A Christian school in New Zealand will close its doors rather than give up a conversion therapy program.
Kaitaia Abundant Life School says a new law passed last year banning the practice means they can no longer operate according to their Christian faith.
“Experiencing unwanted feelings towards the same sex” is not usual, a spokesperson for the school, Ivy Tan, told 1News in New Zealand. “To say you are not able to offer support to these students, it’s horrendous.”
Tan lamented “not being able to offer any prayer, any counseling into how to navigate these times” for students.
The island nation’s Minister of Education, Jan Tinetti, was unapologetic about enforcing the conversion therapy ban.
“There is an expectation, and has been from the word go with all governments, that all schools will do their best to support all their students from all backgrounds,” she said.
“Now, that means all of our rainbow kids, as well, and I’m thinking that could be part of the issue that they’re leaning towards. I make no apology.”
Conversion therapy was outlawed in New Zealand last year, after the United Nations called for a global ban on the practice, saying it amounted to “torture.”
“LGBT persons endure severe pain and long-lasting psychological and physical damage because of so-called ‘conversion therapies,’” UN expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, told the Human Rights Commission in 2020.
“Practices of conversion therapy are rooted in the belief that persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity are somehow inferior, either morally, spiritually or physically because of their orientation or identity, and that they must modify that orientation or identity to remedy that inferiority,” he said.
Around 200 primary and secondary students are on the rolls at Kaitaia Abundant Life School. Officials say the school will close at the end of the term, but continue to operate as a church.
Parents expressed disappointment with the Christian school’s closing, and with the fact they’ll have to send their kids to secular schools in the area.
The education minister said: “I have an expectation that all schools support all of their students, and do know lots of special character schools, lots of Christian schools that do that really well.”
She added: if the Abundant school is “unable to accommodate looking after all the young people that are in front of them, then they’re making the best decision for them.”