If you haven’t already lost significant respect for Snopes as an impartial fact-checker, its analysis of a bill that bans all transactions involved in stating Christian beliefs about homosexual behavior should. That bill passed 50-18 on April 19 and is being considered in the state senate. Snopes’ insistence that California Assembly Bill 2943 would not result in the Bible being banned in California is akin to Snopes calling “demonstrably and clearly false” the claim that Joseph Stalin killed everyone around him.
True, Stalin did not kill “all” around him. Indeed, so far as we know he never personally killed anyone. But he did have a great many people killed (estimates indicate that he was responsible for the deaths of 20 to 25 million people), sent many others to the Gulag, and generally terrorized both his own country and Eastern Europe for decades.
Sure, it is virtually impossible that California will immediately attempt to ban the sale of the Bible itself. Not even the hard Left in California has that kind of chutzpah. But citations of Bible verses in the context of declaring homosexual practice and transgenderism to be morally debased could indeed get one into serious trouble with the law if it comes in the context of selling or advertising a product or service. Here are the problems with Snopes’s case.
Have You Ever Read a Bill Before?
First, Snopes states that since “California Assembly Bill 2943 does not mention the Bible, Christianity, or religion at all,” any claim that “the legislation would ‘literally’ prohibit the sale of the Bible, … is demonstrably and clearly false.” Yet the fact that the bill doesn’t explicitly mention these things is irrelevant if the wording of the bill is broad enough to encompass them.
Second, Snopes stresses that, based on a 2011 bill outlawing “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) on persons under the age of 18, the new bill outlawing it for adults should also be restricted to “mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation.”
However, even Snopes has to admit that AB 2943 “also appears to prohibit SOCE from being performed by any individual, not just by mental health providers.” So you could be a pastor, Bible study or house church leader, member of a parachurch organization working to help people afflicted by same-sex attractions, or indeed anybody who attempts change if goods or services involve an exchange of funds.
Snopes adds: “The Assembly Judiciary Committee’s analysis notes it is not clear whether the text of A.B. 2943 would amount to a blanket prohibition on any and all SOCE. We contacted Low’s office for clarification on this point but did not receive a response in time for publication.” Given the track record of zealous LGBTQ advocacy in this country, where coercive affirmations of “gay marriage” have been found in the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) that grants full citizenship rights to ex-slaves and in interpreting the Title IX ban of “sex discrimination” in schools and colleges (1972) to include discrimination based on homosexual practice and transgender identity, “unclear” means: We will use this law against you.
Outlawing Politically Disfavored Religious Instruction
Third, Snopes then heavily shades the truth: “What is clear is that Low’s bill does not seek to outlaw all religious or moral instruction regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.” How much stress is being placed on the “all”? Even Snopes cannot say that it will not outlaw “some or most religious or moral instruction regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.”
Yet Snopes is not willing to highlight that as a point in its discussion. The emphasis is on the narrative: Keep walking, nothing disturbing here for religious folk. The salient point is that nothing in the bill would prevent the state from outlawing all religious or moral instruction that seeks to change homosexual behavior and transgender identity. The only limitation on the state is its own self-policed chutzpah regarding “LGBTQ” coercion.
Read the bill. There is no religious exemption. There is no restriction to mental health professionals. There is not even a restriction to claims about changing a person’s sexual orientation or transgender feelings in whole or part. The bill is quite clear that any “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions” are included in the ban on attempts to change a person’s “sexual orientation.”
So you would be violating the law if you advertise that Christ can empower people not to engage in homosexual practice or not to identify as “gay” or “transgender” because such behaviors and self-identities are morally wrong, or if you offer to engage or actually engage in efforts to persuade people of Christ’s power to transform in this area, you will be in violation of California AB 2943, at least so long as your advertising or efforts involved in any way an exchange of money for goods or services.
Consequently, selling religious or secular books (pamphlets, videos, audios, etc.), holding conferences, teaching courses in a college or seminary where tuition is paid, giving a speech at a paid venue, counseling people for a fee, or perhaps even posting online articles in a site that requires a paid subscription, in which it is asserted (in whole or part) that it is morally wrong for people to engage in homosexual practice or identify as “gay” or “transgender,” all could be treated as a violation of California Assembly Bill 2943.
There is certainly nothing in the bill that exempts such practices from prosecution by the state. We have learned on LGBTQ matters what is exempted is not exempted for long and what is not exempted has no exemption. If you haven’t figured this out by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
Only Promoting LGBT Behavior Is Allowed
Am I alone in this view? Religious liberties lawyer David French has referred to this as “a bill that would actually — among other things — ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality.” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Sharp states: “It would be a violation if a pastor encourages a congregant to visit the church book store to purchase books that help people address sexual issues, perhaps including the Bible itself, which teaches about the importance of sexual purity within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Matt Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a public interest religious freedom law firm, told me I could print this comment from him: “The breadth of this bill is staggering and represents the worst kinds of censoring because books and educational resources along with scientific research will be banned. The First Amendment provides not space for this kind of censorship.”
Constitutional law attorney Jenna Ellis concludes: “A Christian bookstore could be sued for carrying a book such as Ryan T. Anderson’s latest, When Harry Became Sally, solely because the message is in conflict with the LGBT agenda…. Thus, this law is not viewpoint neutral and specifically targets psychotherapists, counselors, pastors, lay counselors, authors, speakers, and any other speakers from promoting a message of heterosexuality, and instead allows only a message affirming the LGBT viewpoint.”
The Snopes articles makes it sound like Christians have nothing to fear from this bill, that the bill won’t have the effect of chilling all speech and inhibiting the sale and use of all texts that indicate that homosexual practice and transgender identity are morally wrong. Don’t you believe it for a moment.