Banning Conversion Therapy Won't End Religious Hate Practices

Written on 03/21/2021
Wilbur Turner

It's progress, right? Conversion therapy will be banned by the federal government. This providing Bill C-6 eventually gets a final reading and vote. Several municipalities across Canada have either already banned this horrible practice or have it under consideration.

International LGBTQ organization ILGA World says the practice has a "destructive effect on people's lives from a very early age." A report published by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry states more than 20,000 LGBTQ and two-spirit Canadians have been exposed to conversion therapy treatments or other efforts aimed at repressing or changing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, according to a 2020 article by CTV News.

The faith communities that are LGBTQ affirming have unconditionally condemned conversion therapy. Churches who aren't accepting, including Pastor Terry Murphy of Regina Victory Church, whose recent homophobic and transphobic sermon made headlines, have also publicly denounced conversion therapy. However, the latter has applied a caveat to their lip service to the ban, stating that it will restrict their religious freedom. 

In his recent sermon condemning the LGBTQ community, Murphy stated, "Prayer can turn around any situation." This is the red flag that we all need to heed. What they don't call conversion therapy is the insidious message that being LGBTQ is a lifestyle choice. Being in a loving relationship is a sin, and transgender transitioning is an affront to God. This drummed-in message from the pulpit and reinforced through church members to wear people down, force conformity in order to belong, and earn eternal salvation. This methodology and the 'not' conversion therapy practice of prayer as the solution is designed to keep those who stray in bondage to the church.

The bill to ban conversion therapy, while good, is not enough, but what can we do? There is recent evidence that community organizing works. After recent protests by the Regina community, including the local faith community, businesses, and LGBTQ advocates, along with a human rights complaint, the Regina Victory Church removed the video of the hate sermon from social media and scrubbed their Facebook and Youtube channel deleting dozens of video sermons. Their infringement of human rights has gone unchecked until forceful community action.

The Regina church is, unfortunately, not an anomaly. In 2018 over 200 pastors signed an accord denouncing homosexuality and having a transgender identity. They called it the West Coast Christian Accord, saying having one of those identities is against God's will. All of this, along with the Catholic Church bombshell message on same-sex marriage, hits hard on those who look to their faith community for connection and support.

I am confident the majority of Canadians have no tolerance for these types of religious practices and hateful messages. It is when we unite together and stand for 'love is love' these messages of hate will diminish, but most importantly, our youth who are LGBTQ will know they are loved and accepted just as they are. Love needs no cure.

Wilbur Turner, pronouns he/him, is a Kelowna-based writer and long-time advocate of the LGBTQ community. He is a former president of Kelowna Pride and Fierté Canada Pride and was instrumental in founding Etcetera, Kelowna's peer support group for rainbow youth.

(Image Credit: Open Democracy)