WND reported recently when Liberty Counsel, a highly respected legal team that has addressed some of the most contentious religious issues in the country, warned that a legislative proposal in California effectively would ban the sale of Bibles.
It’s because the proposed law forbids counseling that a man is a man, not a woman. The law calls such counseling consumer fraud.
The bill, which advocates for transgenderism, specifically declares “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual” is fraudulent business practice.
“If approved, victims of sexual abuse can no longer get counseling if they develop (as often happens) unwanted urges to engage in same-sex behavior or become gender confused,” Liberty Counsel said.
“This bill would also make it unlawful for any person to sell books, including the Bible, counseling services, or anything else that directs people to trust in Jesus Christ to help them overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion,” Liberty Counsel said.
It took only hours for Snopes, the online “fact-check” site, to blast such comments as “False,” in huge red lettering.
Snopes admits the bill relates to “gay conversion therapy” but states it “does not mention the Bible, Christianity, or religion at all.”
It admits analysts were “not clear whether the text of A.B. 2943 would amount to a blanket prohibition on any and all [Sexual Orientation Change Efforts]” and quotes the homosexual sponsor of the bill saying the Bible itself is not a “gay conversation therapy” manual.
However, a longtime professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Robert A.J. Gagnon, the author of “The Bible and Homosexual Practice,” contends Snopes is playing with words.
His column at The Federalist was titled “Snopes is a Sneaky Liar about California’s Bill to Ban Christian LGBT Talk.”
“If you haven’t already lost significant respect for Snopes as an impartial fact-checker, its analysis of a bill that bans all transactions involved in stating Christian beliefs about homosexual behavior should,” he said.
“That bill passed 50-18 on April 19 and is being considered in the state senate. Snopes’ insistence that California Assembly Bill 2943 would not result in the Bible being banned in California is akin to Snopes calling ‘demonstrably and clearly false’ the claim that Joseph Stalin killed everyone around him,” wrote Gagnon.
“Indeed, so far as we know he never personally killed anyone. But he did have a great many people killed (estimates indicate that he was responsible for the deaths of 20 to 25 million people), sent many others to the Gulag, and generally terrorized both his own country and Eastern Europe for decades.”
Likewise, it is “virtually impossible that California will immediately attempt to ban the sale of the Bible itself.”
“Not even the hard Left in California has that kind of chutzpah. But citations of Bible verses in the context of declaring homosexual practice and transgenderism to be morally debased could indeed get one into serious trouble with the law if it comes in the context of selling or advertising a product or service.”
He said Snopes’ claim that Bible-banning fears are “clearly false” is problematic, since the “the wording of the bill is broad enough to encompass them.”
The law could pose legal jeopardy, Gagnon said, for a “Bible study or house church leader, member of a parachurch organization working to help people afflicted by same-sex attractions, or indeed anybody who attempts change if goods or services involve an exchange of funds.”
Snopes, he said, “shades the truth.”
Snopes states: “What is clear is that Low’s bill does not seek to outlaw all religious or moral instruction regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.”
Gagnon wrote: “How much stress is being placed on the ‘all’? Even Snopes cannot say that it will not outlaw ‘some or most religious or moral instruction regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.'”
He continued: “The emphasis is on the narrative: Keep walking, nothing disturbing here for religious folk. The salient point is that nothing in the bill would prevent the state from outlawing all religious or moral instruction that seeks to change homosexual behavior and transgender identity. The only limitation on the state is its own self-policed chutzpah regarding ‘LGBTQ’ coercion.
“Read the bill. There is no religious exemption. There is no restriction to mental health professionals. There is not even a restriction to claims about changing a person’s sexual orientation or transgender feelings in whole or part. The bill is quite clear that any ‘efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions’ are included in the ban on attempts to change a person’s ‘sexual orientation,'” he said.
He continued, “So you would be violating the law if you advertise that Christ can empower people not to engage in homosexual practice or not to identify as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’ because such behaviors and self-identities are morally wrong, or if you offer to engage or actually engage in efforts to persuade people of Christ’s power to transform in this area, you will be in violation of California AB 2943, at least so long as your advertising or efforts involved in any way an exchange of money for goods or services.”
So violations of A.B. 2943 could, he said, include “selling religious or secular books (pamphlets, videos, audios, etc.), holding conferences, teaching courses in a college or seminary where tuition is paid, giving a speech at a paid venue, counseling people for a fee, or perhaps even posting online articles in a site that requires a paid subscription, in which it is asserted (in whole or part) that it is morally wrong for people to engage in homosexual practice or identify as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender.'”
He quoted religious liberties lawyer David French, who agreed, stating it is “a bill that would actually – among other things – ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality.”
Joining him was Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp: “It would be a violation if a pastor encourages a congregant to visit the church book store 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 a woman.”
Staver’s opinion was already clear: “The breadth of this bill is staggering and represents the worst kinds of censoring because books and educational resources along with scientific research will be banned. The First Amendment provides not space for this kind of censorship.”
In WND’s earlier report, Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a leading pro-family group, also criticized the bill.
“How can any legislator voting for this call themselves pro-choice when they’ve voted to wipe out a person’s own choice of a counselor?” Thomasson asked.
“How can any legislator voting for AB 2943 say they support religious freedom when they’ve just threatened church bookstores that sell self-help books about overcoming unwanted same-sex desires? AB 2943 is anti-free-speech, anti-religious-freedom, anti-free-choice, and has no place in a free society. This intolerant bill contains no exemption and no protection at all for religious entities.”
WND reported last month the bill’s sponsors contend “contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.”
That assumption, in conflict with the consensus of the medical and mental health communities for much of the 20th century, is their starting point.
They then cite the statements of organizations, such as the Pan American Health Organization, that support homosexuality.
They argue: “Courts, including in California, have recognized the practice of sexual orientation change efforts as a commercial service. Therefore, claims that sexual orientation change efforts are effective in changing an individual’s sexual orientation, may constitute unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business practices under state consumer protection laws. This bill intends to make clear that sexual orientation change efforts are an unlawful practice under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.”
The Pacific Justice Institute, which defended minors seeking help for same-sex attractions when the state outlawed such counseling, warned of the bill’s infringement of religious rights.
“Unlike prior legislation target [sexual orientation change efforts], sometimes known as reparative or conversion therapy, this bill is not limited to minors or licensed counselors,” Pacific Justice said. “It also does not include any religious exemptions for churches or non-profit ministries. On its face, the targeted ‘goods and services’ could include the sale of books on the power of the Gospel to heal sexual brokenness, or conferences addressing the same topics.”
The state previously banned therapies for children, defining “conversion therapy” as employing “prayer, religious conversion, individual and group counseling.”
Consequently, the law is “an unconstitutional regulation of the church by the state,” PJI asserted.