Global Religious Leaders Call for End to So-Called 'Conversion Therapy'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday December 16, 2020

Religious leaders from 35 nations and representing all the major faith traditions have called for an end to so-called "conversion therapy" everywhere in the world, saying that it is "an abhorrent practice and should be stopped."

"The call for an end to the practice, often done in the name of a religious faith, was issued in a statement by the British Ozanne Foundation before a London conference," Barrons reports.

"Among the signatories were representatives of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh faiths, including Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired archbishop Desmond Tutu."

Adding their named to the statement were "South African cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland David Rosen," as well as the "Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes," the BBC noted.

"The term 'conversion therapy' refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person's sexual orientation or to suppress a person's gender identity," the BBC explained. "It can range from electric shock treatment to religious teachings or talking therapies designed to change someone's sexuality."

The statement by prominent spiritual leaders echoes calls by health professionals, who have said for years that "conversion therapy" is a fraudulent practice that simply does not work.

Activists opposed to "conversion therapy" - many of them survivors of the quack practice - argue that not only does the practice fail to change human sexuality, but also that an LGBTQ person's sexual orientation or gender identity is not in need of "fixing" in the first place.

More broadly, the faith leaders' statement also demands "an end to violence and criminalization against LGBT+ people," reports UK newspaper the Independent.

"We recognize that certain religious teachings have, throughout the ages, been misused to cause deep pain and offense to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex," the statement says.

The stance of the religious leaders defies hardening anti-LGBTQ attitudes in some countries, including some Eastern European nations such as Hungary and Poland, where recent years have seen a harsh crackdown on LGTBQs.

"Despite moves towards LGBT+ equality by governments in the 21st century, 69 of the UN's 193 member states still outlaw gay sex, according to a report published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) on Tuesday," the Independent noted.

"Meanwhile the only places to have introduced nation-wide bans on conversion therapy are Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Germany."

Twenty American states have outlawed the infliction of "conversion therapy" on minors. National bans have been proposed in Canada and England, as well.

Those favoring "conversion therapy" claim that such bans constitute a denial of religious liberty and free speech.

But Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland, told the media that such a ban is "a necessary step to remind the faith systems of the world and people of faith that they have an obligation to their fellow citizens who are also entitled to the full dignity of their humanity and their full equal human rights," the Independent reported.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.