Family Watch Endorses International Declaration Opposing Bans on So-Called “Conversion Therapy”

In a shocking violation of personal freedom and autonomy, 15 countries and 25 states in the U.S. (as well as dozens of local governments) have placed legal restrictions upon private counselling or talk therapy—but only if it is directed toward the client’s own freely chosen goal of overcoming unwanted same-sex sexual attractions and behavior. Critics call this “conversion therapy” (although it is better known as “sexual orientation change efforts,” or “SOCE”).


In defense of the freedom of both patients and therapists, Family Watch International has joined more than fifty other organizations in opposing such “therapy bans” by endorsing An International Declaration on ‘Conversion Therapy’ and Therapeutic Choice. This International Declaration was published earlier this year by the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC). Family Watch President Sharon Slater and Director of Research and Advocacy Peter Sprigg have both signed the declaration as well, joining more than a thousand other individuals—and we urge you to do so too by clicking here!


The International Declaration appeals to the right to self-determination under international law:


“Signatories of this International Declaration call upon our governments, local authorities, human rights, media institutions and religious organisations, to recognise that the right to self-determination is an established principle of international law, and therefore must include the right to shape and develop one’s own sexual identity, feelings and associated behaviours, and to receive support to do so.”


The heart of the International Declaration consists of ten one-sentence statements. For example, the first point is, “Banning ‘conversion therapy’ infringes human rights and freedoms, imperilling both therapeutic choice and pastoral, professional and parental rights.” Each of the ten points then has supporting material—a total of 45 paragraphs in the “Full Review Document,” supported by 78 footnotes to the research.


Critics of SOCE (so-called “conversion therapy”) make two main claims—both of which are false. One is that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that can never change, and therefore, that such efforts are doomed to failure. The second is that making such efforts is harmful—even driving some to suicide. The International Declaration thoroughly debunks both myths. (Family Watch’s own Peter Sprigg wrote a major literature review of 79 academic sources purported to show SOCE harms, which was published in the Journal of Human Sexuality in 2021. He recently presented his findings—that there is no evidence SOCE is usually harmful—at an IFTCC conference in Europe.)


The International Declaration also draws attention to some factors often overlooked in the therapy debate. For example, since the majority of adults identify as exclusively heterosexual, anyone who does not is a “sexual minority.” Yet the International Declaration points out that the largest sexual minority group is those who identify as “mostly heterosexual,” but who experience at least some same-sex attractions. It is common for those in this category to marry someone of the opposite sex. But if such a person seeks to reduce their same-sex attractions and increase opposite-sex ones—even for the sake of strengthening one’s marriage—therapy bans make it illegal for therapists to help toward that goal.


While most of the debate over therapy bans focuses on sexual orientation, LGBT activists have also injected transgender ideology. This, however, forces them into logical contortions. They assert it is unethical to provide ordinary talk therapy to change any aspect of sexual orientation (attractions, behavior, or self-identification). Yet they claim it is perfectly acceptable—and even “medically necessary”—to provide sterilizing hormone therapy and mutilating surgery to make an individual appear more like a person of the opposite sex.


The LGBT activists rationalize this contradiction by treating the subjective, self-identified psychological “gender identity” as fundamental and immutable, while they see the natural, inborn biological sex as an error to be corrected. Bans on SOCE are thus also written to prohibit “gender identity change efforts” (“GICE”)—by which they do not mean “gender transition,” but instead mean efforts to make someone comfortable with his or her biological sex.


The International Declaration notes, however, that several European countries, such as Finland, have concluded that “treating psychiatric conditions that may predispose adolescents” to gender dysphoria—in other words, engaging in the very practice that is outlawed under therapy bans—is actually preferable to medical transition.


The International Declaration was drafted by Dr. Mike Davidson and Dr. Med. Peter May from the United Kingdom and Dr. Laura Haynes from the United States.


Family Watch urges you to join the organizations and individuals from around the world that have already signed the International Declaration on “Conversion Therapy” and Therapeutic Choice. It is even possible for those concerned about possible retribution to sign anonymously.


While anyone can sign, we urgently need more signatures from any person in the following categories:


  • Medical Practitioner
  • Public Health Professional
  • Psychologist/Psychotherapist/Counsellor
  • Educator/Pastor/Church Worker
  • Lawyer


Here are the ten points of An International Declaration on ‘Conversion Therapy’ and Therapeutic Choice:


1. Banning ‘conversion therapy’ infringes human rights and freedoms, imperilling both therapeutic choice and pastoral, professional and parental rights.

2. Professional bodies promoting discriminatory monocultural viewpoints prevent ideological diversity and critique.

3. ‘Mostly-heterosexuals’, the largest non-heterosexual minority group, are being denied therapeutic support to affirm their heterosexual aspirations.

4. Sexual fluidity happens in both directions but this is being ignored.

5. Banning ‘conversion therapy’ will extend ‘cancel culture’, silence dissent and inhibit free speech.

6. Political aspirations sacrifice much needed therapy for children and adults who feel distress about their sex.

7. ‘Conversion therapy’ bans are unsafe while potential causal links between trauma and same-sex attractions and ‘gender dysphoria’ remain unexamined.

8. Change-allowing therapies do not actually cause ‘harm’ or increase suicidality according to peer-reviewed research.

9. Torture claims in ‘conversion therapy’ are unsubstantiated and are designed to silence dissent.

10. Church leaders conceding to unsafe ‘conversion therapy’ bans defame and undermine the potentially complementary roles of pastoral and professional counselling.


Family Watch urges you to sign this important International Declaration today!