SACRAMENTO (ChurchMilitant.com) - California's bishops are rallying the state's Catholics to fight a proposed ban on reparative therapy for same-sex-attracted adults.
In a new action alert, the California Catholic Conference (CCC) is asking the faithful to contact lawmakers in Sacramento and speak out against Assembly Bill 2943, an amendment to the state consumer code that would outlaw "sexual orientation change efforts."
Introduced in February by California LGBT Caucus Chair Evan Low, AB2943 seeks to modify the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), a consumer law designed to address "transactions in which a seller makes misrepresentations about the nature of a product or service."
As the CCC notes, the aim of the CLRA is "to provide consumers with a remedy to file civil claims against unscrupulous sellers and manufacturers, based on objective considerations (the life of a product, the nature of its quality, etc.)"
But under AB2943, the phrase "sexual orientation change efforts" would be added to the CLRA — a "completely intangible" designation that would severely curtail Christians' freedom of expression.
The bill would outlaw all reparative therapy in California (the treatment is already illegal for minors), depriving same-sex attracted adults a chance to seek healing. If the bill becomes law, only therapies that do "not seek to change sexual orientation" would be available in the state.
But as the conference notes, "People are far more complicated than that. Childhood traumas, inappropriate experiences or any number of circumstances might lead to sexual confusion."
"Regardless of views about sexual orientation therapy ... why would proponents wish to take away the freedom of adults to seek counseling about such an existential issue? Why does healing only support one viewpoint and not what might be right for a particular person," the CCC asks.
California AB2943 makes it unlawful for any person to sell books, counseling services or anything else that helps someone overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion.
The bishops are not alone in their alarm. Writing in the National Review last week, columnist David French explained the broader implications of AB2943.
The picture he painted is dire. The measure would make it an "unlawful business practice" to conduct "a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer advertising, offering to engage in or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual."
As a result, French warned, AB2943 "would actually — among other things — ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality."
According to Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney Matt Sharp, "California AB2943 makes it unlawful for any person to sell books, counseling services or anything else that helps someone overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion."
As a result, Sharp said, "it could be a violation if a pastor encourages a congregant to visit the church bookstore 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."
In an interview with One America New Network's Liz Wheeler last week, California Assemblyman Travis Allen slammed the bill as "politically correct culture gone horribly awry" and a product of "Bay Area, liberal elite groupthink."
Allen said the measure undercuts Californians' First Amendment rights. A 2018 gubernatorial candidate, the Orange County Republican said AB2943 unmasks California Democrats' "true designs."
They "want to tell people how to think, what sort of books they can read, what books they can't read," he warned.
French agrees, warning the bill presents a true danger to California's Christians:
This is extraordinarily radical. Christian orthodoxy is simple — regardless of a person's desires (their "orientation"), the standard of right conduct is crystal clear. Sex is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. When it comes to "gender expression," there is no difference between "sex" and "gender," and the Christian response to gender dysphoria is compassion and treatment, not indulgence and surgical mutilation.
Put another way, there is a fundamental difference between temptation and sin. California law would intrude directly on this teaching by prohibiting even the argument that regardless of sexual desire, a person's sexual behavior should conform to Biblical standards.
The CCC affirms AB2943's threat: "The broad reach of AB2943 leaves even simple religious speech on same-sex attraction or activities open to legal action and impinges on the basic human right of freedom of religion."
"The implications," it adds, "are staggering."
Last week, AB2943 passed the California Assembly. The bill is now under review in the state Senate.