FFRFMCC Commentary Submitted by: Tom Cara, Director, FFRFMCC
Since taking effect In January, 2016, Illinois became the fourth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to pass a much-need
ed ban on gay conversion therapy, sometimes called “reparative therapy,” for LGBT individuals under the age of 18. These ridiculous and harmful techniques were condemned by the American Psychological Association as far back as 1997, and homosexuality ceased being classified as a mental disorder more than 40 years ago.
Yet, that is not stopping a group of Illinois pastors from filing a lawsuit today against the state regarding this ban. And why are they doing this? Because the Illinois law, unlike similar bans in other states, does not exempt clergy from dangerously tampering with the minds of gay and lesbian minors. In states where there are bans on this horrendous practice, clergy are excl
uded and are still allowed to “treat” homosexuality as a mental disorder. In Illinois, they are claiming Illinois’ no-exemption ban violates the free speech and religious rights of clergy.
Have we not heard this before? Have we not been subjected more than enough to the arrogant fallacy that religious rights should be allowed to rise above the law?
Religious leaders work very hard to condition the public that their faith beliefs put them on a pedestal of knowledge above all those who don’t follow that faith, or even those who don’t follow it in the way they say it should be followed. They believe we must rely on their bronze-age doctrine to explain all the things we need to know. And the fact that legislators and other elected officials continue to offer special privileges and exceptions to the religious regarding laws that everyone else must abide by, only confirms the fact they must believe this as well.
What is the pastors’ argument? It’s that homosexuality is “contrary to God’s purpose” and a disorder that “can be resisted or overcome by those who seek to be faithful to God and His Word.” They claim that many have benefited from this “therapy,” which is nothing more than injecting fear into those who may have already suffered humiliation and alienation from their families just because of who they are. The “pray-the-gay-away” technique has been called “torture” and “abuse” by Illinois Representative Kelly Cassidy, who sponsored the legislative ban.
But those of religious faith are continuing their strategy to make religion exempt from any law they choose. Steven Stultz, a Chicago pastor who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, was quoted by as saying:
“We want to make sure that young people in particular have access to pastoral and Biblical-based counsel if they want it, and that pastors are able to provide Bible-based counseling without any fear of legal repercussions.”
Biblical-based counseling should not even be given consideration in matters that realistically require licensed medical counseling. With the scientific and medical community pretty much in agreement that homosexuality is something found in nature, and is not an individual’s choice or passing fad, it is a sign of society gone mad to think that a degree in theology gives priests and ministers the authority to administer psychological therapy and counseling to anyone, especially young, impressionable children when it comes to their sexual orientation.
As we await the trial of suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore on charges of violating the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage by directing probate judges in the state to not perform same sex marriages, and as we continue to wonder why Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis is no longer in jail for doing something similar, we should anticipate more and more claims of religious persecution.
With 70% of our country still identifying as Christian, common sense legislation which effectively negates the silly ideologies of biblical texts will continue to be argued against by Christians of all shapes and sizes as such legislation is perceived as an attempt to take down our “Christian values and way of life.” The one fact people of religion just don’t get, is that these are not “OUR” values and way of life. They are an individual’s personal beliefs that have no basis or foundation in our laws.
There is probably not a person in this country who agrees with every single law we have. But unless successful in changing laws we don’t like, we must obey them. Unless we say we are religious. Then, apparently, we should expect to get a free pass. In many cases, we have seen people of religious faith think that trying to argue a law to be unconstitutional is just too much work. Instead, they only argue for the right to ignore it.
I personally would like to be free from being forced to receive AND distribute religious propaganda every time I conduct a cash financial transaction. I would like to be able to sit in my city council meeting without listening to someone invoke their right to waste my time with a religious prayer. I would like to not have my taxpayer dollars used to finance religious organizations and its leaders.
We all wish certain things to be different from what they are. But I do realize that in our democratic society, we shouldn’t just expect to be automatically excluded from obeying a law just because it doesn’t jive with our pretend ideology.
My hope is the court will throw out this absurd lawsuit, realizing that religion has no authority to administer the health needs of individuals whose needs should be a positive reassurance of who they are — and not that they’re living their life as an abomination that must be changed by being brainwashed into believing in something that isn’t there.