AB2943, known by names such as the “Must Stay Gay” bill and the “Gay Conversion Therapy Ban” bill, has been pulled at the last minute as California Assemblyman Evan Low, the state legislator who first wrote the bill, withdrew it after meeting with Christian leaders in the state.
The turn of events is a Godsend for those who rightly feared that the bill would be used to not only target faith leaders for talking with gays who are considering a change in sexual orientation, but even hamper sales of the Bible itself due to the fact that it contains passages that clearly speak against homosexual practices.
Christians in the state have been speaking out against AB2943 since the bill was first made public. The legislation would stipulate that any financial transaction involving an attempt to change same-sex attraction would be regarded by the state as consumer fraud. While many of those in favor of the bill stated that it was not written with the intent of impeding Christian ministerial activity, the broad language in the bill would have criminalized common Christian behavior.
A pastor who offered a member of his or her congregation counseling regarding a same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria could have been accused of consumer fraud simply because the church member tithed to the pastor’s church. Any Christian conference on the topic of sexuality or gender identity would have faced legal repercussions unless the conference offered tickets for free instead of selling them. Printed materials promoting a Christian worldview on the above topics could have been banned. Mental health practitioners attempting to help a person who was unsure about a gender transition make a well-informed decision could have been sued for explaining the implications and dangers of having drastic surgery with irreversible consequences.
To make matters worse, a number of activists promoting the bill made it clear that their intention was to use the bill to directly target the Christian community in the state.
To his credit, Assemblyman Evan Low, who is homosexual, spent a great deal of the summer meeting with faith leaders opposed to the bill because of its anti-religious implications. He also met with members of Once Gay, a community of members who were once homosexual, but who willingly changed their sexual orientation with Christian counseling and support. He spent time listening to their stories as well as their concerns that others who are either unsure about their sexual orientation, and/or would like to get rid of a same-sex attraction would not be able to access desired help and counseling because the bill would impede those who could help them from doing so. As he listened, God clearly worked in his heart, and he realized the flawed nature of his bill.
At the same time, the passage of AB2943 into law would not have guaranteed that it would indeed remain law in the state. The Liberty Counsel had already drawn up plans to challenge it in court due to the fact that the bill clearly infringes on the First Amendment rights of anyone who holds traditional beliefs regarding gender identity and homosexuality, including individuals from Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities. Book sellers, doctors, mental health practitioners, counselors, pastors and many others would be impeded from speaking about their beliefs out of fear of being targeted by those who do not want to hear that gender dysphoria and homosexuality are not inherent conditions that cannot be changed. Even so, those who opposed the bill can now breathe a sigh of relief as it has been shelved, and Assemblyman Low has clearly stated that he intends to introduce a new bill next year that the Christian community will feel more comfortable with.
Christians in the United States are blessed with the ability to share their faith without fear of facing legal action, persecution, imprisonment or death. It is no small blessing considering the fact that hundreds of millions of Christians in the world cannot worship or share their faith freely. Even so, it is important to not take this freedom for granted.
As the furor surrounding AB2943 makes clear, there are those who are looking for ways to make it hard for believers to share controversial aspects of their faith in certain settings. It is important to remember that, as Paul clearly states in 1 Timothy, Christians should pray for those in power on a regular basis, asking God to help them make decisions that will enable believers to live peaceful lives.
~ 1776 Christian