Norwegian Bishops Oppose Government Bill to Ban Conversion Therapy

Bishop Erik Varden, left, with Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, center

Catholic bishops in Norway have opposed a government bill that would ban conversion therapy in the country, claiming that doing so would undermine religious rights.

The Council of Catholic Bishops, which represents three bishops, issued a statement condemning the Norwegian government’s proposed bill to prohibit the “use of methods with the aim of getting another person to change, deny or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

According to the bishops, if passed, the law would restrict people’s freedom, and it relies on a “lack of empirical grounding” and a “tendentious anthropology.” The bishops explain at length each of their objections. At one point they claim about the proposed law:

“It will legitimate totalitarian intervention on the part of the state in citizens’ forming of their own lives. It will criminalise communication between consenting adults. It will impose a terrible responsibility on children to define their own identity; at the same time it will treat adults like children.”

The bishops argue for the church’s LGBTQ-negative understanding of sexual and gender identities, saying that that the more affirming understanding of these issues “will turn out to be short-lived, ephemeral.” They add, “We further consider that the legislator cannot brandish the menace of imprisonment with regard to citizens who hold diverging views on identity and sexuality.” The bishops also take aim at gender transitions.

Another objection is that the bishops suggest religious liberty will be compromised. They write:

“Prayer, intercession, ‘or other religious practice’ are now to become potentially punishable offences. So will ‘statements consisting of quotations, near-quotations, or expositions of Scriptures or religious teaching, and, for that matter, utterances of opinion closely related to religious utterances’.”

More widely, Norwegians were allowed to comment on the government’s proposal to ban conversion therapy through mid-October. Joining the Catholic bishops in their opposition were 19 prominent current and former Christian leaders in the country. In a written statement that group asserted that the Norwegian government “is willing to sacrifice a group’s fundamental freedom of belief and expression by the threat of prosecution and punishment to protect another group of people’s views and practices regarding gender and cohabitation.”

Conversion therapy has a long history of causing trauma. People should be able to live into their truth and the freedom which comes with becoming one’s authentic selves. The Norwegian government’s efforts to intervene in preventing trauma are to be lauded, and it is unfortunate Catholic bishops have placed themselves on the side of harm based on such faulty reasoning.

Bobby Nichols (he/him) and Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, November 18, 2022

1 reply
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    These Norwegian bishops argue that the law would ‘restrict’ peoples’ freedom. Since conversion therapy is usually applied to minors, isn’t it their freedom which would be impacted?

    Reply

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