Heretic on the Hill: When Therapy Doesn’t Convert, Just Stop It

It’s a sad day at the Secular Coalition for America. Our long-time supporter, adviser, board member, mentor, and friend Woody Kaplan lost his battle with cancer. He was also active with and a supporter of American Atheists, the ACLU, the American Humanist Association, and several other civil liberties groups. Woody knew many members of Congress and had the ability to discuss secular issues with them regardless of their own religious beliefs. You can read more about my friend Woody here if you did not see our email yesterday.




Conversion therapy is not at the top of the list of church-state separation issues but it is one that usually results from intolerant religious beliefs about the LGBTQ population, and one that Congress is addressing. The practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity through various forms of “therapy” has been discredited by every major mental health organization as one that does not work, can do harm to the subject, and attempts to cure a disorder or mental illness that does not exist. Conversion therapy is based on fake science and we oppose fake science. 


Twenty-one states have banned the use of this practice on minors with legislation that requires any licensed therapist who performs conversion therapy to lose their license. Unfortunately not everyone who claims to be able to “convert” someone is a licensed therapist or living in one of those 21 states. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) have introduced legislation, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, that approaches the problem from a different angle, one that works nationally. Their bills use the fraudulent aspect of conversion therapy, that fact that it just doesn’t work, to address it as a fraudulent business practice that may involve false advertising. The bills direct the Federal Trade Commission to address it as such. 


“Numerous major medical organizations have concluded that the practice has no validity and is based entirely on fake science,” said Congressman Lieu. “I’m pleased that many states have joined our movement and enacted conversion therapy bans. Now it’s time to end this scam once and for all and pass a federal ban.”


Please use our Action Alert to let your legislators know you support legislation to ban conversion therapy. 


I don’t usually have room to put links to interesting articles in here but this one is too on-message not to: Why America’s Secularization Is Good For American Democracy. One takeaway: “A healthy democracy requires active participation in the very enterprise of self-governance. On that front, atheists and agnostics stand out.” It also looks at tolerance and critical thinking as important to a functioning democracy, and what groups score high. Spoiler: we do. 


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