Hostility toward religious beliefs in California

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 8th of May, 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.

Last month we told you about a piece of legislation working its way through the California Legislature. It’s known as Assembly Bill 2943. It would make it illegal to sell goods or services that help people change their sexual orientation.

Specifically, California would define that as a deceptive business practice.

The measure easily cleared the state assembly and it’s likely to win approval in the Senate soon.

EICHER: This bill has Christian authors, counselors, and leaders of organizations concerned. They see this as a crisis in the making. And last week they received the first evidence of the chilling effect this proposed new policy might have. Two Christian worldview conferences scheduled to be held at Biola University near Los Angeles have now been canceled.

They are Summit Ministries conferences, and Summit points to Assembly Bill 2943 as the reason for cancelling.

REICHARD: Summit Ministries president, Jeff Myers, is on the line now to discuss further.

Jeff, tell us what happened from your perspective?

JEFF MYERS, GUEST: Well, California is considering and will pass this bill called AB-2943, which to cut straight to chase, essentially eliminates the legality of Biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality in the state of California. It would make about a third of our curriculum the subject of possible criminal fraud. So, we have decided that we’re going to take every single student we have—were planning to train there—and bring them to other locations, so that we can train them and they will not be in the line of fire, even as we work behind the scenes on a number of different strategies to defeat this bad bill and prevent it from coming up in other states.

Now, did enrollment in the two events at Biola have any role in the decision to cancel the events?

MYERS: We had 79 students pre-enrolled already, and May is the big enrollment month because as our programs here in Colorado fill up, a lot of people spill over to California. So, it’s hard to say exactly what the enrollment would have been. We’re not talking about thousands of kids who are not able to come to the Summit because of this cancellation. Our programs are fairly small, but it would affect a few hundred students, and so we just opened up seats and we’ll put them in other locations.

And do you think had registration out there been in the thousands, would that have made any difference in your decision?

MYERS: I don’t think it would have. The thing is, our program relies on creating an environment of trust and of safety for our students to be able to think through things and consider tough questions and ask, “How does my faith relate to this?” And it’s never the text of a law that is a problem, it’s always the implications surrounding it, the symbolism, how– what frivolous lawsuits end up getting thrown at you, what kinds of activists are out there protesting and things like that. I just judged that we can’t have a safe environment in the state of California right now for these students to really work through the tough things they’re trying to work through. So, we’re suspending our program until California gets its act together, and hopefully they will.

Would you consider returning to California later on, or is this a permanent halt to all events in California?

MYERS: I would consider returning to California if the State Assembly just gained some common sense. I think this is such a crazy bill, because even the people who are behind it, they don’t have the support of national gay activist groups. I mean, we even had an article in the Advocate, and they were hardly even critical of us. They realize this is stupid. They realize that the California Assembly is off the rails. And if anybody wonders what happens when you get a veto-proof leftists in the state legislature, well, this is exhibit A.

What is your plan if this begins happening in other states?

MYERS: Well, that’s where we have a lot of things that we’re working on with other groups behind the scenes. It’s not a lot that I can really talk about, and that’s what’s so embarrassing for us because people are saying, “Oh, you guys are in retreat,” and all of that. The stuff that’s really important is the stuff that’s happening behind the scenes right now. But the whole goal of it is to stop this nationwide movement and to get groups of people together that might even be unexpected coalitions to stop it. And, yes, that work is very much going on. But I will never put our students in the line of fire in order to try to prove a point.

You mentioned just a minute ago this concept of retreat. American Thinker online published an article that says, Summit’s ‘capitulation’ – their word– almost ensures there won’t be peace for Christians in California, that it’s a weakened Christian church in America that just flees in the face of persecution? How do you think we should think about that?

MYERS: I think that’s very short-term thinking. I don’t put kids in the line of fire in order to prove a point. I mean, there may be other groups that might do that, but I certainly won’t. These are kids that are really working through identity issues right now. They need a safe, trusting space where they can do that, and the American Thinker assumes there is nothing else going on behind the scenes of a long-term value, and I wish they would have talked to me before they made such a silly assertion.

Fair enough. Jeff Myers is president of Summit Ministries. Thank you for speaking to us.

MYERS: Absolutely.

(Photo/Handout, Jeff Myers, Summit Ministries)

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