January 24, 2022
The West Lafayette City Council is proposing Ordinance 31-21 which prohibits unlicensed persons from practicing conversion therapy with minor age children with the penalty of $1000 per day for violators. Faith Church was started fifty-eight years ago and for the last forty-five years has hosted a biblical counseling center for people in our community. We currently have thirty-two counselors offering sixty-eighty hours of biblical counseling to members of our community each week free of charge at multiple locations including Faith-West.
The reason Faith counselors and others choose not to be licensed is because we have dramatically different counseling presuppositions than the secular world. We have never practiced conversion therapy or used the term because we find this practice that was developed by the secular counseling community to be barbaric and harmful to persons experiencing same sex attraction. It has traditionally included activities like connecting wires to a person’s genitalia and introducing an electric shock when he became sexually aroused by a picture of a person of the same sex or seeking to achieve a similar effect by holding a jar of ammonia under a counselee’s nose. Biblical counseling was birthed historically to counteract this kind of simplistic behaviorism that too often has characterized the world’s approach to human life.
Since we have always rejected practices like conversion therapy, some might wonder why we are so strongly opposed to 31-21. Here are several reasons:
This piece of legislation did not originate in West Lafayette. Special interest groups all over the country and in different parts of the world are seeking to enact similar measures at the local, state, and national level. One fundamental flaw is that the ordinance defines conversion therapy far differently than has classical psychology. Section 2 (b) affirms that “conversion therapy is defined as practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same gender.” Historic Christianity for nearly two thousand years has taught from the Bible the standard of chastity in singleness and fidelity in monogamous marriage. This greatly expanded and ultimately deceptive definition of conversion therapy has biblical Christianity directly in its crosshairs.
Section 2 (e) adds that “counseling is defined as techniques used to help individuals learn how to solve problems and make decisions related to personal growth, vocational, family, and other interpersonal concerns.” This could easily involve conversations a parent might have with a minor child, discussions a small group leader might have with teenagers at church, or more formal counsel by a pastor or other religious leader.
The city council should clarify whether they are speaking about conversion therapy as it has been classically defined and if so, correct their inappropriately broad definitions. Or are they truly seeking to criminalize the act of using God’s Word when counseling minors about human sexuality? If it the latter, they should be courageous enough to plainly express what they are doing.
Faith leaders approached the city council and asked them to either defeat the ordinance or insert strong religious exemption language which protects biblical counseling and other forms of faith-based instruction. To this date the council’s refusal to clarify and correct their definitions and insert such exemptive language tells us everything we need to know about the city council’s likely intent.
Biblical counselors choose to point each person to Jesus Christ and the salvation and new life available in trusting Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus then becomes our core identity, not our ethnicity, gender, or sexual desires. Through the power of Christ, we learn how to submit each of our desires to His Word and only act on the ones which please and bring Him glory. As the apostle Paul explained to the Colossians, “We proclaim Him, counseling every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
It is a harmful myth to instruct minors , as the West Lafayette City Council suggests, to embrace, celebrate, and act on every romantic attraction or feeling. For minor age individuals (and everyone else for that matter), sexual purity often involves saying no to all sorts of raging desires, whether they be heterosexual, homosexual, or anywhere in-between. As Paul instructed the Thessalonians, “that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5).
Biblical counselors believe Jesus is powerful enough the help us progressively change into His image and likeness and therefore become more pleasing to Him. Such ideas are not harmful to minors, they are mankind’s only true hope.
To date, the city council has not given one example of any unlicensed person practicing conversion therapy. They have not provided one name or documented one example to demonstrate the need for this ordinance.
Unlicensed counselors were not alerted to the introduction of this ordinance or invited to participate in its development. As the Lead Organizer of the Lafayette Citizens for Freedom (freedomlafayette.org) Winston Levin has explained, the city council members were each asked to respond to a brief survey stating their views pertaining to key aspects of the ordinance with the promise that their answers would be shared with other members of the community. To date only council member Gerald Thomas, one of nine persons on the council, has been willing to respond.
Reasonable citizens have every right to ask what the West Lafayette City Council is trying to hide. Why are they operating under such a cloak of silence and secrecy? Are they ashamed of what they are doing? Are they hoping to pass the ordinance before people in our community notice?
If minors have questions about their sexual identity, desires, and actions, why shouldn’t they be able to approach a biblical counselor or other faith leader to learn what God’s Word has to say before making up their minds about what they believe about such matters? Who gave the city council the right and authority to criminalize viewpoints which they might find objectionable?
As licensed social worker and biblical counselor Heather Starkweather has explained, “This ordinance is unethical and directly instructs social workers to devalue the client’s right to self-determination. Self-determination ensures the client that if they want a Faith-based counselor, who is dedicated to counsel them from God’s Word regarding the topic of sexuality, they may do so. ”
City Council members should explain whether they value individual liberty and a person’s freedom to choose a counselor who matches their beliefs, ideals, and future goals. Isn’t it proud for an elected official to believe he or she knows what is better for a counselee that the counselee him/herself?
The City Council proclaims that they have “a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors…”. One glaring error is that nowhere in the legislation is the word “parent” found.
Minors rarely if ever drive themselves to counseling. Nor does a minor normally select a counselor by him/herself. A child’s parent is the one who helps makes such decisions.
In the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia, candidate Terry McAuliffe proudly proclaimed that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Many political observers believe that statement, perhaps spoken in a moment of unusual political candor, is the reason McAuliffe lost the election. That is the same error being made with 31-21. What Terry McAuliffe was to education, the West Lafayette City Council is to counseling.
Biblical counselors and many others in our community will not be shamed, harassed, threatened, or intimidated by the government. As Faith has for the past forty-five years, we will continue to counsel people unapologetically from the Word of God, including minors seeking biblical truth on matters of human sexuality.
The principles of religious freedom and the separation of church and state are cherished ideals which must never be surrendered. This becomes a simple Acts 5:29 issue for us. As the apostle Peter proclaimed in events that are eerily similar to ones we are facing today, “we must obey God rather then men.”
What steps should concerned citizens take next:
non-licensed faith-based counselor