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Simon Bridges, Conversion Therapy and free speech

Written By: - Date published: 12:54 pm, February 6th, 2021 - 22 comments
Categories: gay rights, human rights, national, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags:

There is this appalling practice engaged in by some religious conservatives called conversion therapy.

It is based on the premise that homosexuality is not a normal status for some, but is a condition that can be cured.  All that is required is sufficient psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions and hey presto you have a hetrosexual again. As stated by Wikipedia there is no reliable evidence that sexual orientation can be changed and medical institutions warn that conversion therapy practices are ineffective and potentially harmful.

It was Labour policy for the last election.  From Henry Lock at Radio New Zealand:

The party announced its Rainbow policies in central Wellington yesterday.

As part of the policy package, it also promised more gender neutral toilets in schools, and additional funding for mental health services.

Conversion therapy is described by US-based charity The Trevor Project as “dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A 2018 TVNZ documentary found conversion therapy is available in New Zealand, and is most often practised in private and faith-based institutions.

A recent survey, Counting Ourselves, found that more than one in six research participants reported that they had experienced reparative therapy – that is, a professional had tried to stop them from being trans or non-binary.

“Conversion therapy is based on the misguided idea that people are wrong or broken because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Labour’s Rainbow spokesperson Tāmati Coffey said. “This is fundamentally wrong.”

Labour joins the Greens as the only parties to have promised to ban conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy has been linked to severe adverse mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

“That’s why it will be banned under a re-elected Labour government.

“It is a practice that causes harm and is out of place in the kind, inclusive and modern country we are.”

It has overwhelming support among the electorate.  TVNZ reported that 72% of kiwis support banning the practice and only 14% oppose it.  Clearly even some National supporters think that it should be discontinued.

Which is why it interesting that Simon Bridges has gone all cancel culture on it and claimed that banning the practice would breach the right to freedom of expression.

From Mark Longley at Newshub:

Simon Bridges says he is concerned banning conversion therapy would pander to what he says is a growing cancel culture and would be an attack on free speech.

Bridges, the ex-National Party leader and current spokesperson for Justice, said on The AM Show he wanted to see the details on a proposed Labour bill to ban the controversial practice of conversion therapy.

He said forcing anyone to do something against their will is wrong – including conversion therapy – but he had concerns around making it illegal.

“I personally do have a wider concern. That is freedom of speech. That is in a liberal society, in a tolerant society, we have been very tolerant of different views.

“We are, with this, moving down a track to a situation where it is actually cancel culture.

“If we don’t like it we are going to criminalise it and I do worry about that.”

There are justified limitations to the concept of free speech.  Speech that damages or causes harm is subject to regulation.  It seems abundantly clear that conversion therapy causes harm.

Also there is the right of members of the LGBTQI community to their own forms of expression.  As well as that there is the right against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  A “therapist” attempting to persuade someone that their sexual preference is wrong breaches their rights to sort out for themselves their particular orientation.

The design of the law will not be simple.  There is a difference between full on “you will burn in hell” rhetoric and the provision of information.  The line will have to be drawn carefully.

But Bridges is clearly more interested in continuing to fight losing battles in the culture wars than in addressing an important issue.

Perhaps he has been reading Chris Trotter who recently said:

Inevitably, a political movement will arise to contest the wokeists’ claims and policies. This movement will not, however, be driven by the traditional Left, it will be the creation of an angry and radically populist Right. What’s more, the transformational ambitions of wokeism will provoke its opponents into advancing an equally comprehensive programme of revocation and reconstitution. The result will be a deeply divided society, with tolerance and empathy in short supply.

The backlash against wokeism will be made much more aggressive by the difficulties its opponents encounter in making their voices heard. The mainstream news media – and especially the state-owned media – have become increasingly intolerant of ideas and opinions which directly, or indirectly, challenge the wokeists’ view of the world. Stuff, the largest newspaper publisher in the country has embraced wokeism wholeheartedly and set its face resolutely against the errors of “racist” New Zealanders. Even more significantly, citizens determined to spread “unacceptable” ideas can no longer rely upon the major social media platforms for their dissemination. Increasingly, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are “de-platforming” individuals and groups (including a former President of the United States!) whose beliefs have been anathematised by the woke.

