CCAR Resolution on “Conversion Therapy”

Adopted May 6, 2015

Background

                “’Conversion therapy’ generally refers to any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Often, this practice is used on minors, who lack the legal authority to make their own medical and mental health decisions. . . . The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm. ”[i]

The American Psychiatric Association, for example, has taken a strong stand against “conversion or restorative therapy,” two terms used interchangeably.[ii]  Similar positions have been taken by the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Counseling Association.[iii]

Reform Judaism has long recognized that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is neither a disease nor a choice.  Instead, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are some of the ways that God has created human beings, b’tzelem Elohim, in the divine image.  “[T]he diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities is something to be celebrated and affirmed,”[iv] not a condition to be treated. 

Judaism’s highest value is pikuach nefesh, saving a life.  LGBT youth are at a significantly increased risk of suicide.[v]  Consigning teens to therapy intended to “convert” them from the way in which God created them causes shame and lowered self-esteem, increasing the risk of suicide. 

President Barack Obama has joined the mental health and medical communities in calling for state laws to ban “conversion therapy” for LGBT Americans under the age of 18.

Therefore, Be It Resolved that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

  1. Joins President Obama’s call for laws to be enacted in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, banning so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ Americans under the age of 18.
  2. Commends the Obama Administration, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Counseling Association, for their leading role in combatting “conversion therapy” for minors.
  3. Encourages CCAR members to educate their communities and lawmakers about the harms of so-called “conversion therapy.”


[i] Valerie Jarrett, “Response to Your Petition on Conversion Therapy,” Official White House Response, not dated, spring, 2015.

[ii] American Psychoanalytic Association, Position Statement on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression (2012).

[iii] Jarrett.

[iv] Jordan Dashow, “Banning Conversion Therapy Is an Important Step Forward,” Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism blog, April 13, 2015.

[v] Centers for Disease Control, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health,” http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm, last updated November 12, 2014.