POLITICS

Mormon Church Opposes Utah's 'Conversion Therapy' Ban, Calling It Overreaching

The practice has been condemned by leading medical and mental health groups. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is standing behind it.

Lawmakers’ latest attempt to ban so-called conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth in Utah is under threat by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) after the influential religious group released a statement publicly condemning a ban.

The Mormon church, as the faith is commonly known, called the proposed ban overreaching, claiming it does not protect individuals’ religious beliefs or “account for important realities of gender identity in the development of children.”

“We teach the right of individuals to self-determination and the right of parents to guide the development of their children,” the church said in its statement released Tuesday.

The church holds immense power in the state. Nearly two-thirds of its residents are members, as well as nearly every state lawmaker.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, is seen.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, is seen.

The discredited practice using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or a certain gender identity, also known as reparative therapy, has been widely condemned, however. The nation’s leading medical and mental health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychological Association, have called it impractical and potentially harmful.

“So-called reparative therapies are aimed at ‘fixing’ something that is not a mental illness and therefore does not require therapy,” former APA president Barry Anton has said. “There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client.”

Local LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah has also condemned the practice, citing the high risk of suicide attempts among those who undergo it.

There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client. Former APA president Barry Anton

The organization on Twitter shared a recent study that found that transgender adults who underwent gender identity conversion efforts had higher odds of experiencing a lifetime of suicide attempts compared to those who did not undergo this practice and instead discussed gender identity with a professional.

Conversion therapy is already banned in 16 states and Washington, D.C.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), who’s a member of the LDS church, back in June had proposed regulating how psychologists practice conversion therapy, saying he was “troubled” by it.

“In my understanding, such techniques would seem to be unethical, and therefore, I do not understand why they would be a part of professional practice,” Herbert said in a letter to Francine Giani, director of the Utah Department of Commerce, which oversees the professional licensing division. “I am also very concerned about what I have learned regarding the lack of understanding many parents have concerning so-called ‘conversion therapy.’”

The state’s legislature declined a similar proposed ban on the practice earlier this year, which the church did not publicly take a stance on. The latest proposed ban has received a majority of support in submitted written comments, according to The Associated Press.

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