Samuel Johnson famously declared, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." In our day, we might say, "The child is the last refuge of a politician."
When no logical justification exists for a particular course of action, all a lawmaker needs to do to escape scrutiny is announce that "it's all for the children." From there, he or she can exit stage left to general acclaim, heedless of the harm they may actually be causing children.
Witness the assault on sexual orientation change efforts, otherwise known as "SOCE." Just this past August, New Jersey became the second state in the union, after California, to ban counseling for young men and women under 18 who want to combat unwanted same-sex attractions – many of them because of sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of an adult. They have a reasonable and understandable desire for change, but sheer political correctness stands in the way of achieving it.
Other states seem poised, even eager, to proceed down this authoritarian path. It is not an exaggeration to say that an orchestrated movement is afoot in this country to deprive adolescents of the psychological counseling they themselves desire, simply because the regnant priests of the new orthodoxy deem religious or philosophical objections to homosexual behavior politically unacceptable.
These laws reject a loving parent's judgment about the matter but embrace the political goals of homosexual activists who have no parental interest in the well-being of the children affected.
Of course, the bans are not decked out in such honest finery. Rather, they are presented as justified by experts in the field, most notably the American Psychological Association.
Still, the evidence does not support dubious claims that SOCE harms adolescents. In fact, the APA has expressed agnosticism as to the origin of sexual orientation and concluded that "[e]arly and recent research studies [on SOCE] provide no clear indication of the prevalence of harmful outcomes."
But perhaps even more shocking than the mendacious characterizations of SOCE is the outright sacrifice of patient autonomy to the gods of political correctness. Where else do we sacrifice the best interests of adolescents in such a cavalier fashion?
If a young man or woman were to approach a parent, teacher, counselor, doctor, minister, or any other responsible adult with a plea for help, can we think of one other instance in which the government has seen fit to officially foreclose the opportunity for that child to get the help he or she needs?
Imagine if we responded to a plea for help to defeat a drug addiction, an alcohol addiction, a pornography addiction, an eating disorder, a learning disability, or countless other potential afflictions by saying, the state has determined that this is not an affliction, you were born this way, so no good can come of treating your condition.
Attacks on the efficacy of SOCE neglect to mention the danger inherent in any psychological therapy and ignore study results that show that, as a group, people who identify as "homosexual" experience significantly higher levels of mental and physical health problems as compared to heterosexuals. Yet SOCE bans have no corresponding prohibition on counseling affirming a same-sex attraction.
This undeniable double standard suggests that teens seeking to combat same-sex attraction are a stumbling block of sorts to the onward march of the homosexual agenda, which seeks the imprimatur and approbation of the broader culture. When a young child declares an intention to live out a "transgender life" in conflict with immutable biological realities, states like California have publicly lauded their autonomy and crafted laws to protect such decisions. Yet when adolescents declare their same-sex attractions unwanted, their autonomy is bulldozed – but still all supposedly in the interest of the children.
The irony of the about-face in this case is almost too rich to bear. For decades, the ACLU has agitated for the untrammeled freedom of adolescents to obtain contraception and undergo abortion procedures absent governmental interference, and has viewed the doctor- patient relationship as sacrosanct and inviolable. It has argued that "[r]egardless of official government policy on such sensitive questions as . . . sexual practices, physicians must remain free . . . to provide their patients with their considered medical opinions and recommendations free of government restrictions having nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with politics."
The APA apparently agrees, concluding that mental health professionals "should strive to maximize autonomous decision making and self determination."
But SOCE bans do just the opposite: they sacrifice autonomy to government orthodoxy. The principle behind such bans – that the government knows best and can dictate what a patient needs from his or her course of treatment – threatens the freedom of all Americans. And that's why we should all oppose such bans, regardless of our views on human sexuality.