Ex-gay conversion “therapy” is in retreat throughout much of the United States. Not only is momentum building to ban it on a state-by-state basis, but the federal government and President Obama have also endorsed bans on the practice on the grounds that it is unscientific abuse.
While the practice is still legal in way too many parts of the country, it’s fair to say that it’s going out of style.
But the people who have been practicing ex-gay conversion “therapy,” but are no longer able to due to state-level bans, aren’t content to find other work. Instead, they’re moving to a place where they are free to abuse LGBT teens: Israel.
From the Associated Press:
A leading American Jewish group promoting therapy it said could turn gays to heterosexuals was ordered shut in December by a New Jersey court, amid growing efforts in the U.S. to curb the generally discredited practice. But therapists with ties to the shuttered group say they have found a haven for their work in Israel.
Israel’s Health Ministry advises against so-called “gay conversion” or “reparative” therapy, calling it scientifically dubious and potentially dangerous, but no law limits it. In Israel, practitioners say their services are in demand, mostly by Orthodox Jewish men trying to reduce their same-sex attractions so they can marry women and raise a traditional family according to their conservative religious values.
Clients also include Jewish teenagers from the U.S. and other countries who attend post-high school study programs at Orthodox seminaries in Israel. Half of all such students attend seminaries that require youth who admit to having homosexual feelings to see reparative therapy practitioners, according to the Yeshiva Inclusion Project, a group that counsels gay prospective students.
Yeah, remember JONAH? The Orthodox Jewish conversion therapy group that a New Jersey jury unanimously found guilty of fraud for claiming that they could “cure” teenagers of their same-sex attractions? Its members are setting up shop in Israel, since what was totally illegal in New Jersey is perfectly legal there.
The Israel Psychological Association and Israel’s Health Ministry have taken a similar position as their counterparts in the United States, finding that there is no evidence that LGBT people can be “converted.” However, practitioners who have set up shop in Israel after leaving the US have said that the reception they get in Israel is far more welcoming.
I can’t imagine why.
Activists and lawyers in Israel argue that, while ex-gay conversion “therapy” may not be outlawed in Israel, it’s possible to make a legal case that practitioners who don’t inform clients of the Israeli government’s position on the practice could have their psychological licenses revoked. However, while practitioners currently don’t regularly provide clients with that information, they don’t seem to think being required to do so would matter that much. As the AP continued:
[Ex-gay practitioner Dr. Elan] Karten says he tells patients he cannot guarantee therapy will succeed, but that it is not a routine part of his therapy to discuss with them the government positions.
“Let’s say someone’s coming to me, and they’re religious. They could open the position statement of the Israel Psychological Association, or they could open the Torah,” he said. “They’re going to probably look at what the IPA says and say, ‘That’s nice, but I still have this to contend with. I have dreams to be a father and a husband.'”
Placed in the context of the recent intra-progressive debate over LGBT equality in Israel, cases like these go to show that while Israel is in many ways progressive on social equality, its government and culture still privilege religious fundamentalism to a dangerous degree. Religious hucksters whose religious beliefs and practices are considered too unfounded and harmful to be tolerated in the United States are able to find acceptance for those unfounded and harmful beliefs in Israel.
It goes to show how much work there is to be done — even in countries we think of as relatively gay-friendly.