The focus on personal desires and discontents which fuels today’s moral revolution is now threatening to destroy the personal freedom it seeks to establish. As noted in a previous article, the more “rights” there are, the more state control of life is necessary to enforce them. Nowhere is this now more strongly felt than in the world of counseling, especially by licensed professionals.
Christopher Doyle, Executive Director of the Institute for Healthy Families, reviewed how the cutting edge of the moral revolution, transgenderism, is wreaking havoc with professional counseling at the Family Research Council on October 30. Here the catch-all term “conversion therapy” is used by activists to advocate the criminalization of any professional counseling, and perhaps ultimately speech by anyone, which aims to help a person identify with their biological sex and its typical behavior. Doyle observed that eighteen states and forty-five cities “have passed bans on … voluntary therapy on those who have unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity conflicts.” This is in spite of the fact that “no state licensing board in the United States has ever convicted a licensed therapist of ethical violations for forcing a young person into so-called conversion therapy.”
How is it possible that this gross state interference in professional work, which is also a gross violation of freedom of speech (and for religious clients and therapists, freedom of religion) has occurred in a country where freedom has been the ideal? The answer lies in the use of personal stories of woe by people with desires and inclinations traditionally thought immoral. To gain control of public discourse, transgender activists have used “stories of abuse and torture … in legislative hearings and in the media [which] are almost entirely fraudulent.” He pointed out cases in which both the ABC and CBS news networks broadcast stories of “conversion therapy” accounts of activities that never really occurred.
Doyle discussed three strategies used by LGBT activists in waging war against traditional morality: (1) “blur the lines between fact and fiction,” (2) “push an aggressive false narrative,” and (3) “use therapy bans as a cultural proxy attack on religious freedom.”
He noted the observation of lesbian commentator Camille Paglia that “you are not allowed to ask questions about the childhood of gay people anymore … the entire psychology establishment has shut itself down … everything is political now.” Doyle believes psychology is being corrupted by “junk science” and “political correctness.” Prominent psychologists Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University, Lisa Littman of Brown University, Robert Spitzer of Columbia University, and Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin all published scholarly studies questioning homosexuality and transgenderism as innate, unchangeable features of human beings. All were subject to intense public relations attack, with Spitzer re-interpreting his evidence to conform with LGBT orthodoxy.
Other reports in the literature supporting LGBT doctrine are widely acclaimed in the news media. These reports, however, “have not looked at outcomes of young people who have gone through therapy.” There is also no clear, agreed-on definition of what “conversion therapy is.” It includes not only psychological counseling, but can include religious counseling, or simple discussion groups of those who have moved away from transgenderism. “Exorcism, shaming, condemning” can all be included in the concept of “conversion therapy,” and thus found intolerable. And so considerably more than a mere restriction on the treatments of licensed therapists is clearly in view by LGBT activists. Rather, the goal is to use the banning of “conversion therapy” to make opposition to homosexuality and transgenderism illegal.
Doyle also noted that far-left media outlets such as Media Matters “give talking points” to the media to report claims of abusive “conversion therapy” while suppressing any alternative view. He said that there is a “bait and switch” strategy to engineer the passage of legislation suppressing expression critical of homosexuality or transgenderism. In Washington state, stories of nonexistent coercive therapy led to a proposal to ban all such “therapy,” whether directed against homosexuality and transgenderism or not. But LGBT activists opposed this legislation, since the bill did not include a ban on voluntary talk therapy to redirect clients away from homosexuality or transgenderism. Prohibiting voluntary therapy seems to have been the real object of the legislative effort.
One particularly alarming story of the bias of the media regarding “conversion therapy” was testimony in the New Jersey state legislature concerning coercive practices at a “conversion camp” in Ohio, which in fact was taken from the fictional account of a film. Although this was exposed as a hoax, the media did not report the hoax, and the proposed law against “conversion therapy” in New Jersey was signed by the governor anyway. Other cases of false stories told in legislative hearings are not reported as being demonstrably false by the news media. These therapy bans are then used as a “cultural proxy” to attack religious expression and counseling against homosexuality or transgenderism. Yet the bans themselves are supported by stories of events that never happened.
Doyle said that “political bodies will not solve this conflict, because the facts no longer matter.” He did say the Supreme Court’s NIFLA ruling in 2018 that crisis pregnancy centers in California cannot be required to post information about the availability of abortion gives hope of striking down counseling bans. There was also a legal judgment voiding such a ban in Miami, Florida. “The truth matters,” Doyle said. Voluntary religious or other counseling to support an individual’s biological sex is not “abuse,” he said. Justice must be determined by reality, not by the campaigns of activists.
Courts that freely interpret law and judicial rulings are also a problem in dealing with sex related issues. In response to a question, Doyle observed that in a recent case in Maryland, a judge found that the NIFLA ruling did prohibit distinguishing between ordinary speech, which cannot be censored, and “professional conduct speech” which could be restricted. But the judge still found against free speech by distinguishing between ordinary speech and “incidental speech.” This shows why the overall composition of the federal judiciary, and not just the Supreme Court, is important.
In answer to another question about whether the psychiatric community considers itself coerced by radical activists, Doyle said that that in his conversations with persons in the field of psychotherapy, “the biggest concern that professionals have” is that large associations of counselors such as the American Psychological Association and the National Social Workers Association are “controlled by very far left individuals” who establish ethical policies that implement their ideologies. This then influences state licensing boards in their actions. This problem goes beyond the controversy over transgenderism to other issues, such as abortion. There remains some counseling freedom in that people may seek counseling for mental conditions that are not “diagnosable illnesses.” “Marriage therapy” is commonly asked for, although it may not involve a mental illness. Such freedom will not, however, survive an outright ban on therapy to reorient people to their biological sex, although such bans clearly violate free speech.
Another question recounted the testimony of a young man who decided not to undergo sex alteration surgery after talking at length to the questioner. The professional counselor he was consulting never questioned his sex change objective. Doyle said that much publically available information is one-sided. The high risk of suicide for persons who have “transitioned,” and the prospect of permanent sterility if one’s natural sex organs are removed, are not the focus of ideas presented to young people in school and on the Internet. Doyle said he expects “mass lawsuits” in future years as a result of people being uncritically directed through sex transitioning.
The unfolding tragedy Doyle describes results from putting immediate personal wishes over observable reality, and certainly over the will of God expressed in Scripture. The clear result is tyranny, chaos, and ultimately heartbreak. Doyle’s presentation shows how the supremacy of hurt feelings wreaks havoc where one might expect, in professional counseling. But of course, Christians today face the same threat with respect to corporate Christian life. That will be the topic of a subsequent article.