Shortly after arriving at the Capitol in 2015, I found myself voting against Senate Joint Resolution 4 because I opposed switching out Father Junipero Serra for Astronaut Sally Ride as one of the two statues representing California in the nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C. (see MOORLACH UPDATE — PAD Review — April 14, 2015; the second statue is Ronald Reagan). Governor Brown would ask the author to drop the bill because the Catholic Church planned to canonize Father Serra as a saint later in the year and the Governor had also made plans to meet the Pope.
SCR 4 was an effort to have someone represent California from the LGBT community. It was my introduction to a movement by the LGBT Caucus to get the attention of those in the faith- based community. Going after the Roman Catholic Church in California was a bold move.
The author of SCR 4 came back the next year with SB 1146 (2016), to address certain universities with codes of conduct that were perceived to discriminate against the LGBT community (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Religious Liberty — July 1, 2016 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Oblivious — June 28, 2016). At the time, I warned the author that those who had been discriminated against in the past shouldn’t now discriminate against others. Also, we need to be careful about what we hate, like intolerance, so we do not become like what we hate. Governor Brown signed the bill.
Last year saw Assembly Bill 2943 (2018) addressing “conversion therapy,”classifying it as a fraudulent business activity (see MOORLACH UPDATE — California School District Rankings, Group 10 — August 24, 2018).
There are a lot of terrible and nonsensical techniques used in the past that offend humane sensibilities and should have never been used. That included lobotomies, which I also denounced. However, people should not be barred from seeking spiritual counseling and guidance by their own choosing, regardless of why they seek help from their chosen religion. Professionals who provide counseling and guidance should not be prohibited from being compensated for their services. This is about freedom.
The author of AB 2943 came from his personal framework, that those in the LGBT community cannot change and any effort to do so was psychological torture. Again, the state should not interfere with people’s freedom to practice religion and seek spiritual help. Numerous individuals who had sought out such guidance and benefited from it were now feeling marginalized and discriminated against by some in the LGBT community, of which they were former members. There are many reasons why people move between LGBT relationships and heterosexual relationships. Who are we to tell people they have to conform to any single standard? Furthermore, eliminating options for people seeking counseling can ultimately cause more harm than good.
The author put AB 2943 on the inactive file the last day or two of last year’s Session. During the fall break, he worked with various spiritual leaders around the state to craft Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99. It’s a method of pursuing the “why can’t we all get along?” approach to this collision of the spiritual and physical worlds.
Sexuality is very important. It’s intimate and special. That’s why we discourage adultery and emphasize fidelity in the marriage relationship. For many, having a strong spiritual relationship assists when facing urges to divert their focus on the physical aspects of life. The spiritual component of one’s life can provide healing, wholeness, and human flourishing.
Ruling out this avenue of personal growth for the soul means that Sacramento is establishing spiritual segregation. It’s another intrusion on one’s personal freedom to be free to choose what they deem is most important for them and their personal life’s journey.
The idea that people should have the freedom to seek out therapy and spiritual guidance, if they so choose, is what I tried to communicate on the Senate Floor when I spoke against ACR 99 (2019). I see this Resolution as another step in the wrong direction from a legislative body that should instead be encouraging inclusiveness and freedom.
The California Family Counsel and Christian Today provide their pieces, respectively, on this sensitive subject matter below.
Last week, the California Senate gave party-line approval to Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99, a resolution demanding people of faith in the state change how they teach, preach, and counsel others related to LGBT identities and behaviors. Authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), ACR 99 condemns pastors, counselors, and religious workers who offer compassionate support to the fellow Californians struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion.
Most shockingly, ACR 99 goes so far as to blame the so-called “stigmatizing beliefs” of these individuals and organizations for the high rates of depression and suicide in the LGBT community. The resolution was a direct follow up to last year’s AB 2943 which California Family Council worked to defeat due to similar constitutional concerns. We strongly encourage you to read ACR 99 for yourself.
