Respecting the choices of other people

Many years ago, people were asking that the government stay out of the bedrooms of the nation. They did not like that certain laws treated them differently. It is my perception that their position was that reasonable people would not try to impose their will onto other people. That reasonable people would be able to agree we can all get along with each other, and choose to not interfere with what other consenting adults may choose to do when those consenting adults are alone, in privacy.

So the “respect what other people choose to do” argue was deemed valid, when used to promote the granting of rights they wanted.

Now consider the movement to ban conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a term used to refer to an effort to help a person leave behind one set of sexual desires, and perhaps to also help them to gain a different set of sexual desires. Perhaps a church runs a program that presents sexual standards from the Bible, and tries to help people align themselves with what the Bible teaches. Perhaps a psychologist gives therapy that he thinks will help his patient.

I have never heard of anyone being put into a jail cell, and forced to hear some religious leader or psychologist speak about conversion therapy.

And I have never heard of any kind of significant therapy that lasted for only one session, apart from a comedy skit by Bob Newhart*. While a person may have tricked their friend into going to the first therapy session, that friend would still need to choose to return for the second and subsequent sessions, in order for the therapy to continue.

So, if an adult patient for this conversion therapy is present by choice, and furthermore chooses to repeatedly return for additional sessions, it seems obvious that the patient is a “consenting adult”, who wishes to engage in this activity, in privacy with the therapist. Similarly, the fact that the therapist regularly shows up and gives of his time would make it obvious that he too is a “consenting adult”, who wishes to engage in this activity.

Based upon the “respect what other people choose to do” argument, I would think we should all be expected to respect the patient’s right to find, and participate in, treatment options according to his own desires and/or convictions.

Not so. We have governments at the municipal levels who advocate bylaws to forbid business licenses to any business in their city that offers these voluntary conversion therapy sessions or who advertise such therapy services.

It appears that whoever is pushing for these restrictive laws did not get the message about respecting the rights of other people to do as they choose with other consenting adults behind closed doors.

Or perhaps the goal was never to bring about a society where we respect the rights of each person to do as they wish with other consenting adults. Instead, society at large were treated as useful idiots, being fed a reasonable sounding line, to push another agenda.

Why should we force another person to go without therapy that they want and seek, especially where that therapy is based on principles from the Bible? If I want therapy to help me to bring my fornication impulses and actions that contradict the Bible under control, what business is it of yours to interfere?

This situation reminds me of this quote from Simone de Beauvoir:

No woman should be authorized to stay at home to bring up her children… because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.” **

At least Simone was open about the fact that she was trying to control other people, by preventing them from making a choice that she herself did not endorse.

An additional problem is the right to free speech. I am not sure how such restrictive laws are permitted to continue, given the constitutional protections for free speech. If a therapist wishes to communicate with the patient about what the Bible says, is this speech not worthy of protection?

Application: If your local government is considering laws to interfere with voluntary therapy, to interfere with free speech between two consenting adults in privacy, I encourage you to write to these politicians asking them to respect the rights of the free people involved in that therapy.

Note: In the comments, please avoid speech that identifies any group based on their sexual orientation. Partly as the topic of this post is respecting the rights of others, and partly because in my jurisdiction such speech this can be deemed as hate speech.



5 thoughts on “Respecting the choices of other people

  1. Now consider the movement to ban conversion therapy.

    So far as I’ve seen, the ban is directed at those who are providing a service and charging money for it. Sort of a clamping down on those who would sell snake oil to those who don’t know they are being “had” (in their view). I tend to agree with that approach. So far as I’ve seen, the church is free to counsel those they would counsel, so long as it is for free. That demonstrates a genuine desire to serve rather than a desire to make money off of people’s misery. (I assume only those who are miserable would be interested in conversion therapy.)


  2. The news I have read make no mention of an exemption for those offering services for free. In fact, these particular cities even ban the advertising of services, so even offering services for free would have to be made known through word-of-mouth.
    But, if you are correct and they do allow churches to offer the services for free, then as you suggest this would be (at least partially) good, as only those people genuinely wanting to help others in this way would be involved.
    This is similar to the argument that it is better for charity to be done by individual people who care about their friends or neighbours, than to be done by a paid bureaucrat. Or to be done by (unpaid) volunteers at some church or charity organization.


  3. “The news I have read make no mention of an exemption for those offering services for free.”

    I checked California and RichardP is right, it’s included in the business law here. I didn’t know that.

    “I am not sure how such restrictive laws are permitted to continue, given the constitutional protections for free speech.”

    Pharisees have always been about “rules for thee but not for me.” Christ said so directly. Luke 11:6 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Combine that with Christ discussing the tricks Pharisees use to nullify the law with respect to themselves and there you go.


    1. I wonder how the people pushing for therapy bans would appreciate being compared with hypocritical religious leaders.

      As for the bans affecting only paid-services from businesses: Apparently Canada is more immoral than the US. Vancouver appears to have only banned businesses from doing this.
      But in Edmonton, they appear to have gone after religious groups as well as businesses: “What makes this bylaw so powerful is that it captures all forms of conversion therapy, whether they are medical, spiritual, or religious.” –

      Canada’s national Prime Minister is pushing for a ban across the whole nation; his directive letter however did not state whether this should apply only to paid services, so we’ll have to see what law is actually proposed.


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