Lyle Shelton: Parents should be able to send kids to gay conversion therapy

Lyle Shelton from the Coalition for Marriage and the Australian Christian Lobby has spoken about his belief that parents should have the right to send their children to conversion therapy programs if the they are worried that their child might be gay.

Speaking to Buzzfeed‘s Lane Sainty on the podcast Is It On? Shelton said that people who worried about being gay should be able to seek treatment, and when it came to children that decision was up to their parents.

“I think anyone who wants to seek help for any issue they might be facing in their life should be free to do that,” he said.


“Should people be forced to go to conversion therapy? No, absolutely not. Now, children — they are under the care and responsibility of their parents, so I think if someone’s a minor, it is up to their parents. And I think parental rights should be respected.

“There’s obviously got to be context and care and compassion in all of these situations, but ultimately children are in the care and the legal responsibility of their parents.”

Conversion therapy, which claims it can adjust a person’s sexuality and make them heterosexual has been discredited by the Australian Psychological Association, the Australian Medical Association, and leading human rights organisations around the world, including the United Nations.

In some states of the USA of the practice has been made illegal for patients under the age of 18. Since becoming widely discredited, the practice has moved underground but is still promoted by many churches in Australia.

Shelton said he had not seen any of the research suggesting the practice was harmful, and said it was important that parent’s rights are not reduced. While not being in favour of forcing people to therapy, Shelton said it was important that parents had the option.

“I don’t think anybody should be forced into anything. I can see how forcing somebody in any therapy is not a helpful way to approach anything,” he said.

“If a parent wanted to take their child to a counsellor for help, I think that should be up to them. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Shelton was critical of the Victorian government’s attempts to shut down the practice.

“The trouble with some of this is that certainly Labor in Victoria was looking at banning even people being able to access any counselling for issues of unwanted sexual attraction,” he said. “That’s not freedom either.”

“There’s plenty of people who want to get counselling for a whole range of issues, and there should be no limitations on what people are allowed to get counselling for. The Victorian government was wanting to ban people of their own free will accessing counselling, I mean that’s ridiculous.”

Dr Margaret Mayman, Chair of Australian Christians for Marriage Equality said the practice was tantamount to child abuse.

“Forcing children into ex-gay therapy is tantamount to child abuse. These programs are based on a fundamental lie, and are intrinsically homophobic,”  Rev Dr Mayman, said in a statement.

“Sadly, Mr Shelton’s comments show that deep aversion to, and a refusal to accept the existence of, LGBTI orientation and identity is at the heart of the opposition to marriage equality for many,” Dr Mayman said.

Dr Pansy Lai, who features in the Coalition for Marriage’s television advertising campaign has been criticised for promoting the practice.

Dr Lai denies she has ever promoted conversion therapy, she says she has highlighted research that shows that the practice has no harmful effects.

The Australian Medical Association has responded to Shelton’s comments saying that they condemn conversion, as does the World Medical Association.

“Conversion therapy is harmful to both the individuals who are subjected to it, and society more broadly, as it perpetuates the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a disorder which requires a cure.” The AMA said.

OIP Staff

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