Thankfully, several senators recognized the serious legal flaws ACR 99, particularly its attack on the First Amendment. Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) stated that even though the resolution didn’t have the force of law, “we are treading into freedom of speech territory that I think should concern all of us. When an individual seeks therapy or guidance before a religious leader, whether it be a mosque, a temple, or a church, that’s a private setting…To disallow or create the pathway where we tell individuals they can not say certain things should give us pause.”
Senator John Moorlach (R-Irvine) rose to warn legislators of the clear religious liberty implications of the legislation. He acknowledged that he does not support all of the counseling methods sometimes categorized as “conversion therapy.” But, “how can we foreclose on spiritual counseling when someone is on a journey and honestly inquiring about wanting to change and wants professional assistance?” Moorlach asked his fellow senators.
Sadly, other senators used ACR 99 as a platform to attack former LGBTQ men and women who seek to share their stories of life transformation. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) sneeringly called any efforts to change sexual orientation and gender identity “psychological torture.” Jim Beall (D-San Jose) smeared faith-based groups as engaging in “mental health malpractice.”
Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) implied change therapy discriminates against those who identify as LGBTQ. “Until recently, the interpretation of the First Amendment was that one religion could not impose itself on other religions,” she argued. To say “one should have religious freedom to discriminate against others is a relatively new concept.”
These slanderous statements were simply bizarre. ACR 99 does not clearly define so-called “conversion therapy.” It does not even mention psychologists, psychiatrists, or mental health professionals. Instead, it targets churches, counselors, and even formerly LGBTQ Christians. Sadly, these vitriolic and bigoted attacks on California’s faith community went largely unchallenged.
Just before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) rose to tell her colleagues she thought the resolution was simply to remind pastors to be loving and compassionate to LGBT identified people. While not mentioning the concerns raised by her Republican colleagues, Grove focused on the part of the resolution that called on “religious leaders to counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion.”
Grove later told California Family Council she had worked hard to organize meetings with Assemblyman Low and evangelical pastors in opposition to last year’s AB 2943, but she saw encouraging signs in this year’s resolution. “I’ve spoken before pastor groups all over the state,” Grove told other Senators, “and if they don’t counsel from a position of love and compassion and knowledge, then they shouldn’t be counseling people in that area.”
The final vote saw all 29 Democrats vote yes, with seven Republicans voting no, and four Republicans (Senators Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Hills), Ling Ling Chang (R-Brea), and Scott Wilk (R-Lancaster) abstaining. As a resolution, ACR 99 does not require a signature from the Governor.
While the final result on ACR 99 was deeply disappointing, there are signs of hope. Stay tuned for several key updates on the next steps and our strategy moving forward.
Free speech concerns for church pastors after California lawmakers pass pro-LGBT resolution
A resolution passed by the California Legislature has led to fears over the free speech rights of church pastors
and other religious leaders when it comes to LGBT issues.
Californian lawmakers last week approved Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 by 61 votes to 11.
The resolution suggests that religious and pro-conversion therapy groups contribute to high rates of suicide and mental health problems within the LGBT community.
“The stigma associated with being LGBTQ often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals,” the resolution reads.
It continues: “The State of California has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including LGBTQ youth, and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by family rejection and attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity.
“In a pluralistic society, people differing along spectrums of political and religious perspectives share a common responsibility of protecting the health and well-being of all children and vulnerable communities.”
The resolution makes a specific call to religious leaders to “counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy”.
Although the demands in the resolution are non-binding, they have given rise to concerns that pastors and other religious leaders will not be able to share a traditional perspective on sexuality from the pulpit or in books.
Senator Andreas Borgeas said during a debate on the resolution that while it did not have the force of law, “we are treading into freedom of speech territory that I think should concern all of us.”
“When an individual seeks therapy or guidance before a religious leader, whether it be a mosque, a temple, or a church, that’s a private setting,” he said.
“To disallow or create the pathway where we tell individuals they can not say certain things should give us pause.”
Senator John Moorlach said that while he did not support all of the “conversion therapy” methods used by counselors, he suggested that people should be allowed to receive professional help if they have unwanted same-sex attraction.
“How can we foreclose on spiritual counselling when someone is on a journey and honestly inquiring about wanting to change and wants professional assistance?” he said.
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