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Church Leaders Sue Illinois For Banning Gay 'Conversion Therapy'

Illinois is one of five states that bans gay conversion therapy for minors, but a group of pastors wants the law partially rolled back to allow clergy to administer the programs.

The pastors filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the ban on conversion therapy violates free speech and religious rights, The Associated Press reported. They also argue that homosexuality is "contrary to God's purpose," and say it "can be resisted or overcome by those who seek to be faithful to God and His Word."

"We want to make sure that young people in particular have access to pastoral and Biblical-based counsel if they want it, and that pastors are able to provide Bible-based counseling without any fear of legal repercussions," Steven Stultz, a Chicago pastor who is party to the lawsuit, told the AP.

The Illinois law banning "sexual orientation change efforts" for anyone younger than 18 was approved by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015 and became law in early 2016.

The law makes it illegal for anyone to advertise conversion therapy by referring to it as a mental disease, disorder or illness, according to TIME, and therapists are forbidden from referring clients to out-of-state mental health services that provide the so-called conversion therapy.

Illinois' law is unique in that it considers conversions therapy the equivalent of consumer fraud. Anyone who violates the sexual orientation conversion ban could be held liable under consumer laws.

“They’re out of date and can be deeply destructive to youth,” Illinois state Sen. Daniel Bliss said when Rauner signed the law. “Outlawing these practices is a small step in our pursuit for LGBT rights, but it’s an extremely important step in protecting young people in Illinois.”

Still, the pastors argue that minors should be free to choose conversion therapy, although it's not clear how that would apply in cases where parents might force their children to participate.

“This law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” the pastors’ attorney, John Mauck, wrote in a statement printed by The Washington Post. “Each person should be free to receive Biblical and spiritual counseling from the pastor of their choice to help them orient their sexuality.”

Sources: The Associated Press, TIME, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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