August 20, 2018
There have been many recent attacks on religious liberty, but this latest one may be the most aggressive and a harbinger of what is coming to the rest of America.
On August 16, the California Senate passed an extremely anti-religious freedom bill. And if egregious attacks on religious liberty like this are not opposed by all Americans, we will increasingly slide towards a state of oppressive government nationwide.
AB 2943 is Round Two of the California legislature’s attack upon counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attraction. AB 2943 would greatly expand current restrictions, applying them to clients of any age and to any counselor who advertises or provides sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE for short), regardless of whether they are state-licensed (including religious or pastoral counselors), if there is any kind of remuneration.
In fact, since the “consumer fraud” law being amended for this purpose applies to “the sale or lease of goods or services,” opponents have pointed out the bill could apply to speeches and conferences, and even ban the sale of certain books (“goods”) — including the Bible, which has passages intended “to change behaviors” by homosexuals. (An amendment intended to alleviate the “book-banning” concern remained inadequate.)
Alarm over the possibility that this bill might — even theoretically — “ban Bible sales” has awakened many people to the threat that such therapy bans pose to core freedoms of speech and religion. The implications of these attacks extend well beyond the limited population of people with unwanted same-sex attractions and the compassionate therapists who seek to help them achieve their client-driven goals. Yet California legislators went ahead and voted for a bill that they know is likely unconstitutional.
There is irony in the fact that the California Senate’s vote came in the same week that a new peer-reviewed medical journal article began circulating that debunks the key claims made in support of counseling bans. The new article in The Linacre Quarterly, authored by Paul L. Santero, Neil E. Whitehead, and Dolores Ballesteros, was a careful study of 125 men who underwent SOCE, and found that “most . . . had heterosexual shifts in sexual attraction, sexual identity and behavior,” as well as “decreases in suicidality, depression, [and] substance abuse . . .” [emphasis added]. These findings mirror those of a similar study by Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse a decade ago, which were reported to the American Psychological Association convention and exhaustively documented in a 400-page book.
AB 2943 amounts to an attack upon the teachings of faith regarding counseling over unwanted sexual conduct. It’s an attack upon the religious liberty of all Americans, and silence on threats like this could end with others being silenced as well.
Standing (Eph. 6:13),