, God loves each and every person and He sent His Son to die on the cross for each and every person. We are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God and need a Savior. God detests all sin.

We must never compromise on the truth…and we must always share God’s truth in love.

Image credit: Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0Pix4free.org

No scientific support

On February 15 My Christian Daily ran a piece entitled, “Panel calls therapy for gays ‘a human rights violation’.” The article was a brief overview of the issue of conversion therapy and a meeting of a panel of individuals for what was advertised as “the first ever UN discussion on the legalities, ethics, and science behind the movement promoting [efforts to change sexual orientation].” The meeting, though, was held at Church Center, a known gathering place for “left-wing groups” and not on UN property. Further, according to the article, the event was “sponsored by non-government organizations, and did not feature representatives of any UN member states.”

The controversy over conversion therapy is not new. In fact, just a few months ago California passed a law banning conversion therapy for minors. That law, however, is on hold, following an injunction from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals until the matter can be argued before the courts.

The premise behind conversion therapy is that individuals can be “converted” from homosexual to heterosexual with therapy. The American Psychological Association says on its web site that there is “no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.” The APA also says that “the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”

On the other side of the argument are groups like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which argue that the conversion therapy is legitimate, safe and effective. Exodus International used to advocate the therapy as well, though its president, Alan chambers, made news last summer upon announcing that Exodus would no longer use the therapy because it “sets the person seeking therapy up for failure by giving him or her unrealistic expectations.” Chambers told the Gay Christian Network last summer than 99.9 percent of all of the people he has met through Exodus International are still attracted to individuals of the same sex and still struggle with temptation.

Never wanting to miss out on an opportunity to address a hot-button social issue that has nothing to do with its founding, the Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that conversion therapy “is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, literally ‘converting’ from gay to straight.” Of course the SPLC also calls many conservative Christian groups “hate groups” because of their “intolerance.”

ReligiousTolerance.org is “a multi-faith group” claiming to include members that are Atheist, Agnositc, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist,” and includes on its web site a study of studies, purporting that conversion therapy fails 99.5% of the time.

Now, what point am I trying to make? First of all, there is no therapy known to man that is always effective. Secondly, I doubt that there is any way to accurately measure the “success” of conversion therapy. After all, if someone “cured” if they never engage in homosexual behavior, or only if they never think about engaging in homosexual behavior? Temptation, may I remind you, is not sin. Third, no one is suggesting that homosexuals should be forced to endure conversion therapy. If an individual wants conversion therapy he or she must surely be unhappy with the homosexual tendencies he/she is feeling. Why would we argue against, even suggest banning, a form of therapy that someone wants? After all, people go to therapy to address all kinds of behaviors they do not wish to continue, from smoking to shoplifting to fill-in-the-blank-with-the-troubling-behavior-of-your-choice.

So part of my point is that it makes no sense to ban conversion therapy, and any attempt to do so should be considered a violation of a number of constitutionally-protected rights.

What I found most interesting about the article on the “UN discussion” though was that Rebecca Jordan-Young, a researcher at Barnard College who addressed the group and was “deeply in agreement with the premise of [the] meeting, that sexual orientation change efforts are in fact a human rights violation and a problem” also said that no one should use science to defend such a position. Why? “We don’t really know how sexual orientation develops” she said, despite the fact that many people “think of sexual orientation as something that’s fundamentally biologically driven….” Specifically, Jordan-Young stated that there is no modern scientific research to support such a position.

So, if sexual orientation is not a “just born that way” issue, then it cannot be a civil rights issue. What then should it be? Maybe something more like religion, Jordan-Young suggested, “the freedom of conviction, the freedom of one’s conscience….”

I would actually be comfortable with that analogy, because, while I believe that homosexuality is a sin, I do not believe that it should be criminalized. (I do, however, believe that homosexual marriage should not be permitted). If someone wants to think that homosexuality is okay, he or she has that right. If someone wants to engage in homosexual or bisexual behavior, he or she also has that right. But insisting on redefining marriage based on that thought–conviction, even, if you want to go that far–would not be permissible…for exactly the same reasons that I have argued here before: if we are going to redefine marriage based on what one group of people thinks or believes, we have absolutely no defense against redefining it how any other group may think or believe.

What’s more, the idea that homosexuality is a “freedom of conscience” issue throws wide open the door to allow conversion therapy and efforts to persuade individuals that homosexuality is wrong. After all, the freedom of speech protects my right to try to persuade anyone else to believe the same way I do, whether my ideas are popular of “scientifically verifiable” or not. Even the UN’s own Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief said last October that member states should protect the freedom of religion as well as the right of individuals to convert to another religion and “the right to try to convert others by means of non-coercive persuasion.”

And Toiko Kleppe, the UN’s senior counsel on LGBT issues at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the sole UN representative at the gathering mentioned at the start of this entry, stated that conversion therapy is “unscientific…potentially harmful…and definitely a violation of human rights” before also saying that such therapy would not be a human rights violation “if the patient was able to give informed consent to the therapy.”

Therein lies the rub…the opponents of conversion therapy are making waves and drawing attention to an issue that does not even exist. No one that I know of or have ever heard of is suggesting forced therapy for homosexuals. I do not know of anyone that would condone such practice. No intelligent person wants to go back to the United States of the 1920s when states passed laws permitting forced sterilization of the mentally handicapped, and I do not know any intelligent person that wants to make homosexuality illegal or force conversion therapy on anyone.

So…look beyond the headlines, because usually those who are screaming the loudest are spinning the story for their own benefit. The UN rep makes headlines for saying that conversion therapy is a human rights violation, but little attention is given to her statement that it is not a violation when consent is given. A college researcher tells the group that conversion therapy is a human rights violation, but her statement that sexual orientation is not an innate quality people are born with is ignored.