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Conversion therapy bill worrisome to Catholics

Catholics should be concerned about a new bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature to prohibit conversion therapy for individuals experiencing same-sex attraction. 

That’s the view of Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), the public policy voice for the three Catholic dioceses in Nebraska. He says some of the broad definitions in LB167 are troubling.

The bill was introduced Jan. 11 by Sen. Megan Hunt to prohibit people, including licensed counselors, pastors and teachers, from providing talk therapy that includes any effort to change behaviors of gender expression or reduce feelings of same-sex attraction. The bill was brought before the Judiciary Committee Feb. 7.  

LB167 infringes upon citizens’ freedom of speech and religion by limiting their ability to select the type of therapy that they believe will be most effective for them, said Venzor. “What we know about (LB)167 is that while it attempts to deal with unethical and unsafe forms of what they call ‘conversion therapy,’ it goes way beyond just doing that,” he said.

“It actually encroaches on the ability of individuals to seek self-directed counseling by which they want to work through issues of their own human sexuality, whether it’s same-sex attraction or dealing with gender identity issues,” he said.

The framing of the legislation creates several significant issues, according to the NCC. First, it states that “a person holding a credential under the Uniform 22 Credentialing Act shall not provide conversion therapy to any individual under eighteen years of age.” This could be anybody from a counselor or a psychologist to a nail technician or a cosmetologist, Venzor said.

The bill also provides a definition of conversion therapy that is open to different interpretations. It defines conversion therapy as “practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”

By this definition, any minor experiencing same-sex attraction and wishing to receive professional help from a counselor or a pastor on how to live chastely and in accordance with their faith would, by law, be prohibited from consulting with these individuals, said Venzor.  

The Judiciary Committee will now decide whether the bill will be advanced for debate or indefinitely postponed. 

Members of NCC’s network receive email updates on this and other legislation it supports or opposes. To join the network, go to www.necatholic.org/be-an-advocate/join-our-network.html. 

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