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More than 370 international spiritual leaders call for ban on 'conversion' therapy

More than 370 international spiritual leaders call for ban on 'conversion' therapy
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More than 370 international spiritual leaders this week called for a global ban on LGBT “conversion” therapy, a practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hundreds of spiritual leaders signed a declaration that calls for a prohibition of conversion therapy, criminalization of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and violence against LGBT people. 

The Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives organized the declaration, saying it was an effort “to affirm and celebrate the dignity of all, independent of a person's sexuality, gender expression and gender identity.”

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“We recognize that certain religious teachings have, throughout the ages, been misused to cause deep pain and offense to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex,” the commission said in a statement. “This must change.” 

The signatories extend across more than 35 countries and include Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa and Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, who is president of the Academy for Jewish Religion in California. 

The original signatories announced Wednesday included nine archbishops, 51 bishops, 16 deans, 65 rabbis and various leaders from Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu religions. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the public version of the declaration has more than 730 signatures. 

“We call for all attempts to change, suppress or erase a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – commonly known as ‘conversion therapy’ – to end, and for these harmful practices to be banned,” the declaration reads.

“We ask for forgiveness from those whose lives have been damaged and destroyed on the pretext of religious teaching,” it added.

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The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have denounced conversion therapy, which in the past used methods like institutionalization, castration and electroshock therapy in the hopes of altering one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Christy Mallory, a state and local policy director at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, told The New York Times 20 states in the U.S. have a version of a ban on conversion therapy.

Laws in the U.S. that prohibit the practice do so for minors and/or apply to licensed health care workers, not religious and spiritual providers who conduct the practice, according to the Times.