CA Legislators to Tell Pastors What to Preach from their Pulpits on LGBT Behavior & Identities

Tomorrow morning before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Assemblyman Evan Low plans to argue for a resolution that tells religious leaders in California what they should preach from their pulpits. Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 calls on “counselors, pastors, religious workers, educators” and institutions with “great moral influence” to stop perpetuating the idea that something is wrong with LGBT identities or sexual behavior. ACR 99 also condemns attempts to change unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion as “unethical,” “harmful,” and leading to high rates of suicide.

Two “once-gay” pastors, Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning, plan to testify against the resolution, calling it “discriminatory” against people like themselves, who overcame suicidal thoughts by following their faith away from their LGBT identities. They now lead a ministry called Equipped to Love that helps others like themselves find health and wholeness.  

“For us, walking out our faith with biblical conviction means life and hope. Our faith has saved us from suicide and given us freedom to live with clear consciences, “Woning said.  

“We too would like to be acknowledged and affirmed. … Instead, activists attack our efforts to care for like-minded friends by promoting dangerous counseling restrictions and stifling our free speech.”

Williams feels the same way. “For years, I believed that even God hated me because of my behavior,” he said. “But in my early 20s, I encountered a God … who loved me despite my sins and temptations. …Today, I love my life. I have been married to my beautiful wife for 13 years, and we have created four incredible children together. … To someone like me, California Assemblyman Evan Low’s proposed resolution, ACR-99, feels like an unfair and direct attack.”

Last year Assemblyman Low introduced AB 2943, a bill that declares “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual” as illegal under state’s consumer fraud law. After receiving strong opposition from numerous Christian leaders and faith-based organizations, like the California Family Council, Low killed his own bill in hopes of coming up with a compromise. Instead of introducing another bill this year, Low proposed ACR 99, which he worked on with a select group of California religious leaders, according to an email sent out by his office last week. A resolution does not have the force of law, but is simply a legislative statement made in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Despite the support some faith leaders are giving to Low’s resolution, other pastors and religious leaders with traditional views on gender and sexuality are publically opposing ACR 99. Besides Woning who wrote, “THE [NOT SO] SUBTLE DISCRIMINATION OF ACR-99,” and Williams who wrote, “Controlled by the State,” ordained pastoral counselor Pastor Joe Dallas published, “PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP,” in which he argues, “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 coalition of professional counselors, doctors, attorneys, and faith-based non-profits, have also signed onto a letter pointing out the resolutions inaccuracies and it’s threats to basic liberty. “People should have the freedom to pursue what brings them true happiness and joy. ACR 99 is trying to cut people off from their own pathway to happiness,” writes the coalition.

The letter goes on to provide proof that traditional faiths are not the cause for high suicide rates among those identifying as LGBT. It points out that “Professional organizations agree that same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria are not simply biologically caused, they often change.” And “contrary to misrepresentations, therapists who are open to a client’s goal of change use non-aversive, well-established mainstream practices and evidence-based treatments for trauma and addictions used by professional therapists worldwide.”

The letter concludes by expressing, “grave concern that Assemblyman Low’s resolution, like the discriminatory guilds he references, privileges sexual and gender minorities of so-called “progressive” values and goals at the expense of those of traditional values and goals. It is unconstitutional to strip any person of any First Amendment freedoms, and it is inhumane to prohibit individuals from addressing their own personal pain and desire for healing and change.”

After Tuesday’s, June 17th, hearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, ACR 99 will be presented on the floor of the Assembly, most likely on Thursday, June 20th.

Please call your member of the Assembly and tell him or her that legislators shouldn’t be telling pastors what to preach or limiting the ability of Christians to get help living according to their faith. Find your Assembly member.

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