Could a Law Prohibit Christian Teaching on Homosexuality?
A proposed law will either protect the LGBTQ community from cruel therapy or prevent Christian teaching on homosexuality, depending on whom you ask.
The church community considers a bill being considered in California a potential ban on the Christian teaching on homosexuality and, more importantly, teaching on sexual ethics.
The bill, Assembly Bill 2943, would “ban advertising or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts,” according to the National Catholic Register:
It defines such efforts as “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.”
The Catholic News Agency said the bill “would make any transaction relating to practice to change someone’s sexual orientation unlawful.” Critics, CNA said, fear that it could ban efforts to explain and promote Christian teaching on sexual morality.
The New American, a far-right publication, calls the law “a direct assault on the freedoms of speech and religion…that would, in effect, prohibit the dissemination of traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and transgenderism.”
And then there’s One America News Network, a right-wing cable channel, whose featured an interview segment claiming the law “would effectively ban the sale of Christian books, including the Bible.”
Believe it or not, all of this criticism is over the same law.
So what’s this thing really all about?
Snopes.com reports that far less than targeting the Bible, the law would prohibit gay conversion therapy.
Apparently, in California, the controversial therapy is already prohibited on people under the age of 18; this law would make illegal on adults, too. It would do so by prohibiting the advertising and performance of the therapy in exchange for money.
Another name for gay conversion therapy is “sexual orientation change efforts,” which Snopes says was previously defined this way:
“Any practices by mental health providers 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.”
It quotes a Sacramento attorney and policy advisor who said the law doesn’t apply to the sale of books like the Bible or prohibit the discussion of the therapy.
So why is gay conversion therapy a problem?
The LGBTQ community in the United States is applauding an effort announced recently in the United Kingdom to prohibit the practice completely.
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy,” is a medically defunct practice that aims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used technique, but some practitioners have also combined this with “aversion treatments,” such as induced vomiting or electric shocks.
Maybe if “induced vomiting” and “electric shocks” are required to “convert” someone, that might suggest that homosexuality isn’t merely a simple “choice,” as some Christians seem determined to believe.
There are widespread fears that such therapies as well as the stigma others — including churches, unfortunately — attempt to inflict on the gay community leads to a high rate of suicide among gay youth.
A 2014 poll by YouGov.com found that only 8% of Americans actually believe gay conversion therapy works, anyway.
So why is banning it a problem for the church?
Traditional church teaching is quite clear about homosexuality: it’s a sin, an abomination.
That same YouGov.com poll in 2014 found that 64% of Democrats felt that homosexuality doesn’t “tear at the social fabric” of the country, but that 61% of Republicans, who make up the far-right factions with in the church, believe it does.
So any law that seeks to target any effort to “turn” a gay person straight will automatically be viewed as an “attack” on the Bible, no matter how much the real intent may be to prevent harm to the LGBTQ community.
Some Christians believe that we should “hate the sin but love the sinner.” Some of these same Christians seem to be unwilling to even attempt to love the sinner when the sin happens to be homosexuality.
Fortunately, not all Christians share this contempt. But finding them who’ll come right and out and say so publicly can take some doing. A group of Christians in the Philippines recently attended a pride parade carrying signs that said, “I’m sorry” and “We’re here to apologize for the ways that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community.”
I’d be against any law that would tell church people what they can and can’t teach or any law that would prohibit sales of the Bible.
On the other hand, the very notion of a law that would outlaw Bible sales seems so outrageously absurd that you must wonder who’d actually believe one could be passed.
It sounds to me like scare tactics, and I think it’s a shame if churches have to resort to exaggeration to oppose a law that doesn’t seem to do what they fear it’s designed to do.