The California State Assembly approved a resolution Monday calling on religious leaders and others in positions of “moral influence” to “counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy.” The measure, which does not have the force of law, further resolves that “in addressing the stigma often associated with persons who identify as LGBTQ” the state of California wants pastors, teachers, and others to “model equitable treatment of all people of the state.”
The resolution is a toned-down version of legislation proposed last year by Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, who is openly homosexual, that would have made it illegal to counsel an individual to embrace God-ordained sexuality or gender.
A group of physicians, counselors, and religious leaders voiced their “grave concern” about the resolution in a letter, and Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, called it “a punch in the gut.”
Both houses of the California legislature passed Low’s more restrictive bill last year, but he withdrew it just before the Assembly approved the Senate’s amended version and sent it to the governor. A broad coalition of religious groups argued the bill might impede religious practices and pastoral counseling.
But that battle may not be over. Rick Zbur, executive director of LGBT advocacy group Equality California, told the Los Angeles Times last August that additional time would let advocates “tinker with the bill to make very clear that these false assertions the other side is making are not accurate.” Other legislative efforts to institutionalize a pro-LGBTQ agenda are afoot. The latest, a bill passed in the Assembly and introduced in the Senate, would mandate training for teachers on “strategies to increase support for LGBTQ pupils.”
“This kind of repeated attack makes churches vulnerable to a knockout punch later on,” Dacus said. He warned against tactical moves to divide and conquer the religious opposition to such measures under the guise of being sensitive to their opinions. He said he doesn't expect better treatment from the California legislature but hopes for a U.S. Supreme Court more sensitive to religious liberty concerns. —Steve West