California’s latest threat to religious liberty and free speech

April 24, 2018

The California Assembly approved a bill that will make it illegal to sell or advertise resources that offer treatment or ministry to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. 

Assembly Bill 2943, which is headed to the state senate, would make it an “unlawful business practice” to engage in “a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer” that entails or includes “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.” The bill defines “sexual orientations change efforts” as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

“The actions of the California Assembly are a drastic overreach,” says Andrew Walker, Director of Policy Studies for ERLC. “Whatever opinions individuals may have on the merits of conversion therapy, the proposed legislation is far too sweeping. It represents a secular form of religious establishment wherein California progressives are treating their views on sexuality and gender identity as a matter of orthodoxy so as not to allow any dissent.”

The effect of the law would be to make it illegal in California to advertise a conference, provide counseling, or sell books or other resources that encourage change of thoughts or behavior regarding same-sex attraction or transgenderism.

“To put it simply,” says Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, “Christian schools, churches and others who hold to a traditional understanding of marriage and sexuality would be open to lawsuits for teaching biblical truth about homosexuality or transgenderism.”

“No one doubts that Christian orthodoxy is contentious,” adds David French, “No one doubts that its teachings on sexual morality are increasingly unpopular. But they remain constitutionally protected, and no state legislature should be permitted to ban a “good” (such as a book) or a “service” (like counseling) that makes these arguments and provides them to willing, consenting consumers. In fact, state law would lock in a sexual-revolution orthodoxy that all too often hurts the very people the state seeks to protect.”

The California legislature is also considering two related bills that affect religious freedom and sexuality. AB-2119 affects children in foster care by prohibiting a licensed professional, or any other individual, from “subjecting a foster child or nonminor dependent to any treatment, intervention, or conduct that seeks to change the foster child’s or nonminor dependent’s gender identity.” Another pending bill, AB-1779, would prohibit a mental health provider from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient,” regardless of the patient's age, competence, or desire to seek such treatment.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is the author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington location in Arlington, Virginia. Read More