California’s Proposed Resolution Tells Pastors How They Should Talk About Homosexuality. That’s Not Okay
The California Assembly will soon vote on a resolution laying the framework for what many of us have feared and predicted for years: the power of the State to dictate moral positions to the Church.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99, in its own words, “calls upon religious leaders with conviction to counsel on LGBT matters from a place of love, compassion and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy.” It further resolves that “in addressing the stigma often associated with persons who identify as LGBT,” the State of California now calls on pastors and religious workers to “model equitable treatment of all people of the state.”
Telling Pastors What They Should Do
Pastors in the Golden State may wonder if they really need a legislative reminder to counsel with love and model equitable treatment. They also might greet this resolution with a clerical yawn. After all, who cares if the Assembly wants them to avoid stigmatizing lesbians and gays and treat everyone fairly? That’s their job description anyway. No big deal.
The deal gets bigger, though, as the words get clearer. The resolution is designed specifically to guide pastors when they counsel people who are attracted to the same sex. It invokes Conversion Therapy as the boogeyman ministers should avoid.
It further defines Conversion Therapy as “practices or therapies that attempt to create a change in a person’s sexual orientation.” “Sexual orientation” is defined by the American Psychological Association as, among other things, “a person’s sense of identity based on [homosexual] attractions, related behaviors and membership in a community.”
These dots aren’t hard to connect. ACR 99 instructs pastors to avoid telling gay or lesbian parishioners they should change their behavior or identification with the gay community. Even if their behavior includes adulterous liaisons with the same sex in violation of their marriage vows. Even if their identification as Christians means more to them than their identification as lesbian or gay.
Never mind whether or not gay sex violates their conscience; never mind the pastor’s Biblical take on the matter. California lawmakers are about to tell California ministers they should not advocate repentance from any sexual behavior apart from a married heterosexual union, because to do so stigmatizes, is unloving and smacks of Conversion Therapy.
From Pride of Orientation to Pride of Ownership
That’s how pride of orientation morphs into pride of ownership — the right to own someone else’s freedom of religion, speech and conscience. Is this what the LGBT movement really wants? And — more to the point — is this what Christians in California are willing to tolerate?
In fairness, ACR 99 rightfully advocates for the protection, safety and dignity of California’s LGBTQ population. Good idea, but not when it does so by denigrating the rights and beliefs of California’s people of faith. State Resolutions, much less State Legislation, should never oppress one group in the interest of another. We should vigorously object to ACR 99, both in its sweeping claims and its unconstitutional sentiments.
Under its guidelines, California pastors who believe homosexuality falls short of our Creator’s intentions would be forbidden from saying so. Forbidden from encouraging congregants who are same-sex attracted to abstain from homosexual behavior (even if they are heterosexually married). Forbidden from encouraging congregants to abandon homosexuality as a primary means of self-identification.
While warning against the dangers of so-called Conversion Therapy, ACR 99 restricts much more than counseling which attempts to change internal sexual responses. It in fact dictates to pastors that they cannot teach that homosexuality is a sin. Nor can they encourage homosexually-attracted people who hold a traditional Biblical view to live in accordance with their own faith.
A Violation of the First Amendment and Obergell
Such restrictions violate our First Amendment protection from government interference with religious practices. They also violate the promise recently made by the Supreme Court of the United States in its 2015 Obergell v. Hodges decision regarding same-sex marriage. In that decision, SCOTUS declared: “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”
Clearly, ACR 99 both ignores and decimates this First Amendment-based promise. Pastors cannot teach principles revering the family structure they believe in if they’re accused (with legislative force) of stigmatizing lesbians and gays with that belief. Pastors who encourage same-sex attracted people to adhere to a traditional definition of marriage and family — a definition they were assured they may continue to teach — may be accused of practicing “Conversion Therapy.”
Just a Resolution?
Mind you, ACR 99 is an Assembly Concurrent Resolution. It’s not a legislative proposal. Concurrent Resolutions have no force of law, and are meant to officially express sentiments held by both houses.
But there’s not much comfort in that. Not when we remember that this Resolution was submitted by the same Assemblyman who authored, then withdrew, last year’s AB 2948, which would have outlawed fee-based counseling for repentant homosexuals as “Consumer Fraud.” Not when you consider the number of Christian bakers, florists, photographers and caterers who’ve been subjected to lawsuits and state-imposed fines for refusing services they could not in good conscience provide. And not when you consider the recent Canadian case of a father who was found guilty of family violence by the Supreme Court of British Columbia for refusing to call his daughter a boy, according to her wishes.
The Latest Exhibit from a Brazen Movement
The politicized LGBTQ movement is showing its hand pretty brazenly, ACR 99 being only the latest exhibit. Today’s seemingly benign resolution paves the way for tomorrow’s stringently enforced law. Only the most naive will believe that the California Assembly wishes only to express, but not eventually enforce, its opinion of traditional Christian values.
That’s why it’s time for California Christians to make a simple resolution of our own: Be it resolved that the State has neither a right to, nor a compelling interest in, coercing the messaging and practices of its people of faith and their leaders. Let pride be celebrated as citizens see fit. But let no flags be flown, or resolutions be passed, for tyranny waving its banner over justice.
Joe Dallas is an author, conference speaker and ordained pastoral counselor. He’s the Program Director of Genesis Biblical Counseling in Tustin, Calif. It’s a counseling ministry for men dealing with sexual addiction and other sexual/relational problems. Learn more at joedallas.com.
Originally published at JoeDallas.com. Reprinted with permission.