California Lawmakers: Faith Practices Can Be Punished As Fraud

Sacramento, CA–The battle over religious freedom has reached a fever pitch in California, where lawmakers are taking a new approach to punish traditional beliefs about sex and gender.  
Assembly Bill (AB) 2943 declares acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) status and behavior to be a matter of science.  From that opening premise, the bill proceeds to subject skeptics to the full weight of the State’s anti-fraud and consumer protection regime for “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE) when “goods and services” are involved.  

Unlike prior legislation targeting SOCE, sometimes known as reparative or conversion therapy, this bill is not limited to minors or licensed counselors.  It also does not include any religious exemptions for churches or non-profit ministries.  On its face, the targeted “goods and services” could include the sale of books on the power of the Gospel to heal sexual brokenness, or conferences addressing the same topics.
The Pacific Justice Institute—Center for Public Policy (PJI) sent a letter last week to lawmakers explaining many of the legal problems with the bill.  Brad Dacus, President of PJI, commented, “Compassion demands that churches and ministries offer hope to those who want to voluntarily leave the LGBT subculture.  The State cannot outlaw this compassion by calling it fraud.  This is a diabolical attempt to stifle real debate and limit personal choices.”
PJI challenged the predecessor of AB 2943, SB 1172, initially halting its enforcement with a federal injunction.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually upheld SB 1172 by emphasizing its limited focus on minors and licensed professionals.  AB 2943 applies to adults and is not styled as a professional regulation.
AB 2943 is scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection on April 3 at 1:30 p.m.  Californians should contact their Assembly members to express their concerns.