The Nebraska Catholic Conference has spoken out against a bill that would ban conversion therapy in the state. Conversion therapy refers to an attempt to change an individual’s sexual or gender identity through psychological treatment. The practices involved span from talk therapy to electroshock and other painful forms of physical or psychological aversion techniques. Some forms of conversion therapy use religious techniques.
The bill, introduced by State Senator Megan Hunt, would outlaw conversion therapy entirely for minors and would prohibit professionals from charging adults for the practice. Professionals, church leaders, and others would, however, still be able to offer the practice to consenting adults provided that no money changes hands.
Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, told WOWT that the bill was too broad and would keep people from accessing services they desire:
“There are techniques out there that are wrong and have been condemned universally. But this bill goes beyond those techniques and it goes against the intimate [sic] to get the help they believe they need. …
“When people come with these issues, they want to explore different angles of why they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing,” Venzor said.
Venzor’s opposition comes very soon after Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver endorsed conversion therapy as Colorado moved to ban the practice earlier this month.
Research has found that conversion therapy carries significant risks for LGBTQ people. A study from November 2018 found that about half of LGBTQ young people whose parents had tried to change their gender or sexual identity had attempted suicide, twice the rate of those whose parents had not tried conversion therapy. When a therapist or church leader was involved, almost two-thirds attempted suicide.
Another 2018 study estimated that close to 700,000 Americans have received conversion therapy. According to those projections, an additional 20,000 young people today will experience conversion therapy before the age of 18.
The practice has come under renewed scrutiny in the US after the release of Boy Erased, a film telling the story of one teenager’s destructive experience with conversion therapy.
New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo said the Nebraska Catholic Conference should educate themselves about the dangers of these types of therapy. “The Nebraska bishops’ opposition to this bill can increase the chances of its defeat,” DeBernardo said. “What they don’t realize is that conversion therapy is not a matter of psychology or morality. It’s a matter of life and death.”
–Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, March 14, 2019