Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jewish faith leaders in Regina sign letter supporting ban on conversion therapy
Regina's city council is set to debate a ban on conversion therapy practices Wednesday
More than 40 faith leaders have signed a letter asking Regina city council to move forward with a local ban on conversion therapy.
"Simply put, we believe that 2S-LGBTQIA+ conversion efforts or practices are a form of abuse," the letter states. "We believe that any attempt to discourage, repress or even try to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is harmful, especially for our vulnerable 2S-LGBTQIA+ children and youth."
Regina city council meets Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. CST to read and discuss the proposed bylaw banning the debunked practice of conversion therapy, which is intended to get people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Council voted in April to bring forward a bylaw based on Saskatoon's conversion therapy ban, which was passed in February.
During April meetings, people virtually addressed the council from British Columbia, Calgary, Saskatoon and Ontario to express opposition to a ban — many using homophobic and transphobic rhetoric — saying it would infringe upon their right to seek therapy they choose. Other local people cited religious freedom.
The letter from faith leaders counters that position.
"Religion is often used as justification for discrimination and as Faith Leaders, we are here to unequivocally denounce the use of any faith perspective or religious power to suppress and oppress 2S-LGBTQIA+ people from living in the fullness of who they are," it says.
2S-LGBTQIA+ stands for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex, asexual and other.
The letter was signed by more than 40 leaders from churches, mosques, temples and synagogues throughout the city. The leaders say that as people of faith, they affirm the inherent worth and dignity of LGBTQ community members.
"Especially the 'Q': those who are questioning and exploring their sexual and gender identities," the letter says. "As people explore and develop who they are, they deserve our support and encouragement, not judgment, shame, or rejection."
The faith leaders said people are using misinterpretations of scripture in their arguments.
Any assertion that the bylaw created will be an attack on religious freedom to be hyperbolic and false.- Letter by faith leaders
In the letter, the leaders say talk therapy, behavioural or aversion therapy, group therapy treatments, spiritual counselling or drug-induced treatments that attempt to change someone's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression should not be allowed.
City council should not be influenced by other faith leaders or people who push for exemptions, loopholes or changes to the bylaw by stating erroneously that it somehow infringes on their religious rights or freedoms, the letter says.
"We believe that any assertion that the bylaw created will be an attack on religious freedom to be hyperbolic and false. Religious Freedoms will always, and rightfully, continue to be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where reasonable and appropriate," the letter says.
"We celebrate God's gift of diversity which includes the spectrums of sexual orientation and gender identity."