WL mayor promises veto as council reworks ‘conversion therapy’ ban proposal, faith group ramps up fight
Mayor promises veto of ordinance too broad, too hard to enforce. Faith group floods council inboxes, calls proposal ‘animus’ for conservative Christians. Where council members stand now
To hear David Sanders tell it, he had no idea about the history of past culture wars in the city to know who might feel targeted by a proposed ordinance he and fellow West Lafayette City Council member James Blanco proposed in late November to prevent unlicensed therapists from the practice of conversion therapy with minors.
“I did not know, honestly,” Sanders, a Democrat and at-large member of the city council, said. “I never made that connection.”
Since then, as the city council tabled the proposal twice to consider reworked language, city council inboxes have been filled by the rise of Lafayette Citizens for Freedom, a group fueled by conservative Christians who took the issue as a broadside aimed directly at them.
Backed by a website filled with a full-court press of columns and videos dedicated to the defeat of the ordinance, a petition with signatures from 13,000-plus people, national attention from the Family Research Council and related media outlets and lingering memories of a decade-old debate over financing for the Faith West development on Northwestern Avenue, they claim Sanders’ move is part of a pattern of what one pastor calls “animus” for part of the faith community.
Steve Viars, senior pastor at Faith Church in Lafayette, which has 32 biblical counselors who would fit under the ordinance’s definition of unlicensed therapist, said the church and Lafayette Citizens for Freedom are gearing up for a legal battle if the ordinance – objecting to a practice that aims to dissuade people from admitting they are gay, lesbian or transgender – passes, as is.
The point: While the church agrees that conversion therapy is barbaric and rejects the practice, Viars said the ministry has no plans to stop counseling teens and their parents on issues of sexual orientation – no matter what the city’s take is.
Meanwhile, here’s how things are shaking out, coming up on a pivotal week for the proposal …
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