A group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals say it's time to change the way society views individuals who have physical attractions to children.
The organization, which calls itself B4U-Act, is lobbying for changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the guideline of standards on mental health that's put together by the American Psychiatric Association.
The group says its mission is to help pedophiles before they create a crisis, and to do so by offering a less critical view of the disorder.
"Stigmatizing and stereotyping minor-attracted people inflames the fears of minor-attracted people, mental health professionals and the public, without contributing to an understanding of minor-attracted people or the issue of child sexual abuse," reads the organization's website.
B4U-Act said that 38 individuals attended a symposium in Baltimore last week, including researchers from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the universities of Illinois and Louisville. According to the group, which said to not endorse every point of view expressed, the speakers in attendance concluded that "minor-attracted" individuals are largely misunderstood and should not be criminalized even as their actions should be discouraged.
Speakers also argued that people who are sexually attracted to children should have input into the decision about how pedophilia is defined in the DSM, which they said is supposed to be a guide to promote “mental health vs. social control.”
Critics of the conference say it was a thinly veiled attempt to make children of any age sexually accessible to adults.
"Absolutely," Dr. Judith Reisman, a visiting professor of law at Liberty School of Law said. "Oh, they're very clear about that. Their goal is to take all shame out of the lust for children."
The American Psychiatric Association did not participate in the conference, and evidently does not condone the group's message.
"An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act and this is never considered normal or socially acceptable behavior," the APA wrote in a 2003 position statement.
Critics of the effort also note that the movement likens its fight for pedophilia acceptance to society's more recent embrace of homosexuality. They warn of a slippery slope to a time when pedophilia is "just another lifestyle choice" that won't warrant criminal charges—and will leave young children at risk.
Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said, "I think that we have to face the fact that most of these people with pedophile attractions are going to come up against the law. The laws against sex abuse and the laws against child pornography. And those laws should be strictly enforced."
Fox News’ Shannon Bream contributed to this report.