Like The UN, Jesus Would Have Called Conversion Therapy A Hateful Act of Torture. So should our Churches.

I was “disappointed” to come across a position today by Glenn Schaeffer of the Lutheran Church of Canada in support of conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy. This is the practice of trying to change the sexuality or gender identity of people.

In a recent CBC article, I learned that the Lutheran Church of Canada STILL advises its members that gender identity or sexual orientation can be fixed. in 2018.

“Glenn Schaeffer, district president of the Alberta-British Columbia District Lutheran Church-Canada, has written to Education Minister David Eggen [in 2016] to advocate for conversion therapy and to express his opposition to provincial guidelines that protect LGBTQ students.” [1]
– Canadian Broadcasting Company

BethelLutheranSherwoodParkOct2018It saddened me to read that Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer, President of the Alberta-British Columbia District of the Lutheran Church-Canada, has reiterated this position and expressed that that Lutheran churches should be exempt from Canadian and Alberta human rights laws protecting us all from discrimination. It is sadder that going further, Rev. Dr. Schaeffer asks that Alberta “honour” discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Discrimination is not honoured in Canada, it is condemned. He feels that rather than upholding protection from discrimination, the Lutheran Church should “respond” to what he clearly sees as an encroachment on his rights to discriminate against Canadians who happen to be members of the LGBTQ2+ community.

In Canada, we teach our children that discrimination is wrong.

Apparently the AB-BC District of the Lutheran Church forgets that the laws protecting gender identity or expression are also the laws protecting faith.

Surely, before publishing his opinion Dr. Rev. Schaeffer considered that Canada’s laws do not control or dictate who we are, such as a homophobic, transphobic Lutheran leader. Who you are is in fact what is protected in Canada through our human rights law.
What this nation’s laws govern and police in Canada is what we do, such as discriminating against a transgender girl or a Lutheran child in a school or refusing to hire or rent to a Christian man over concerns he could be one of those homophobic people – as bad, in fact as some Lutheran leaders have demonstrated they are.
Luteran Church of Canada BC-AB District President position against steps protecting LGBTQ
Exerpt from Lutheran Church’s Alberta-Brithsh Columbia District President Report calling for a “response” to the Alberta Government adherence to its human rights duties – Sept 2018

Going even further, Rev. Dr. Schaeffer claims that the Lutheran Church’s position is that  there are more constructive approaches to providing students with a
safe and caring learning environment than teaching our children not to discriminate and protecting them from stigma and bias.

The stated position is that:

“assuring all children suffering from gender dysphoria or an intersexual condition that they are precious creations of God who empathizes with their condition and who provides medical and psychological reparative therapy through therapists and doctors”

– Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer, President of the Alberta-British Columbia District of the Lutheran Church-Canada [14]

That this view is being promoted in 2018 by any organization – let alone an otherwise mainstream faith community is deeply disconcerting, considering that section 3 (1) of the Canada Human Rights Act states that:

prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been obtained [2].

– Canada Human Rights Act

This is a serious matter.  Charitable organizations that advocates for discrimination on the basis of prohibited grounds risk losing their charitable status. A mosque recently lost its prized status over violating Canada’s law on hatred. Global News reported [3that Canada Revenue Agency took action against the Ottawa Islamic Centre and Assalam Mosque following audits that raised concerns about its roster of guest speakers and that
“Many of the views expressed by the organization’s speakers are misogynistic, homophobic, racist and/or promote violence,”
– CRA Charities Branch in a letter to OIC / Assalam Mosque president
Whatever the personal beliefs of any person or group may be, their actions are subject to the Canadian laws which reflect Canadian values. One of these values is that we explicitly protect people of ANY age and of ANY faith from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression,  sexual orientation, or any other explicitly prohibited grounds.
There are no exceptions to our human rights law, and the concept that someone’s sexuality or gender identity can be repaired or willed into shaped is unfounded, harmful, and widely condemned.

