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Religious leaders push back against Canada’s conversion therapy ban

Story at a glance

  • Thousands of Christian leaders on Sunday said they would be willing to protest against Canada’s recent ban on conversion therapy, which took effect Jan. 8. They claim the legislation’s broad scope could lead to the criminalization of even private conversations.
  • Pastors in Canada feel they have been “stripped of their religious freedom,” American evangelist Franklin Graham said.
  • Some religious leaders said the ban is based on a “myth” that heterosexuality and cisgender identity are preferable.

Thousands of Christian leaders in the U.S. and Canada criticized the language of new Canadian legislation banning LGBTQ+ conversion therapy in their sermons on Sunday, alleging the law’s broad scope and vague phrasing could lead to the criminalization of even private conversations related to sexuality.

In a campaign led by Liberty Coalition Canada, more than 4,000 Christian pastors Sunday said they would be willing to protest against Bill C-4, which makes practicing, promoting or profiting from conversion therapy a criminal offense in Canada.

“Ultimately, the dissenters, the ones who will not cave in, are going to be those who are faithful to the Bible,” John MacArthur, an American pastor who headed the bill’s protest in the U.S., told Fox News on Monday.

The ban took effect Jan. 8 after receiving “royal assent” in early December. Violations can carry a prison sentence of up to five years.

“It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent – meaning it is now law. LGBTQ2 Canadians, we’ll always stand up for you and your rights,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted in December, shortly after the legislation was approved.


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Some religious leaders say the ban may dissuade LGBTQ+ individuals from joining the church and perpetuates the “myth” that heterosexuality and cisgender identity are preferable.

Pastor James Coates, a Canadian clergyman who was jailed last year for refusing to close his church in compliance with public health guidelines, told Fox News that Bill C-4 is “anything but loving” if it aims to “shut the LGBT community off from the saving and transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

According to text of the bill, conversion therapy is defined as “a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, or to change a person’s gender identity to cisgender.”

Conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice, uses techniques like electric shock, deprivation of food and water, and hypnosis, according to a United Nations report. It has also been deemed ineffective by the American Medical Association, which claims the very idea of conversion therapy is based on an “unfounded misconception of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

In a Facebook post Monday, American evangelist Franklin Graham said Canadian pastors “feel they have been stripped of their religious freedoms.”

“Critics of Bill C-4 say it is broadly worded and could even encompass private conversations about the topic, such as when a pastor or any Christian shares what the Bible teaches about sexuality,” he wrote.

Graham has been a longtime critic of the LGBTQ+ community, according to the GLAAD Accountability Project.

In July, he reportedly compared celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride to “lying, adultery, or murder,” and said Pride Month “is an entire month set aside to celebrate a lifestyle that God defines as sin.”


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