Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Martyn Iles claims banning LGBT conversion therapy discriminates against Christians.
I read a blog article today. It was by Martyn Iles, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby. It concerns his interview for a forthcoming 60 Minutes feature on LGBT Conversion Therapy.
In the article, he defends the practice of converting LGBTIQ people through counselling and prayer. He writes of “the death of the self which is corrupted by sin,” and quotes scripture to bolster his argument.
“…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…” Ephesians 4:21-24
Iles begins by complaining about the combination of the words ‘conversion’ and therapy’. He mentions it’s the first thing he addressed in his 60 Minutes interview.
“One is an act of God, the other is an act of man.”
That is his belief and he’s welcome to it. However, perhaps a more persuasive argument is the verdict of the US Surgeon General in 2001. David Satcher stated, “there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”
Since Satcher made that statement, numerous medical bodies around the world declared agreement.
The real problem with the word ‘therapy’ is that conversion therapy doesn’t work. There is also nothing therapeutic about LGBT conversion.
Martyn Iles likens the phrase ‘conversion therapy’ to ‘marriage equality’. He describes that as “an inexact and politically loaded term which we find ourselves engaging with, though we’re not sure where it came from.”
Perhaps a dictionary might help.
The word ‘marriage’ is subject to some dispute. Varied constructs of the institution exist across different cultures. However, the Oxford Dictionary definition fits most situations.
“The legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.”
‘Equality’ according to the same publication describes, “The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.”
So, there we have it. Marriage equality means, to be brief, equal rights for legally or formally recognised unions of two people. By common usage, the term refers to the comparative status of same-sex and opposite-sex marriages.
Pray the Gay Away
To his credit, Iles agrees with banning “perverse and misguided bootcamps to knock the gay out of young men.”
He also disagrees with “electric shock therapy, to zap the brain into some imagined heteronormative gear.”
However, he defends the right of churches to offer conversion through counselling and prayer.
“Are we to criminalise a pastor who prays for a church member who has asked to be prayed for? Or ban people voluntarily getting together to support each other in counselling or support groups?”
It sounds so innocuous.
But the experience of LGBTIQ people who survive conversion therapy is not of a kindly old pastor saying, “I’ll pray for you son.” Nor do survivors mention ‘support groups’.
They speak of “insidious and unrelenting ex-gay messaging.”
“I experienced months of night terrors, which later in life I was told can be brought on by extreme stress, however the church told me these were demonic attacks, which only saw me engage in more exorcisms,” said one survivor.
A 2002 study of people who underwent attempts at conversion showed that most suffered adversely from the ‘therapy’. They felt harmed by the attempt to change, and reported depression, social isolation, poor self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
It is disingenuous at best to present religious conversion therapies as some kindly act for the good of the subject.
Martyn Iles presents signing up for conversion as a free choice.
“As far as I am aware, if someone wants to speak to a counsellor about their sexuality or gender, that’s their call.”
The previous Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton believed parents should retain the right to compel children to attend counselling.
“Should people be forced to go to conversion therapy? No, absolutely not. Now, children — they are under the care and responsibility of their parents, so I think if someone’s a minor, it is up to their parents. And I think parental rights should be respected.”
Martyn Iles certainly appeared to agree with Shelton in a blog post in June last year. In it he used the made-up example of a girl called Sally.
“…if guest-presenters visiting her all-girls school spoke about human sexuality and she then assumed her 14-year-old best buddy was actually her lesbian girlfriend.
“Can dad or mum do anything? Or is that “gay conversion therapy”? Can they even say anything?”
The Victim Card
Iles complains that banning LGBT conversion therapy is an attack on Christians.
“By blaming an afflicted conscience on the existence of Christian values, Christianity becomes the single big target.”
Apparently, if the religious may not attack LGBTIQ people, they are themselves attacked.
The problem lies in the assumption that LGBTIQ people are somehow unnatural.
LGBTIQ people are completely natural.
They walked this planet long before major modern-day religions including Christianity ever existed.
When European explorers set out to plunder unknown lands and convert the resident heathens, they found homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people in countries never exposed to European culture.
However, they found no Christians.
LGBTIQ people are born that way. Christians are converted.
The Australian Christian Lobby
The Australian Christian Lobby is a company. Its biggest expense is paying its staff. It has an unelected self-appointed board of management. Funding comes mainly from individual donors and truly we may say — God knows, who they are. No one else does. The organisation does not disclose their identities.
The lobby focuses on LGBTIQ issues. On their website today the top three ‘news’ stories are all LGBTIQ related — religious freedom in schools, Israel Folau and conversion therapy.
Even in an article on a different subject, the horrendous terrorist acts in Sri Lanka, Martyn Iles manages to swing to LGBTIQ issues.
“In just a few short years, we could see the end of Christian schools as we know them, the outlawing of Christian beliefs on sexuality and gender, Christian parents certified as child abusers, the firing and de-accrediting of Christian employees and professionals, and legal attacks on the church.”
Earlier in the article he mentions persecution.
“Christians have been persecuted around the world for two millennia, and still are.”
That is true. Christians have, at times, suffered terrible persecution. As have Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Albinos, Gypsies, LGBTIQ people…
Throughout history, Christians suffered persecution and inflicted persecution.
LGBTIQ people suffered terribly at Christian hands.
Christians murdered LGBTIQ people, burned them at the stake, castrated them, hanged them, jailed them, and all manner of other injustices.
Martyn Iles in all likelihood mentioned none of that on 60 Minutes.
Just 30 years ago in Queensland, Christian groups fought to stop the decriminalisation of homosexuality, as they still do in other countries today. Afterward they resisted anti-discrimination legislation, marriage equality and every other reform proposed to bring justice to LGBTIQ communities.
Being denied the right to oppress other people is not persecution. It is freedom. Christians have every right to their beliefs. They have no right to insist everyone else live by them.
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