California Bill AB-2943 is a remarkable piece of legislation, in that it legislates “questionable” science as fraud. AB-2943 affirms LGBT identity as natural: “(a) 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.”
The bill adds that an APA task force concluded “based on a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts … can pose critical health risks” and that change, conversion, or repair therapies “are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable.”
Since the bill was brought forward, there has been controversy about whether or not AB-2943 bans the Bible, as assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen affirmed it would.
In light of the significance of this bill and the controversy it is generating, there are at least five concerns we should be considering:
AB-2923 harms the civil rights of everyone who identifies as an LGBT person, as they would no longer have the right to engage services pertaining to their own individual perspective of their identity. They are no longer treated as individuals. Rather the choice is made for them by a legislative body, that the LGBT community cannot make their own choices as individual people whenever there is “consensus” among scientists and legislators that there is potential for harm in those choices. Under this legislation it is acceptable for a person to change from identifying as non-LGBT to an LGBT perspective, but they can never go back – or at least they can’t pay anyone in California to help them, even if it is their strongest desire. This bill and those advocating it are doing incredible harm to the civil rights of those who identify as LGBT in the name of protecting them from harming themselves. What an insult to everyone who identifies as LGBT – and to everyone who doesn’t.
AB-2923 continues the dangerous precedent of outlawing any experimental paid services, if the science is not in line with the majority conclusion of “contemporary science,” and even if the person being treated desires to enter into an agreement to receive such services. This assumes that the majority view is always correct at the time it is the majority, and that it should govern the marketplace.
From a scientific perspective, AB-2923 promotes artificial scientific univocality and gives little room for progress. If legality of commercial services is tied to contemporary scientific consensus, then innovation is greatly stifled, and governed by legislative bodies, and not scientists, and not the marketplace. In the “majority fallacy” logic of AB-2923, any heliocentric course of study sold prior to Copernicus would have been fraudulent. Any course delivered during the 1800’s questioning the luminiferous aether would have been fraudulent. Paying someone in the 1950’s to present the current consensus on plate tectonics would have been illegal. Kennedy’s mandate on September 12, 1962 that we would go to the moon? I guess he defrauded every taxpayer – until it was actually proven to be legitimate on July 20, 1969.
If “sexual orientation change efforts are an unlawful practice,” as AB-2923 legislates (Sec. 1, p), then the precedent set is not merely relating to commercial services as some advocates of the bill disingenuously suggest. All change efforts of any kind would become unlawful. This would include any non-commercial efforts, as the bill defines specifically what is meant by change efforts: “Sec. 2, 1761, (i) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
Because the bill makes sexual orientation change efforts unlawful, and not just commercial change efforts, AB-2923 does effectively ban (constitutionally protected) free speech pertaining to the advocacy for change. Despite denials that this bill would be so far reaching, the verbiage of the bill would certainly mean that as soon as the courts identified Biblical content with sexual orientation change efforts (as they would be forced to do, since the Bible is vocal on this issue), then the Bible (or at least the historical and normative interpretation) must be recognized as unlawful in the State of California.
A few years ago I wrote an article (applying the normative, traditional Biblical hermeneutic) suggesting the Biblical perspective on this issue is that LGBT identifications and lifestyles are not in accordance with God’s design, and that in His love and wisdom He has something far more fulfilling in mind. In addressing Christians, I challenged them that our love toward those who may disagree should be obvious:
[W]e are always to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15), to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:1-2), to demonstrate lasting patience (1 Cor 13:4), to have compassion and mercy (Jude 22-23), to be kind, tender–hearted, and to be forgiving (Eph 4:32). We are to do good to all people (Gal 6:10). In opposing any action or idea we must understand the Biblical basis, the Biblical purpose, the Biblical methods, and the designed Biblical outcome.
While the second part of my article did not at the time represent a majority evangelical position (and may not represent a majority view today), the first part of the article remains representative of normative Christian orthodoxy – and with the passing of AB-2923, I would not be legally allowed to promote that position in California (something I plan to do in coming months, regardless of the outcome of this legislation).
To Californians – whether Christian or not – I hope you will be aware of the incredible civil rights harm that will be done if AB-2923 becomes law, and that you take action to defeat it. If you care about Californians who identify as LGBT, then protect their freedoms of choice by not restricting what care and services they may receive. If you care about religious freedom and free speech, then please be aware of the consequences of this kind of bill. It sets a precedent to restrict your freedoms in significant ways, all in the name of ensuring we aren’t harmed by our purchasing decisions.
To Christians – whether Californians or not – let us do good to all (Gal 6:10). Let us show to all the love of Christ. Let us be willing to have the courage to proclaim God’s design and His love regardless of the consequences. Please, Christians, don’t abandon California. Take every opportunity to share the word of God there in that state, and let us model His word well. Don’t run from these legal and cultural challenges. Remember “for such a time as this” (Est 4:14).
Also, Christians – don’t abandon the hard sciences or the social sciences – or any discipline or field of knowledge. If we disengage from these vital contributors to worldview, then we become part of the problem. We are robbing believers and unbelievers of the opportunity to be exposed to foundational truths that have contributed to many great scientific discoveries in the distant and recent past, and only one side of the story will be told. Science is better when there are many competing voices. Like the wise man once said, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him“ (Prov 18:17).
Finally, let us show His love and compassion to the LGBT community and beyond – that they are precious in His sight, that He loves them, that Jesus Christ died for each of them (don’t forget that every one of us has stood condemned and in violation of His design), and that He has a rich plan of fulfillment for each of them (Eph 2:8-10). We – and not just those in the LGBT community – all need to change. And when the recipe for positive change is outlawed (God’s truth and His love), we must not be intimidated. As for me and my house, we will obey God rather than the California legislature.
Dr. Christopher Cone serves as President of Calvary University, and is the author or general editor of several books including: Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning, Gifted: Understanding the Holy Spirit and Unwrapping Spiritual Gifts, and Dispensationalism Tomorrow and Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie. Dr. Cone previously served in executive and faculty roles at Southern California Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, and in pastoral roles at Tyndale Bible Church and San Diego Fellowship of the Bible.