How one-party rule in California yielded draconian legislation against ‘conversion therapy’
For California residents dealing with unwanted, same-sex attraction, certain members of the state Legislature have a clear message: What you want for your life isn’t as important as what we think you should want. In fact, what you want isn’t really valid.
How else can one read California Assembly Bill 2943? The bill passed the California State Assembly in April and awaits a hearing in the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee.
The sweeping legislation would make “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual” unlawful and a form of consumer fraud, if the effort is connected with the sale of goods or services. Those “efforts” include any discussion of changing behavior or even seeking to reduce same-sex attraction.
Some critics have worried the proposed law could include the ban of books that outline the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. It seems certain to outlaw paid counseling aimed at helping a person who is seeking to live consistently with the Scriptures.
It’s important to note that following the Bible’s teaching doesn’t mean a person’s temptations will vanish. But it does mean he or she can learn to follow God’s commands, by His grace. This is a central Biblical principle about sanctification that applies in a thousand areas of temptation and sin. And it’s nothing new.
But the California bill doesn’t make allowance for historic Christian teaching, and it also would apply to any “individual”—meaning adults, not just minors. In other words, the California government would tell grown men and women how to feel or not to feel, and who they could talk to about it.
The real tragedy in such a bill isn’t for Christians who might face legal penalties for teaching or counseling according to the Bible. It’s for the men and women who genuinely want to battle same-sex attraction and seek wise support for a very difficult path.
Eight men and women who have been in this very dilemma lamented the California bill this week in a video released by a California group called Church United.
Ken Williams, a leader of a California-based group called Equipped to Love, spoke in the video about his own past struggle with same-sex attraction. He said he found help from a Christian counselor who didn’t promise his desires would change, but offered help and support. Because of the resurrection of Christ, he says, “We can live a new life—we are a new creation in Christ Jesus.”
Williams says that’s his story—and the story of others—but the proposed law in California “completely destroys my human experience.”
He says the bill “actually takes away rights from those that are questioning their sexuality. We don’t want to see an America where the government is controlling how we identify sexually.”
As similar bills—usually applying to counseling minors—pop up and pass legislatures across the country, it’s a critical moment for Christians to speak up on the front end of such battles.
As writer Rod Dreher has pointed out: “Christians who don’t act decisively within the embattled zone of freedom we have now are wasting precious time—time that may run out faster than we think.”