A licensed therapist is suing Washington state over its ban on sexual orientation counseling for minors, a practice critics describe as “conversion therapy.”
Brian Tingley has been a licensed marriage and family therapist in Washington state for 20 years, working through a wide variety of issues with his clients—including matters of gender, sexual orientation, sexual behavior and sexual attractions.
But in 2018, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 5722 into law, allowing the state to prohibit licensed therapists from trying to help clients under the age of 18 “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex,” or to stop one’s desire to change gender.
Penalties for conducting such counseling include fines of up to $5,000 per violation, suspension from practice and even a permanent loss of license.
Tingley, a Christian, says his “faith informs [his] views concerning human nature, healthy relationships, and what paths and ways of thinking will enable [his] clients to achieve comfort with themselves and live happy and satisfied lives.”
On May 15, Tingley filed suit against the state—with the help of religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)—arguing that the law is a gross violation of free speech and religious freedom.
“Over the years, Plaintiff Tingley has had multiple clients, including minor clients, who experienced unwanted same-sex attraction and desired Mr. Tingley’s help in reducing those attractions so they could enter into heterosexual romantic relationships and the family lives which they longed for, and also so they could live in a manner consistent with the moral teachings of their Christian faith,” the lawsuit reads.
ADF attorneys have dubbed SB 5722 the “Counseling Censorship Law,” saying that it is “a selfish attempt by the government to further a political and ideological agenda by abusing its power.”
“ … Our country has long recognized the privileged relationship between a counselor and client,” they explain. “This relationship is so sensitive and important that it is confidential under state law.
“Americans are entitled to free speech on the topics of their choice—both in public and in private with their chosen counselor. That’s the right Brian is fighting for with this lawsuit.
“The bottom line is the government doesn’t get to censor the viewpoints it doesn’t like,” they conclude. “And it certainly doesn’t get to intrude into a private conversation between a counselor and client in order to do that.”
HD Editor’s Note: Why Is This News Biblically Relevant?
Ken Ham wrote in his article, “Conversion Therapy Bans Are a ‘Trojan Horse’,” that these bans are a direct assault on Christians, and have a targeted aim to outlaw Biblical preaching and sharing the Gospel message of repentance:
“Conversion therapy bans” have been popping up throughout the West. Those pushing these bills claim they’re trying to protect people, often specifically children and teens who identify as LGBT, from supposed abusive practices (which do sometimes make up certain so-called “conversion therapies”). But what are these bans really all about?
Well, for years, conservative politicians and Christian commentators (including me) have been saying these “conversion therapy bans” are “Trojan horses” that pave the way for the bridling of free speech and the criminalization of those who believe and act on biblical principles. You see, LGBT activists claim that if you don’t fully embrace, support, and celebrate an LGBT lifestyle or identity, then that’s hate speech and harming someone because that person is more likely to commit suicide since you did not affirm them. In their minds and by their flawed logic, those who hold to the biblical belief that an LGBT identity and lifestyle are sinful are hurting other people and driving them to suicide; therefore such people (Christians specifically) don’t deserve to be able to speak their views. Many politicians are viewing this matter now as a civil rights issue—but it’s not. It’s a moral issue.
The warning that these bans are Trojan horses isn’t a fallacious slippery slope argument.
Religious leaders—those who would preach, teach, and counsel from God’s Word—are called out here as being part of these “conversion therapies” and that legislation should make them “think twice” before speaking the truth from God’s Word on sexual issues. It’s an outright assault on freedom of religion and speech and, above all, on biblical truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ (the only message that truly delivers someone from their slavery to a sinful identity, if they will repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ).
Van Maren’s article goes on to quote from Steve Chalke, a pastor who has utterly rejected the clear teachings of Scripture on sexuality as well as the gospel, who argues that “even traditionally Christian expressions of support for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and the offer of prayers [is] ‘psychologically abusive,’ and stated that Christian teaching on sexuality that taught people ‘that their desires are ‘sinful’’ is dangerous because it ‘only contributes to the already high levels of mental health issues reported among people from the LGBT+ community.’”
In this “pastor’s” view, sharing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the biblical truth that God has created us male and female and created marriage to be between one man and one woman is abusive and dangerous. What’s abusive and dangerous is what Chalke and others do: twisting God’s Word to scratch itching ears and lull people into complacency in their sin so they don’t see their need of a Savior.
As believers, we must be prepared to continue sharing biblical truth regardless of what the culture around us says or threatens. Teaching God’s Word is not abusive or dangerous—the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the gospel and the truth of God’s Word, with the power of the Holy Spirit, that free us from our slavery to sin (Romans 6:6) and makes us a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The time is coming when speaking biblical truth regarding sexuality will be illegal. But we must love people enough to continue to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), making disciples (Matthew 28:19), as we do the King’s business until he returns (Luke 19:13). Are we courageous enough to boldly state as Peter and the apostles did: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?