A California bill that that targets so-called “conversation therapy” for gays could have major consequences for religious liberty and even impact what pastors can say at conferences and in certain sermons, legal experts are warning.
AB 2943, which passed the Assembly in April and is expected to pass the state Senate before the end of summer, would ban the advertising or sale of “sexual orientation change efforts” by counselors, even if an adult wants to pay for it. But it could have more far-reaching consequences that its supporters aren’t acknowledging, says Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty organization.
The text of the bill says “sexual orientation change efforts” is defined 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 bill reads.
An ADF memo said the bill would mean that:
— “A pastor paid to speak at an event addressing current social topics could not encourage attendees that they can prevail over same-sex desires or feelings that they were born the wrong sex.”
— “A licensed counselor could not help a married mother of three who is experiencing unwanted attraction to a close female friend or confusion over her gender identity overcome those feelings.”
— “A religious ministry could not hold a conference on maintaining sexual purity if the conference encourages attendees to avoid homosexual behavior.”
— “A bookstore (including online bookstores like Amazon) could not sell many recently published books challenging gender identity ideology and advocating that these beliefs should be rejected by society.”
Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney Matt Sharp said the bill even would ban what pastors can tell people in their church.
“It could be a violation if a pastor encourages a congregant to visit the church book store to purchase books that help people address sexual issues, perhaps including the Bible itself, which teaches about the importance of sexual purity within the confines of marriage between a man and woman,” Sharp said.
Supporters of the bill say it’s needed to protect LGBT people.
“There is nothing wrong with me,” Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, who is gay, said during testimony, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “There is nothing wrong with members of the LGBT community.”
Others, though, say the bill bans counseling services that some adults want. California citizens who say they transitioned from gay to straight protested against the bill in June, the newspaper reported.
“I have a message to the California Assembly: My wife, my 4-year-old daughter, my 1-year-old son and the baby in my wife’s womb are not frauds,” Jim Domen, founder of Church United in Newport Beach said during the protest. “Assembly Bill 2943 removes my right to choose my sexuality.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com
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Publication date: July 3, 2018