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Illinois law banning reparative therapy for gay minors not applicable to pastors, judge rules

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi/Files)A participant holds a rainbow coloured placard during Delhi Queer Pride Parade, an event promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, in New Delhi November 30, 2014.

A federal judge has ruled that an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from helping homosexual minors overcome temptation does not apply to pastors.

In August 2015, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner approved the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which makes it illegal for "professional counselors" and "marriage and family therapists" to conduct "sexual orientation change efforts" to minors.

The law also prohibits therapists and counselors involved in "trade or commerce" from engaging in "any deception, fraud ... in offering conversion therapy services in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder or illness," according to Christian News Network.

In August last year, Pastors Protecting Youth filed a lawsuit against the state over concerns that the law could be applied to their work as they do teach that homosexual behavior is a human "disorder" like any other sin.

In their lawsuit, the ministers explained that "many pastors" are employed to teach that sex is for natural marriage between one man and one woman and that homosexual temptation can be "resisted or overcome."

The clergy members did not seek to change the law, but they wanted to ensure that church leaders are exempt from the ban.

Proponents of the law argued that it protects LGBTQ youth from "discredited and dangerous" therapy "that has no proved efficacy."

The case was dismissed on Thursday by Judge Ronald Guzman, who stated that the pastors' "fears of prosecution are too remote to support standing."

The judge said in his ruling that while the pastors' work involves counseling youth with an attraction to same sex, it cannot be considered as a "trade or commerce."

"The Act's only penalties apply to mental health professionals or to those who deceptively advertise conversion therapy for commercial purpose. Plaintiffs fit neither mold," Guzman wrote. "Plaintiffs' private, free religious counseling services are even further removed from commerce than, say, law and medicine," he continued.

Mauck & Baker, LLC, the law firm that represented the ministers, expressed satisfaction with the judge's ruling.

Attorney John Mauck said that the judge's decision means that people with unwanted same-sex attraction would be able to receive reparative therapy help from pastors even though the law prevents them from obtaining the same service from licensed counselors.

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