What Is Happening in California? Lessons from Legislation

In the past week news enthusiasts have been treated to quite the display of peculiar and extraordinary headlines from California, even more than normal. Some have shared the desire for the entire state to secede from the United States, while others want to introduce legislation to break the state into three independent states. In these, we’ve seen many decry the liberalism that permeates it, with even self-ascribed liberals finding themselves concerned about the extreme limits that are being promoted. Recent legislation not only elevated those concerns but caught the attention of Christians nationwide.
Passing the assembly, AB 2943, is a bill that has scared Christians because it carries such a broad scope of implications. While fixating on the point that it would make it illegal to offer counseling to those wanting to avoid same-sex attraction, many have overlooked the fact that the bill goes further by making it illegal to promote such views through the selling of conferences, teachings, books, materials, etc.
Therefore, when the bill passed the assembly with a 50-18 vote on April 19th and headed towards the California Senate, the reactions have been intense. Some have reacted fiercely to defend such an action while others have responded with fear about the significance of what has taken place. As a result, there are several things Christians must consider.

2 Primary Questions
Is There Anything to be Concerned About?
The legal language employed in the bill and the fact that it is a consumer protection act brings confusion to many people. It seems the bill is nothing more than a gesture of good faith to protect consumers from fraud. However, the concern comes in the fact that the bill not only defines goods and services very broadly (something that is typical) but it gets very specific late on by banning advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in any practice that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation (1).

This bill then seeks to infringe on two very basic concepts that came at the inception of our country: freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Certainly then, we must be very concerned about the impact this can have upon Christianity (and I’ll throw out there that any religion that suggests homosexuality is a sin must be concerned about this also).

Is There Legitimate Concern that the Bible Will be Banned?
It’s frustrating that when you look at several organizations charged with ‘fact-checking’ information so that people will not be misled, actually mislead also by their direct denial of the impact this bill has. They fail to acknowledge that the scope of this bill is extensive and such a broadness has the ability to shutter Bible and book distribution that is not in agreement with those who have their own agendas.

Consumers would probably not know for sure if the Bible will be banned until it is challenged at the court level. However, the bill certainly opens the door and gives California the ability to enforce this repercussion from the initial passage. If this impact were not a legitimate concern, it would not have been necessary for member Al Muratsuchi to defend the bill by saying that people of the faith community need to evolve with the times. That statement itself contains a bit of irony in that Bible-believing Christians would deny evolution, but that’s another story. Why defend against something that supposedly will not be impacted anyway?

In light of these events, I suspect that many Christians will find themselves surprised that a ‘free’ country may be in the process of imposing such restrictions. However, the revolution that has continued to take our nation from religiously tolerant to religiously intolerant is occurring about as quickly as the exodus that took place to free itself from religious oppression while searching for religious freedom. That quickness takes one’s breath away with the questions of what should be done and what should be learned. These questions will be addressed next week.

(1) In the interest of fair disclosure, this definition is my paraphrase based on the combination of a couple of phrases found within the bill. This is not meant to mislead, but to actually offer clarity. I trust that if you read the bill directly you will find I am not misrepresenting the bill.

Photo “California State Senate” courtesy of user Jon Connell and Flickr.