Time and time again we sadly see articles about children dying because their parents denied them proper medical care due to "religious belief" that either disapproved of a needed type of treatment or because the parents believed they could pray away the illness. To my view, such behavior is tantamount to murder. It is also child abuse. It is far past time that parents that use claims of religious belief to harm their children lose custody of their children. It is also time that less overtly life threatening actions toward children based on professed religious belief be seen for what they are: child abuse. A case in point? "Ex-gay" therapy where ignorant, delusional parents (many of who are most worried about what fellow church members will think of them) submit their children children to this discredited and dangerous "therapy." While now illegal in California and New Jersey, ex-gay programs for those under age 18 need to be illegal nationwide. A piece in Huffington Post looks at the need for federal legislation to prevent this form of child abuse. Here are highlights:
The voices of young people aren't often heard at the Capitol. And if you're a teenager sent to a boot camp, so-called "therapeutic" boarding school or behavior modification program, it's certain your voice won't be heard because you'll be cut off from all contact with your family and the outside world.
So we are here today for those youth whose voices have been silenced. We're here today for the parents who have been duped into believing these programs would really help their children. And we're here to demand action on behalf of the hundreds of young people who have actually died--as well as the thousands who suffer long-term trauma--because of the abuse they endured while in unregulated institutions that masquerade as legitimate treatment programs.
LGBT kids are particularly vulnerable. Even in states like California that have outlawed the dangerous and discredited practice of gay conversion therapy, there are residential programs that consider LGBT kids to be troubled--and in need of "fixing"--simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to enduring the same horrible abuses as other youth, LGBT kids face additional levels of abuse that don't stop until staff believe they're no longer LGBT. No child can be "scared straight" and none should suffer damaging and sometimes fatal attempts to change who they are.
It's long past time for Congress to pass sensible legislation to regulate this rogue, multi-million dollar industry that's profiting from the abuse of young people.
I applaud the leadership of Representatives Schiff and Ros-Lehtinen for crossing the aisle to promote the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens Act--a law that would protect kids from unsafe programs. They understand that the health and well-being of young people is not a partisan issue. It isn't a partisan issue in California, where today our state Assembly is considering similar legislation that received nearly unanimous bipartisan support from our state senate. And it certainly shouldn't be a partisan issue in our nation's capitol. I urge the rest of the House to take action to pass the Act and stop this abuse before it's too late for any other youth.