Widely condemned as harmful

As we know, conversion therapy – or any attempt to change the sexuality or gender identity of a person – is considered unethical by the American Psychiatric Association. [4]
In 2018, Vancouver banned conversion therapy. As can be imagined, I fully supported this decision and encourage other cities to follow suit. [5]
“The Canadian Psychological Association opposes any therapy with the goal of repairing or converting an individual’s sexual orientation, regardless of age. … It can include prayer or religious rites, modification of behaviours, and individual or group counseling (Bright, 2004; Nicolosi, 1991).”
– Canadian Psychological Association
[6]
Further, the Canadian Psychological Association affirms that all adolescent and adult persons have the right to define their own gender identity regardless of chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role. Moreover, all adolescent and adult persons have the right to free expression of their self-defined gender identity.
The Canadian Psychological Association opposes stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination on the basis of chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role, or on the basis of a self-defined gender identity or the expression thereof in exercising all basic human rights. (October 2010) [6].
– Canadian Psychological Association
In addition,  conversion therapy was condemned by the European Union Parliament in March 2018 when they called on its 28 member states to ban the practice.[7][8]
In a 2015 United Nations report to the General Assembly on Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity included conversion therapy in its list of mechanisms of torture used to oppress persons.
“States have an obligation to protect all persons, including LGBT and intersex
persons, from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in custodial, medical and other settings. This obligation extends to prohibiting, preventing, investigating and providing redress for torture and ill-treatment in all contexts of State control, including by ensuring that such acts are offences under domestic criminal law.
State responsibility is engaged if public officials, including prison and police officers,
directly commit, instigate, incite, encourage, acquiesce in or otherwise participate or are complicit in such acts, as well as if officials fail to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish such acts by public or private actors.
The medical practices condemned by United Nations mechanisms in this context
include so-called “conversion” therapy, forced genital and anal examinations, forced and otherwise involuntary sterilization and medically unnecessary surgery and treatment performed on intersex children.”
2015 United Nations report on Discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity  [9
Justifying conversion therapy is recognized to be a part of the cultural justification behind the demonization of the LGBTQ2+ community by pathologizing people on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
In 2016, MacLeans Magazine covered the experiences of  Peter Gajdics, who underwent conversion therapy and his efforts to get conversion therapy banned in Vancouver. [10]  Conversion therapy was condemned by the European Union Parliament in March 2018.[11][12]

Demonizing and Pathologizing

Justifying conversion therapy is recognized to be a part of the cultural justification behind the demonization of the LGBTQ2+ community by pathologizing people on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

I spoke to Gajdics in 2018 about his experiences when a BC psychiatrist attempted to change his sexuality:

Explicitly protected for a reason

Imagine if people were to attempt to “repair” people on the basis of their faith, their culture, their gender expression, or their place of origin. Let’s pause and remember how that worked out during the horrific 60’s scoop, that reconciliation is finally working hard to address in Canada to atone for the horrors our predecessors visited upon first nations communities because of awful supremacist ideas of the past.

The Lutheran Church of Canada seems unaware that the explicit protection against discrimination on the basis of Faith is exactly the same protection that addresses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. For each one of those, there are some who do not “believe” a protection is valid, even sometimes the identity itself. Nonetheless, our society protects people affected by such discrimination because that is the moral and good thing to do.

Fix this, before somebody complains

Churches are charities, and charities that discriminate against people risk losing their charitable status. This is one way we manage discrimination in Canada. Whether this is under the context of refusing to serve transgender people or calling us a sin, we have put in place laws to protect Canadians against the immoral acts. There is some patience for institutions with a long history to catch up as Canadian values evolve, and there is plenty of room for organizations to hold a position that is immoral.

There is no room in Canada for charities that discriminate or for those which incite others to do so, to the point of torturing them.

One easy way to avoid the church, the shelter, the club, or the camp that lost its charity status for a human rights violation is by not flaunting the laws that uphold our most prized values as Canadians.

To become That Organization might be very sad for its members – but far less sad than preventing children from being themselves.

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