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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 19, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 34
Pastors sue Illinois over conversion therapy ban
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Pastors sue Illinois over conversion therapy ban

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Five Illinois pastors are suing the state in federal court over a law banning conversion therapy for minors.

The legislation, known as the 'Youth Mental Health Protection Act,' makes it illegal for any 'mental health provider' to engage in 'sexual orientation change efforts' with a person under the age of 18. Providers are also prohibited from referring a patient to anyone else for purpose of attempting to change their sexual orientation.

Additionally, the law prohibits individuals from advertising conversion therapy services in a manner that represents homosexuality as a 'mental disease, disorder, or illness.'

The law was enacted in August 2015.

Illinois is one of five states that ban conversion therapy for youth under 18. Laws in California and New Jersey have already been sustained in legal challenges, but an attorney for the Illinois pastors said the prohibitions in those states did not include clergy.

In the Illinois case, the plaintiffs say that the law violates their First Amendment freedom of religion and free speech rights.

'The law in Illinois is broader than the other laws, which were aimed at licensed counselors,' said John Mauck, a lawyer representing the pastors. He added that his clients are not seeking to overturn the entire law but only want religious counselors to be exempted.

The pastors also insisted - in the face of contrary scientific evidence - that their conversion efforts are effective.

'In I Corinthians 6:9, the Apostle Paul writes to those who had overcome many sins, including homosexuality, stating, 'such were some of you' but you were changed through God's healing,' one of the plaintiffs, Pastor Steven Stultz of Nu-Church Apostolic Ministries, said.

'I have personally witnessed many people change their sexual orientation through counseling and know it is possible. The government is interfering into someone's private decisions. This ban on counseling creates fear in the people most in need of comfort and support.'

'We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity. This is an essential human right,' Mauck added.

'However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer.

'Each person should be free to receive biblical and spiritual counseling from the pastor of their choice to help them orient their sexuality.'

The Attorney General's office said it will defend the law but would not comment on the case. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is a three-term incumbent and a Democrat. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who signed the bill banning conversion therapy, is a Republican.

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