APA resolution on religion and psychology

At the San Francisco convention, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution regarding the relationship between religion and psychological practice and research. I have posted it elsewhere on the blog for your review. Here I am going to pull out some points relevant to our discussions on sexual identity.

It is important for psychology as a behavioral science, and various faith traditions as theological systems, to acknowledge and respect their profoundly different methodological, epistemological, historical, theoretical and philosophical bases. Psychology has no legitimate function in arbitrating matters of faith and theology; and faith traditions have no legitimate place arbitrating behavioral or other sciences. While both traditions may arrive at public policy perspectives operating out of their own traditions, the bases for these perspectives are substantially different.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association take a leadership role in opposing discrimination based on or derived from religion or spirituality and encouraging commensurate consideration of religion and spirituality as diversity variables.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association views no religious, faith or spiritual tradition, or lack of tradition, as more deserving of protection than another and that the American Psychological Association gives no preference to any particular religious or spiritual conventions.

This statement of religion as a diversity variable dovetails very nicely with the religious coalition’s letter to the APA regarding religious diversity.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages individuals and groups to work against any potential adverse psychological consequences to themselves, others or society, that might arise from religious or spiritual attitudes, practices or policies.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are encouraged to recognize that it is outside the role and expertise of psychologists as psychologists to adjudicate religious or spiritual tenets, while also recognizing that psychologists can appropriately speak to the psychological implications of religious/spiritual beliefs or practices when relevant psychological findings about those implications exist. Those operating out of religious/spiritual traditions are encouraged to recognize that it is outside their role and expertise to adjudicate empirical scientific issues in psychology, while also recognizing they can appropriately speak to theological implications of psychological science.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are careful to prevent bias from their own spiritual, religious or non-religious beliefs from taking precedence over professional practice and standards or scientific findings in their work as psychologists.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages collaborative activities in pursuit of shared prosocial goals between psychologists and religious communities when such collaboration can be done in a mutually respectful manner that is consistent with psychologists’ professional and scientific roles.

When religious belief seems to associate with some adverse mental health outcome, the psychologist can point this out but still may not opine about the religious value of holding a belief. In some traditions, for instance, suffering is valued, even it could be prevented via psychological interventions. Psychologists should not be shy about saying such suffering could be prevented but the psychologist may also respect the tradition of the client and recognize where personal beliefs can bias psychologists.

All in all, I think these are important statements and have relevance to sexual identity ministry and therapy. I will have more to say later on this, so let’s consider this an open forum on this topic.