The American Psychological Association will begin reviewing its policy on therapy to homosexuals next Tuesday as both gay rights activists and religious groups hope for a revised policy in their favor.
New research on what is often called reparative therapy and protests by homosexual activists who say such treatment is harmful have prompted the largest association of psychologists to re-examine its 10-year-old policy on counseling homosexuals.
As pro-gay groups push for a new APA policy, which is expected by mid-2008, that denounces any attempt by therapists to change sexual orientation, conservative religious leaders and counselors have already written to the APA to urge respect for religious commitments of clients who have unwanted same-sex desires.
While commending the APA for acting to develop ethical and helpful procedures to assist persons with same-sex attractions, the religious leaders stated: "[W]e are writing to express some concern that the mission of the task force may not recognize same-sex attracted persons who also have solid and unwavering religious commitments which lead them to avoid homosexual behavior.
"We strongly believe that psychologists can offer a valuable service if they respect the religious commitments of their clients to the same degree that they respect sexual orientation diversity," they wrote in the letter dated June 29.
The initial statement was written by Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a noted expert in sexuality counseling, and reviewed at Focus on the Family, one of the largest evangelical organizations in the country, along with other conservative leaders.
Scores of religious leaders representing various denominations, churches, universities, and organizations as well as individual professionals signed on to the letter expressing concerns and offering suggestions, including the expansion of the current task force of formation of a new and separate one that would provide recommendations for psychologists who respect religious identity.
Religious groups had raised concern when the six-member APA task force that was set up late May to review the policy on reparative therapy did not include experts who reflect their view or have worked with clients experiencing religious conflict over sexuality. The task force is dominated by gay-rights supporters and conservatives believe the panel does not reflect diversity.
"We're concerned," said Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family, according to The Associated Press. "The APA does not have a good track record of listening to other views."
Clinton Anderson, director of the APA's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, insisted the panel would base its findings on scientific research, not ideology, according to AP.
"We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality – they don't fit into our world view," said Anderson, defending the decision to reject certain conservative nominees to the task force.
In response, Throckmorton argued, "If by this, he (Anderson) means the APA cannot accommodate religious views which object to homosexual behavior, then he is setting the APA up as a judge of religious beliefs. In contrast, the religious coalition who signed the letter to APA wants the APA in its policies and guidance to respect religious diversity in the same way they do sexual identity diversity."
"We encourage safe and ethical practices that allow clients to live according to their religious values," the June 29 letter stated. "We believe that psychologists should assist clients to develop lives they value, even if that means they decline to identify as homosexual."
The task force is expected to submit a preliminary report to the APA's directors in December.