Alliance Defending Freedom wants to take down conversion therapy bans by arguing "religious freedom"

ADF argues that protecting LGBTQ youth by labeling the practice of conversion therapy as fraudulent is a violation of free speech and religious freedom

NEW YORK – GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today condemned the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Southern Poverty Law Center designated anti-LGBTQ hate group, for seeking to undermine vital laws that protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous practice of so-called conversion therapy. In an interview with the Baptist Press this week, ADF attorney Matt Sharp argued that California’s Assembly Bill 2943, that would declare conversion therapy a fraudulent practice, “burdens free speech and the free exercise of religion.”

“This is a twisted attempt to weaponize religion to target LGBTQ youth,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “In their ongoing efforts to further promote their anti-LGBTQ agenda, the Alliance Defending Freedom is working to undermine every major medical and mental health organization in the country which have condemned this dangerous practice, while putting LGBTQ young people in harm’s way.”

The nation's leading medical and mental health authorities have uniformly dismissed the idea that being LGBTQ is something that needs to be "treated" and oppose the practice on the basis that is not evidence-based and has dangerous ramifications including increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Among them: American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, and American School Counselor Association.

The fact that this interview happened the same week ADF is at the Supreme Court for oral arguments on the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra should raise alarm. In this case, the ADF is challenging the California law that mandates “crisis pregnancy centers” to disclose if they are unlicensed and post information about other reproductive health services available in the state, saying these regulations violate free speech and religious freedom. However, these laws were only put into effect in response these centers documented history of using deceptive adverting practices to harm and mislead clients.

As noted by Rewire News’ Law and Courts reporter Jessica M. Pieklo, it is easy to see how a win for the ADF in this Supreme Court ruling would open the door for anti-LGBTQ groups and activists to use the ruling to challenge laws regarding conversion therapy: “It's really important in the social services context because it's not like this is just going to be left up to abortion and reproductive healthcare services. A lot of these organizations have offshoots into doing things like so-called “conversion therapy” and promote that kind of really harmful therapy and "care" as well. If they're going to try and argue the right to lie in one context, we know they're going to try and argue the right to lie in another."