By REV. RAY BAILLIE
Guest Opinion Column
Bill C-6 is concerning to many faith leaders and communities, due to its sweeping scope covering all sorts of private and personal, as well as public communications regarding matters of human sexuality.
Even a short conversation at Tim Hortons will tell you there are diverse opinions on these matters, yet politicians have as of late joined in a lemming-like march towards ‘groupthink,’ where one particular dogma is chosen and all dissenters, no matter how nuanced or thoughtful, are simply extinguished.
Most of the practices mentioned as conversion therapy in the past, have been extreme and abusive and have long been abandoned. Coercive or involuntary efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our communities.
Bill C-6 goes far beyond these straightforward directives.
In C-6 we see the potential criminalization of conversations between professionals, faith leaders and even parents when speaking to young people about a faith and morals based understanding of ethics, sexuality, gender, identity and belonging.
Conversion therapy is defined as: “a practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change a person’s gender identity or gender expression to cisgender or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour, or non-cisgender gender expression. For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration and development of an integrated personal identity without favouring any particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
The wording of the bill in itself suggests a severe moral preference on the part of the law, allowing therapy that goes in one chosen direction, and rejecting the alternates outright. Whereas Pierre Trudeau stated that “government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation” the current bill seeks to make government the arbiter of who can influence the bedrooms of the nation and what can be preached in the pulpit or discussed in the private homes of the nation. Persons who desire assistance to modify their behaviour or inclinations in one direction – towards heterosexuality (or celibacy), are denied services based on the inherent prejudice of the law.
This law forbids conversion therapy that would direct a person to a sexual expression in line with their biology, while it permits and empowers conversion therapy that would direct a person towards a sexual expression that is not in harmony with their biology, even to the point of surgical and hormonal interventions to their physiology, some of which are irreversible. It would also forbid interference with a child’s sense of gender dysphoria unless we are only ‘affirming’ their current feelings.
The bill includes the banning of any efforts and practices designed to repress or reduce sexual behaviour. The Justice Department in explanation said the legislation would not criminalize private conversations where professionals, faith leaders, or family members, provide support to persons struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual feelings, or gender identity. The Justice Minister is on record as saying that “What is covered by this legislation are practices that attempt to change one’s orientation towards a predefined goal.”
Would a sermon series or a Bible study or other programs on faith-centred sexual ethics be construed to fit the definition of a practice, treatment or service offering conversion therapy? And since the definition of conversion therapy includes reducing sexual behaviour; could teaching that encourages sexual abstinence or sexual expression only in the context of heterosexual marriage be considered as directing persons toward a “predefined goal”? Bill C-6 tends to treat all these perspectives, other than the ones the bill prefers, as hate. C-6 is not a bill that seeks a greater democracy, or a legitimate mosaic of peoples with differing beliefs. Rather, it extinguishes all others by law, in order to favour its’ own choices, as uncertain and extreme as they may be.
Bill C-6 is based on certain presumptions, one of which is that Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are an immutable reality as part of one’s overall personal identity.
Broad-based research has shown that this presupposition remains debatable. The largest study to date, released in 2019 on the genetics of same-sex behaviour, revealed no specific genetic marker that affected sexual orientation, but rather a multiplicity of factors. As polygenic traits can be strongly influenced by the environment, which would include culture, experience, family history, etc., simple logic (and likely your own experience) tells you that nurture and nature have a role not completely definable to play in all this.
Christian teaching addresses a simple yet profound truth; the human personality is bent towards sin and sinful practice, which is expressed in individual ways. It also teaches that through repentance and faith in Christ, there is a higher power we can access that will help us to live according to God’s ways as defined in scripture, and which include the possibility of the conversion of our deepest internal feelings and identity.
Ray Baillie is Pastor at New Destiny Church, located in Edmonton’s inner city, and currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer to the Edmonton Area Ministerial Association, a fellowship of area Evangelical Churches.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect any policy or position of MP Diotte.