Will the GOP finally outlaw conversion torture in Kentucky? Will Christendom? Skip to content

Will the GOP finally outlaw conversion torture in Kentucky? Will Christendom?

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Will the GOP supermajority Kentucky legislature finally outlaw the barbaric and widely-discredited practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity?

Beyond Louisville and Lexington, most of my home state is Bible-belt Trump conservative. Yet a recent poll revealed that 57 percent of Kentuckians favor barring so-called “conversion therapy” for people under 18, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported

Opponents accurately call it “conversion torture.” But most Republican lawmakers — and some Democrats — are white, conservative evangelicals, a group that’s not big on LGBTQ rights.

A proposed “conversion therapy” ban failed in last year’s session of the General Assembly, where the Republicans ruled the roost in the House and Senate. (It would take less than a nano-second for the lege to forbid straight-to-gay “conversion” if such a “therapy” existed.)

The GOP increased its House and Senate bulge last November, when Donald Trump won Kentucky in a blowout again. Nonetheless, in the current legislative session, Sens. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) and Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington) are co-ponsoring SB-30, which would outlaw “conversion therapy.” Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, supports the measure. McGarvey’s a Presbyterian, Kerr a Baptist. The governor goes to the Christian Church.

The minority floor leader, McGarvey feels good about the bill’s prospects. “You’re getting Democrat and Republican support,” the Louisville Courier-Journal quoted McGarvey. “You have agreement from the experts that it’s harmful. It doesn’t cost the state any money, and it protects kids.”

He gives the SB-30 “a decent chance” of passing, according to the C-J.

Anyway, the H-L quoted a 2018 statement from the American Psychiatric Association in which the group reiterated its 2015 position that “no credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective does sexual orientation need to be changed.”

'No credible evidence exists that any mental health intervention can reliably and safely change sexual orientation; nor, from a mental health perspective, does sexual orientation need to be changed. – American Psychiatric AssociationClick To Tweet

From Jordan to Jenkins, a slew of right-wing, Trump-tilting white evangelicals think LGBTQ folks go to hell. They claim they’re on firm biblical ground.

Herein lies the rub: Jesus Christ said nothing about LGBTQ people.

While I was reared in Mayfield’s First Presbyterian Church, I’m not an authority on the Good Book. But I do know “Christ” is the root word of “Christianity.”

Hence, if Christ isn’t on the record dooming the LGBTQ community to eternal perdition, how can Christians who believe the Bible is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, damn folks Jesus didn’t?

Okay, anti-LGBTQ evangelicals cite Old Testament scripture and a New Testament passage by St. Paul. “It’s undeniable that the earliest scripture books, the ones Christians call the Pentateuch and Jews call the Torah, don’t like same-sex relations,” wrote author and journalist Gregg Easterbrook in The New Yorker.

He added, “But here’s the thing. Christian theology says the New Testament amends the Old: what happened in the days of the apostles amends what came long before.”

Paul, Easterbrook also wrote, “frowned on all sexual interaction, including by men and women married to each other. (I Corinthians 7:29.) The apostles evinced no interest in any form of carnality. … The Old Testament is chock-full with lust and rape: by the New Testament, it’s as if sex has gone out of style. Those who beheld Jesus bathed in the glory of the resurrection believed the long-dreamt golden age was about to arrive. Sex just didn’t seem terribly important compared to that.”

He concluded: “In the eight hundred thousand words of the Bible, one can find a verse to support just about anything. Even so, it’s disturbing that contemporary Christian conservatives lash out against homosexuality by calling on ancient divine pronouncements of anger, rather than upon the serene divinity who offered the world unconditional forgiveness.

“Voicing the thoughts of the serene God in John 15:12, Jesus summed up Christian theology in one sentence: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ Once, God was full of anger; ultimately, the Maker cared solely about love. Why don’t today’s Christian conservatives understand that the second part amends the first part?”

So, if you’re a Christian, don’t the words (sometimes printed in red for emphasis) of The Chief Cornerstone top everybody else’s commentary in the Holy Scriptures? 

I just don’t get why LGBTQ folks so vex right-wing evangelicals. Maybe it’s my live-and-let-live, ours-is-not-the-only-water, judge-ye-not-lest-ye-be-judged, Frozen Chosen upbringing for which I count my blessings.

But Religious Right culture warriors fulminate that LGBTQ Americans are a dire threat to our country, if not to all of Christendom. It’s apocalypse now, they wail and gnash their teeth. 

This emeritus (fancy word for old retired geezer) community college history prof doesn’t know of any civilization wiped out by LGBTQ communities. Generally, powerful military machines do the trick.

At any rate, I recall from Sunday School that love is supposed to be the core of Christianity and that Jesus told His disciples they would be known by their love. 

I am proud of my denomination for expanding its historic embrace of civil rights to include LGBTQ rights.

The Human Rights Campaign noted that in 2018, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, by vote, affirmed “its commitment to the full welcome, acceptance, and inclusion of transgender people, people who identify as gender non-binary, and people of all gender identities within the full life of the church and the world. It went further to lament ‘the ways that the policies and actions of the PC(USA) have caused gifted, faithful, LGBTQIA+ Christians to leave the Presbyterian church so that they could find a more welcoming place to serve, as they have been gifted and called by the Spirit.'”

The Human Rights Campaign also explained that “there are millions of faithful Christians around the world who have come to recognize the work of God in and through the relationships of LGBTQ people (click here to see a list of denominational positions on LGBTQ people within Christianity). As New Testament Scholar Daniel Kirk has pointed out, Christians today would do well by the tradition of the apostles and our current witness in the world to recognize that theological abstractions aside, God has already clearly embraced LGBTQ people into full communion, and it is now the church’s responsibility to simply honor that reality and rejoice (Luke 15).”

Fourteen states and DC have outlawed “conversion therapy.” I fervently hope that McGarvey’s faith in his fellow legislators is well-founded, and that the state where I’ve lived all my 71 years will become number fifteen.


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY