Last week, Edmonton City Council officially banned “conversion therapy”. The decision was swift and unanimous. The practice and promotion of conversion therapy is prohibited within city limits. Disobedience is costly. The bylaw carries a minimum $10,000.00 fine.
The bylaw prohibits any “technique”, “service”, “treatment” or “tactic” aimed at “eliminating or reducing sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between persons of the same sex” or intended to alter a person’s “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or gender preference.” It applies to “businesses” broadly defined (any “profession, trade, occupation, calling, or employment” or any “activity providing goods or services, whether or not for profit and however organized or formed”) and to persons associated with such a “business”.
Some have praised Council for developing the most comprehensive bylaw in Canada prohibiting conversion therapy. Others applauded the significance of the event by noting that this was passed on International Human Rights Day. Some have called it a model not just for municipalities in Canada, but across the world. Another commentator lauds the fact that the new law captures all forms of conversion therapy, whether medical, spiritual, or religious.
Indeed, the bylaw’s definition of “conversion therapy” is so broad that it appears to capture pastoral counselling to help someone exercise sexual self-control. It would appear to even include praying for someone that their same-sex sexual desires be removed if such a prayer is offered in any “business” capacity (such as by a counsellor, or by a pastor, elder, or someone representing a church). And if one member of a church or other “business” offers “conversion therapy” with the tacit approval of others in the business, they too can be liable for $10,000 fines.
Under the bylaw, a pastor may pray with a married man about lusting after women, but may not pray with a married man about lusting after men. A pastor may not pray with a young man that his gender dysphoria be resolved and that he is able to embrace that God created him male.
This law is oppressive, drastic and heavy-handed. And yet it is spreading to other communities in Alberta. St. Albert is scheduled to debate the matter soon while other municipalities like Spruce Grove, Calgary and Fort McMurray are in various stages of moving bylaws forward.
Please pray for our country, our municipalities, and our provinces. Ask God to intervene and give His people wisdom as to what to say. Pray also for our city councillors that their eyes may be opened to how unwise and unjust this bill is and pray that God would reach the hearts and minds of activists who are targeting churches and pushing for this law. Only God can change their hearts and we need to pray that God would show them a love so great, they will realize the only identity worth embracing is Christ.