Chris needs to get out more in Aotearoa New Zealand.  All that I have witnessed recently is increasing racial and gender tolerance and an acceptance that climate change, as an example, is a scientifically settled fact and the attempts by the deluded to argue otherwise is a waste of bandwidth.  The only dissent I have seen is in radio talk back land and in that area the problem is that they have too much free speech, rather than not enough.

Bridges did not attend Waitangi this year.  Judith should be careful because it is pretty clear Bridges still harbours leadership aspirations.  And fermenting dissent amongst fundamentalist christians is going to be a big part of his campaign.

22 comments on “Simon Bridges, Conversion Therapy and free speech ”

  1. EE 1

    I don’t know anyone who has been subjected to Gay Conversion Therapy, but I do know someone who was exorcised when she was a child. It is an extremely torturous and harmful religious practice..
    See examples (just skip the Ads): https://www.stuff.co.nz/searchresults?q=exorcism

    • David 1.1

      Agree. Why single out one practice only to make it illegal? There are so many other egregious practices we appear to tolerate. Another half baked policy.

  2. Macro 2

    Judith should be careful because it is pretty clear Bridges still harbours leadership aspirations. And fermenting dissent amongst fundamentalist christians is going to be a big part of his campaign.

    He has obviously been watching closely what's going on in evangelical circles in America and the influence they have on the GQOP.

    “I’d be happy to die in this fight. … This is a fight for everything.”

    That’s what Eric Metaxas, a prominent Christian radio host, told President Donald Trump during a radio interview a few weeks after the 2020 election. If the hysteria in those words surprises you, you probably haven’t paid close attention to how evangelicals have responded to Trump over the past four years. Indeed, evangelicals have been one of Trump’s most loyal constituencies.

    Even after it was obvious that Trump lost the presidential race, many Christian leaders redoubled their support for Trump and joined a legal effort to overturn the election and disenfranchise millions of Americans. And just two weeks ago, Franklin Graham, a public face of evangelical Christianity, compared GOP officials who voted for Trump’s impeachment to Judas Iscariot, the biblical character who sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

    So that’s where American evangelical Christianity is right now.


    I reached out to French to talk about how Trump became a pseudo-champion for millions of American Christians, why conspiracy theories are so attractive to religious fundamentalists, and why he believes Trump’s evangelical base represents a serious threat to the rule of law in the US.

    The full interview is well worth the read. Our evangelical churches identify strongly with their American counterparts. Bridges senses a strong backing here.

    • NZJester 2.1

      They are not true Christians. They worship the false idol of money. They look the other way when there is clear evidence of people like Trump breaking a lot of the 10 commandments.

      When Trump holds a bible upside down and uses some lame excuse as to why he can not quote his favorite bible passage they look the other way.

      (Spoiler: I don't think he has ever seen inside any Bible).

      When you look at the real Jesus he was a left wing revolutionary that was against nearly all of what the evangelicals say they are for.

  3. McFlock 3

    Without "wokists" and identity politics, homosexuality would still be illegal (amongst other things). Trotter's a braying ass.

  4. Visubversa 4

    There is "sexual orientation" and there is "gender identity". The two things are entirely different, and should be treated separately.

    • Tabletennis 4.1

      I get the distinct impression that there is a concerted effort to hide the "gender identity" part in this debate.When a young person comes for counselling at a gender identity clinic, the only therapy allowed will be affirmation under the proposed new bill.

      No longer is a counsellor/therapist allowed into the deeper reason why a girl would want to change their body to be a boy, is put on puberty blockers, followed by operations like a double mastectomies. People who visit a gender clinic for help, need more help not less.

      The Uk (and Sweden) have very recently put in protections for persons under the age of 18 years. On the grounds they can't possible consent to a procedure that is irreversible, with lifelong consequences such as medication for life, infertility
      and clear lack of evidence based medicine (Bell v Tavistock) https://www.transgendertrend.com/the-gender-clinic-revisited-keira-bell-judgment/

  5. Nic the NZer 5

    I believe somebody has missplaced the comma in the title. Simon Bridges Conversion Therapy, … makes more sense anyway.

