Discussion on whether therapists should be allowed to offer counseling to persons wanting to rid their same-sex desires commenced Tuesday at the American Psychological Association.
The so-called reparative therapy remains a heated debate between gay rights activists and religious groups who argue that homosexuality is a sin and against the created order of God.
"There are many men and women who have unwanted same-sex attractions. Those persons should have the option to get a form of treatment or counseling that parallels their value system, their faith beliefs, their religious convictions, particularly Christians who hold to a view that homosexuality is outside God's created divine," said Tim Wilkins, a former homosexual who heads Cross Ministry and speaks at more than 120 events each year, telling Christians how to deal with the issue of homosexuality.
The American Psychological Association (APA) is currently reviewing its 10-year-old policy on counseling homosexuals. Pro-gay groups are pushing for a complete ban of any type of reparative therapy while evangelical Christians urge respect for religious diversity.
Some Christians have already expressed concern that the APA may be headed in the direction of favoring the interests of gay-rights activists considering the six-member task force that was set up to review APA's policy is dominated by gay-rights supporters, conservatives argue.
"Every individual should have a right to what is called self-determination," Wilkins said, "in other words, the ability to incorporate one's religious beliefs into the counseling."
"And if you want to argue for diversity, that is diversity - allowing every option and alternative and venue available to a person who comes to a counselor or therapist for help," he added.
If the APA decides to adopt a ban on all therapy to homosexuals seeking change, Wilkins said that what the APA would be doing is "clearly discrimination."
For gay-rights advocates, a ban would give reason to shut down such groups as Exodus International that has claimed to help thousands of people out of homosexuality.
"If the APA does in fact ban reparative or conversion therapy, we will at long last have a solid legal argument for shutting down such groups as Exodus International and Homosexuals Anonymous," said Richard Rothstein on QueerSighted, an online gay and lesbian community. "This will also mean that under standard and existing malpractice laws, psychologists and therapists who continue to advocate and practice such therapy would be subject to license revocation, hefty fines and even imprisonment."
Such a move would mean silencing former homosexuals and those who believe homosexuals can change.
"His (Rothstein's) comment reveals exactly what his goal and purpose is and that is to take a ministry such as Cross Ministry and put duct tape over my mouth, tie the hands of Christians and those involved in this area of ministry and attempt to force us to not do what we have a God-given and constitutional right to do," Wilkins argued.
Homosexuals and those who have unsuccessfully undergone therapy say treatment to change a homosexual is harmful. The response is mixed, however. Others report successfully coming out of homosexuality and even benefiting from such counseling, as Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a noted expert in sexuality counseling, explained on CNN on Tuesday.
"There are many different ... approaches to this issue of bringing your behavior in line with your beliefs or your values, and the research that we have so far find that some of those approaches lead to harm," said Throckmorton. "Other research suggests that there are other approaches that lead to benefit. What we don't have is a good handle on what leads to benefit and what leads to harm."
As psychologists, gay-rights groups and evangelicals continue to argue over the issue in the context of the clinical sciences, Wilkins posed a question to the church.
"Since when did the church of Jesus Christ delegate its responsibility to healing people's hurt to some source outside the church?"
While Wilkins doesn't negate the benefits of counseling or therapy, he pointed to the Church as "God's primary source of healing" the hurt.
"In one sense, it is easier for evangelical Christians to passionately pound the APA right now regarding this possible move (to ban therapy) than it is to recognize and to implement our responsibility as Christians to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ," Wilkins stressed.
"How have we got to the place where we have relegated the issue to the clinical sciences and removed it from one of the primary responsibilities of the Church?"
APA's new policy statement on counseling for homosexuals may be adopted early to mid next year.