Helsinki, November 10, 2021.
In recent weeks Suomen Elävät Vedet ry has been misrepresented in the media, specifically in the preamble to a citizen’s initiative aimed at banning so called ‘conversion therapy’. The proponents of this initiative made the unsubstantiated claim that this organisation practices “mentally violent and coercive therapy”.
I have been involved at various levels within this organisation since 1998. I can state that this is not our policy and I have not seen any evidence to support the claim. If such malpractice had occurred, the perpetrator would have faced a disciplinary procedure and been recommended further training. This claim has brought negative publicity about the organisation and is perhaps being used to support the political aims of other organisations. I therefore wish to set the record straight.
Suomen Elävät Vedet is an interdenominational Christian organisation that is open to work with all people of goodwill. The organisation offers support to people who by their own free choice make the decision to establish a traditional marriage and family regardless of what their sexual orientation or gender identity might be. Our experience indicates that the majority of Finns desire this. However, we recognise that there is also a sexual minority in Finland who may not desire this. Therefore, our solution is to provide to individuals the freedom to choose the type of support that they desire.
Our approach to supporting individuals and couples begins with providing a safe space where individuals can review their past relationships, learn from their current emotions and plan for their future sexual expression. All self-disclosure is voluntary and takes place within the context of small groups with members of the same sex and with experienced group leaders present. We endeavour to ensure that proper standards of confidentiality are upheld.
Over the years, thousands of Finns and others have attended our courses, seminars, and summer camps. We have had been fortunate to receive positive feedback as well as both written and verbal commendations from people living in all parts of Finland, including the Nordic and Baltic countries. Many participants return year after year.
We do not receive financial support from any state body, neither do we employ any full-time staff. It is a mark of our success that the organisation has been serviced by volunteers for decades. We require that all participants are adults and that they attend by their own choice. There is always a medical professional on site to administer medication in accord with the instructions of a participant’s doctors.
We think that passing a law to ban ‘conversion therapy’ which has an extremely broad definition would criminalise a group of people who are no threat to society. The public misrepresentation of our organisation would leave us vulnerable to accusation by those who have little or no experience of our events and activities.
Suomen Elävät Vedet ry provides support to many people who belong to the sexual majority in Finland whilst other organisations provide support to people belonging to the sexual minority in Finland. These organisations do important work and would benefit from more dialogue as has happened in recent years.
We do not believe that legal sanction is the right approach when dealing with an individual’s choice about where they get support nor do we think it is the role of the state to decide therapeutic outcomes. We, therefore, urge that this attempt to criminalise so-called ‘conversion therapy’ be struck down.
I welcome further dialogue from political representatives, advocacy groups, medical professionals, or members of the general public who, perhaps not having first-hand experience, wish to acquaint themselves with our organisation’s aims and practices.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
on behalf of Journey Finland board