Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill, Ireland 2018
May 15, 2018

Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill (Ireland, 2018)

Hard on the heels of the Irish Republic’s abortion referendum on Article 8 of the Constitution, another legislative move is underway. This is of concern to all those wishing to leave both homosexual and transsexual identities and behaviours – whether from a faith or a non-faith position.

The Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill (2018), imposes fines and prison sentences on any therapist seeking to help a client to diminish unwanted same-sex attraction.  It says it is

An Act to prohibit conversion therapy, as a deceptive or harmful practice against a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Read the Bill here.

But the words ‘deceptive’ and ‘harmful’ are value judgements not based on evidence, and this statement is scientifically invalid.  The best evidence we have from the American Psychological Association says, “There are no scientifically rigorous studies of recent [therapy] that would enable us to make a definitive statement as to whether [it] is safe or harmful and for whom.”

YouTube video

The Bill's originator, Senator Fintan Warfield et al on Pat Kenny Live

Suppose a man with a wife and children finds that he is falling in love with another man; his therapist will tell him to leave his family and go to live with his lover – the very opposite of what Jesus would tell him.

In the UK a colleague and I have forced the Royal College of Psychiatrists to move from saying that the cause of sexual orientation is “biological” to saying that it is “determined by a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors.” 

The word postnatal reflects the fact that sexuality is shaped after a person is born – one is not born that way

Lesbian scholar Lisa Diamond, says, “It is time to just take the whole idea of sexuality as immutable, the born this way notion, and just come to a consensus as scientists and as legal scholars that we need to put it to rest. It’s unscientific.”[1] 

But what about the question of harm?  The best study we have, found that therapy was not harmful on average.- rather the reverse.[2]  I have asked the UK Council for Psychotherapy for evidence to back up their claim that there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ of harm, and they weren’t able to give me any. 

But what about suicide?  We have been led to believe that people who identify as LGBT are much more likely to kill themselves, because of societal attitudes.  But one leading suicide scholar says, “… all studies of sexual orientation and completed suicide have concluded that gay men and lesbians do not die by suicide at a higher rate than heterosexuals.”[3]

More from Dermot O'Callaghan on Suicide

Freedom to Choose
Banning therapy also denies the fundamental principle of client choice.  The late Robert Perloff, former President of the American Psychological Association, said   "… It is my fervent belief that freedom of choice should govern one's sexual orientation … and should not be tampered with by any special interest group — including the gay community…"

No talking therapy should be denied to a person who wants to move away from same-sex attraction.  If we allow science to be replaced by ideology, we are party to banishing the Judeo-Christian worldview, and the man and his family described above will suffer.

Transgender Regret

Finallly, there is a tragic phenomenon called ‘TRANS-REGRET.  Some people who transition to the other gender subsequently find that they have made a terrible mistake and want to reverse it to the extent possible. But this law is a one-way street.  The great irony is that the therapist who helped the person to transition in the first place could find themselves in jail if they tried to help reverse the process. The law would pathologise the client and criminalise the therapist.

What would Jesus want us to do?  We must speak up loudly for truth and compassion in a world that is sliding into confusion.

Dermot O’Callaghan           May 2018


[1] New Scientist issue 3031, 25 July 2015

[2] Stanton L. Jones & Mark A. Yarhouse (2011) A Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Sexual Orientation Change, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 37:5, 404-427

[3] British Journal of Psychiatry (2004) 184: 361-362

Core Issues is a non-profit Christian ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression.

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