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Canada outlaws “conversion therapy”

The broadly worded law covers talk therapy for consenting adults


iStock.com/lorenzoantonucci

Canada outlaws “conversion therapy”

Canada formally adopted an expansive ban on so-called conversion therapy last week. The new law criminalizes any “practice, treatment, or service” designed to change, repress, or reduce a person’s same-sex attraction or sexual behavior, or their gender identity or expression if it differs from their biological sex.

Bill C-4, which received royal assent on Dec. 8, says such therapy is based on “myths and stereotypes” that heterosexuality or one’s biological sex is preferable to other sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. It amends the nation’s criminal code to outlaw counseling someone to undergo conversion therapy—including advising a consenting adult who wants help for unwanted same-sex behaviors or a person seeking to accept their biological sex after living a transgender lifestyle.

The law also prohibits advertising or promoting counseling services for unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, profiting from the provision of it, or taking a child outside Canada to receive it.

Penalties for violations include up to five years in prison.

The new law comes after two less restrictive therapy bans failed in recent years. Lawmakers, including Canada’s conservative party, gave unanimous support to fast-track the new bill through the legislative process, forgoing debate, committee study, or voting. The bill takes effect on Jan. 7.

Faith-based groups, church leaders, parents, and others who opposed previous versions said the new ban’s swift passage caught them by surprise. Many fear they could face jail time for private conversations, sermons, prayer meetings, or discussions of Biblical sexual ethics. Under the new law, parents could face criminal charges for failing to “affirm” a child who wants to identify as the opposite sex. They could not seek help in another country. A pastor offering support to an adult struggling with unwanted same-sex behaviors, such as gay pornography, could be jailed.

“We know this law will be weaponized by LGBT activists against the church in Canada,” said Jose Ruba, communications director for Free to Care, a Calgary-based support group opposed to government interference in conversations pertaining to LGBT lifestyles. Already, some activists have signaled plans to push the government to remove the charitable status of any organization that seeks to “convert” people away from LGBT lifestyles. “We don’t expect churches to have charitable status in the next 10 years,” Ruba, 45, said.

Ruba said he has struggled with same-sex attraction. In college, a friend involved in the campus ministry group Intervarsity pointed him to a Christian counselor who provided help. “Sexual attraction may not be a choice, but sexual behavior always is, even if that means being celibate,” Ruba said. “I must have the right to talk to whomever I want to” for help.

When questioned about Bill C-4 prohibiting adults from seeking the counseling of their choice, Justice Minister David Lametti said, “It’s torture, and you can’t agree to have torture.”

Proponents of Bill C-4 said LGBT people cannot be “cured” of their sexual orientations and gender identities. They say efforts to change them, including Bible-based therapy, cause psychological harm and could lead to suicide.

About 20 U.S. states and 100 municipalities along with three European countries have banned some form of therapy to help people embrace Biblical sexuality or biological gender. France’s Senate voted last week to criminalize the practice. Lametti described Canada’s new criminal laws as “some of the most comprehensive in the world.”

On Tuesday, Free to Care hosted about 80 people who met online to discuss the passage of Bill C-4. Ruba said some participants expressed anger and others asked questions about how the bill passed so quickly with so little opposition. The group prayed for repentance among churches and politicians and for the courage to stand firm on Biblical truths no matter the cost.

Ruba said Free to Care is preparing to file a legal challenge against the federal government if a pastor or a parent faces criminal charges under the new law. Meanwhile, he said churches should be ready for LGBT activists seeking to entrap or expose them for teaching a Biblical view on sexuality and gender. Ruba encouraged church leaders to continue preaching the good news of God’s design.

“If there is anything good that has come out of this, it is that the Christian community is starting to wake up and realize how bad the situation is here for religious freedom,” Ruba said.


Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and reporter for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.

@mbjackson77

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Salty1

Mr. o Mac says, “It is never the law's job to promote Christianity.”

Are you trying to say that the law should never promote Christian morality? The goal of the Christian in politics is to align our laws most closely with Christian morality and principles based on the Bible. If that is not the goal then exactly what are we doing in politics?

mrbobmac

I'm not convinced that Canada's welcoming of immigrants is the cause of this. Canada and the USA are both the product of centuries of immigrants. Indeed, today's immigrants tend to be more ideologically conservative (that is, regarding Christian values, whether they are Christians or not) than the collective residents already in both countries, or at least the legislative bodies anyway.

But I would take issue with the closing statement: “If there is anything good that has come out of this, it is that the Christian community is starting to wake up and realize how bad the situation is here for religious freedom,” Ruba said.

"Starting"? I do not feel that the Christian community has been sleeping. I have many times heard that this-or-that law / practice / morality has come about because Christians have been negligent. For example, sex/violence/foul language in movies, or abortion, or shopping on Sunday. Whatever it is, it is easy to blame the ambivalent church. I would contend instead that the forces of evil are, at times, stronger than the church at large. For example, I grew up in Utah which has historically been heavily Mormon and therefore ideologically conservative. Yet laws to restrict abortion brought lawsuits where the end destination was simply (my paraphrase): "Reverse this law or we will bankrupt your state in trying to defend it." Similarly, the Boy Scouts tried for years to stay ideologically conservative. Many people lamented the "caving to liberals" or "caving to politically correctness". These same people invested nothing in the millions the BSA spent defending their core principles. It is cheaper to throw potshots than to join the fight.

It is my thinking that even if every single "Christian" church in Canada and the USA opposed these laws (whichever ones, but specifically the ones in this article regarding conversion therapy, but the same could be said for abortion, prayer in school, posting the Ten Commandments in public places, etc.), they would still lose. Why? Because the force of law is sometimes more powerful than the collective force of good. And there is biblical precedent for this: Many an Old Testament prophet spoke truth to a public—or more accurately, a governmental leadership—that did not want to hear it... and paid for it with imprisonment (at best) or death (at worst).

I do not write this to sound unhopeful or resigned to this fate. It is never the law's job to promote Christianity. And frankly, with so many different denominations, one group's view on truth & justice will vary from another. But when persecution comes, faith grows stronger. When persecution comes, prayer comes. Yes, we SHOULD speak out. But that doesn't mean we'll always win the argument. Just ask John the Baptist. :(

Salty1mrbobmac

I would ask why you think Biden is letting in so many immigrants? Why do they continually loosen up voter ID laws?

There may be some immigrants who are more conservative, but I think the larger percentage are liberal! Or they are herded on one of the racial wagons where they are programmed to vote the leftist way!

Salty1

This is coming to the United States if the Democrats have their way. The reason the Canadians are so liberal is that they have allowed in a high percentage of immigrants (about 300,000 per year). This has diluted the Christian vote allowing a more liberal perspective supporting homosexuality and disfavoring the Christian position. If we don’t wake up we will see the Christian voice treated as hate speech and our godly churches will be shut down!