  6. Ad 6

    Very hard to see Judith Collins whipping against this legislation.

    Although, I'm surprised that delegitimising the practise needs legislation. Not because such a therapy might be part of free speech, but because anything calling itself a therapy has plenty of regulators already, including professional Societies and Registration Boards for psychologists and psychiatrists, DHB psychology units who engage with adolescents every day, Medsafe for any therapeutic product purporting to be a medicine, ACC for anything presuming to treat a recovery from something, etc etc.

    In my early teens I saw people try to exorcise the "demon of gayness" out of another teenager. It was both traumatic and stupid at the same time. I look back on that Pentecostal world with some embarrassment. But it's not that easy to get out of cult formations.

    As for evangelical Christians purporting to be therapists, well in the age of Trump they are simply seduced by proximity to power and for the years ahead there's not much redeeming them. Thankfully he has been shown to have no remaining power after even failing to front and defend himself in front of the Senate. They've replaced the 'Merican Eagle with a chicken:

    • mickysavage 6.1

      Agreed. The rationale of the argument would mean that the proponents of the Spanish Inquisition should also be allowed media space.

  7. KSaysHi 7

    I don't understand the time it is taking to get quack Converstion "therapy" banned. Are there actual medical doctors who put their name behind this crap? If so they need to be deregistered before they can do more harm.

    Since anyone can call themselves a counselor/therapist in NZ the field is wide open to abuses of various kinds.

    • Incognito 7.1

      I think they should be publically hanged, drawn and quartered and their offspring be deported to a low-lying deserted island. \sarc

      • McFlock 7.1.1

        There is actually a process for reviewing and disciplining doctors who harm their patients.

        It isn't perfect, but it doesn't involve execution.

        I note that "conversion therapy" is demonstably harmful enough that serious measures are being taken to outlaw it.

  8. Gosman 8

    Would you also ban the practice of male circumcision? Given the children have no choice in getting their body mutilated for religious purposes I would hope you wouldn't shy away from that.

    • Lucy 8.1

      Of course I would and female circumcision. There are medical reasons for male circumcision but these tend to develop in the teenage years. I know some religions require this but some practices need to be moderated, the practice of interfering with a child's body is not acceptable in modern society.

  9. Gosman 9

    If someone is over the age of 18 and voluntary enters in to Conversion therapy why should that be outlawed? Scientologists undergo a degree of brainwashing, indeed many religions (both traditional and mainstream )subject people to similar practices. Care to explain how you work out which ones are allowed and which ones will be banned?

    • Red Blooded One 9.1

      Care to explain which should be banned? Science !! oh and well reported anecdotes from victims of the barbaric practice plus victims organizing and campaigning the Government for change. Pressure to enter Conversion Therapy from an unsupportive society does not create "Volunteers" anymore than someone is asking to be raped by voluntarily going to the rapists home

      • In Vino 9.1.1

        Personally, I would like Simon Bridges' mangling of the English language to be banned. Despite the fact that he is supposedly a university graduate in the area of law, I think this would please many literate people.

        • Red Blooded One

          Oh so true, speaking of mangling the English Language though, what a mess I made of mine above. haha. That was meant to be worded that Science was the explanation of what should be banned, not banning Science. But Simon Mangeler has the John Key Diploma in butchering language.

    • Adrian Thornton 9.2

      @Gosman, Fair point, If it can be proven that they are acting illegally, then the law takes over etc. This new wave of arbitrary cancelling, deplatforming and silencing from the liberal centrists has really outed quite a few closet authoritarians in our midst, bit disturbing to watch, though it does remind one of how easy it must be to conscript the ‘camp guards’ I guess…not that that gives me much comfort.

    • roblogic 9.3

      This is one of the most balanced legal opinions I've seen on the reform agenda pursued by LGBT+ groups. (Understanding Conversion Therapy Bans) It's primarily a religious practise and not offered by licensed medical practitioners. So making it illegal is just a symbolic goal.

      It's disturbing how much vilification is being poured out on (conservative) Christians, I wonder if the same applies to Jews and Muslims who hold similar views on sexuality?

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