Religious freedom in California

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 26th of April, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher. 

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. 

It’s no secret that the state of California is governed by politicians who pride themselves on following  “progressive” ideology.

But if progress means banning books that contain ideas those politicians dislike, is that progress?

A bill is winding quickly through the California legislature. On its face, Assembly Bill 2943 looks like a consumer-fraud statute. Those are laws designed to protect people from unscrupulous business practices. But dig about an inch deeper, and you’ll find state-sponsored gender ideology is the real purpose.

Someone in the know is Jonathan Keller, president of California Family Council. He’s leading the charge against AB 2943.

Jonathan, what does this bill actually say?  

JONATHAN KELLER, GUEST: Well, essentially, this bill, despite the fact that it is masquerading as an effort to protect consumers, it really is an effort to silence the speech of religious institutions and religious individuals and to actually limit choices for people who want to receive counseling on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

What does this mean for a person who wants to change their thought life, or their behavior?  

KELLER: Well, I think that’s really important for your listeners to understand. A lot of what is being discussed surrounding this law in the state and around the country in the national news media is so-called conversion therapy. But the ban on practices in this bill is so much broader than that. It actually bans what are called “sexual orientation change efforts.” And I know those sound synonymous, but they’re really not. Essentially, this would ban, in the words of the bill, “any practice designed to reduce either attractions or to modify behaviors.” Well, talk to any therapist, any counselor religious or secular and they’ll tell you that’s the entire point of therapy is to modify behaviors and to help change feelings. And the idea that the state of California would reach into that client-doctor relationship and tell those patients there are some questions you cannot ask, there are some therapy goals that you may not pursue—it really is a shocking overreach into that relationship and it’s an even more shocking overreach to silence people of faith who want to share the transforming power of the gospel.

Suppose despite this bill if it passes a person decides to seek help to change, what then?  

KELLER: Well, there is a very narrow loophole that they continue to try to promote. The idea is that any services or goods that are given away would not be covered under the statute because it’s not fraudulent to give away a resource. So, at least for now, technically, you would still be allowed as a pastor to preach a sermon on Sunday morning, but step out of that pulpit, give a speech at a conference, sit down one-on-one with someone who doesn’t attend your church but wants to go to a Christian counseling situation. If there is any exchange of money in any situation it is fraudulent and the individual providing the service could be sued.

And I understand that punitive damages are available under the consumer fraud laws there and litigation threat as well. Is that true? 

KELLER: Oh, absolutely. And the real fear here is I’ve seen several people on social media make claims saying, “C’mon, the statute is very narrowly tailored. No court could possibly interpret this broadly enough to ban the sale of Bible studies, books like Ryan Anderson’s books on marriage, or Rosaria Butterfield.” My only reply to them on Twitter was, “Have you meet the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?”

How close is this bill to becoming law?

KELLER: Well, right now we’re halfway through the legislative process. The bill has passed the California Assembly, sadly, by an overwhelming vote of 50-18. And now it goes on to the California State Senate. We expect that it will be receiving initial assignments to committee hearings sometime in the next week and that means that it could pass out of the Senate by the end of May and potentially be onto the governor’s desk by as early as June. So this is really the time for all people of faith in California and even around the nation to stand up, make their voices heard.

What’s the status of this targeted legislation in other states, if any?  

KELLER: To my knowledge and in speaking with my friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, there is no similar bill that has ever been introduced anywhere in the country that is so far-reaching and broad in its implications.

Finally, I want to ask you: those pushing this bill are quite certain they are following the science and prevailing ideas about a human being’s identity. What do you say?

KELLER: Well, you know, I would say that there was a very scary statement on the floor of the House or on the floor of the assembly by Democrat Al Muratsuchi, who’s a Democrat from the Torrance area. He actually said, “The science is clear. Faith communities need to evolve with the times.” And sadly I think that’s, really, what’s at the root of this. You have a group of individuals in the legislature who believe science trumps faith and they will enforce it on the church and on faith-based institutions no matter the cost.

Thank you for speaking with us today. It’s important work.

KELLER: My pleasure. Thanks so much, Mary.

Jonathan Keller is president of California Family Council.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.