When it comes to California, the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of religion and speech seem to be under constant assault. And why does that matter to us here in Montana? Because what goes on in California does not, necessarily, STAY in California.
Several weeks ago, we talked about NIFLA vs. Becerra, a case recently argued before the United States Supreme Court. As you may recall, the California legislature passed a law that forced Christian crisis pregnancy centers to advertise free and low-cost abortions. You heard that correctly: Crisis pregnancy centers are being forced to promote the exact practice that they swore to oppose. The pregnancy center sued the state and lost at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. No surprise there. They then went on to the Supreme Court, where the Montana Family Foundation joined other like-minded groups in filing an amicus brief in the case. We argued that California’s law tramples the freedom of religion and silences the freedom of speech. A decision in that case is expected later this summer.
Now, before arguments in the NIFLA case have even stopped echoing in the Supreme Court chamber, California is at it again. This time, it’s Assembly Bill 2943, a bill designed to ban Christian books and resources which address issues of homosexuality and gender identity. It passed the California Assembly on a 50-18 vote and could pass the Senate as soon as late May. According to Matt Staber at Liberty Counsel, the bill says that advertising or offering to engage in, or actually engaging in, sexual orientation change efforts with an individual is a fraudulent business practice. It’s written so broadly that books containing passages from the Bible opposed to homosexuality could also be banned. And some say that’s just a first step in eventually banning the Bible, itself.
During testimony on the bill, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi said that the First Amendment does not prohibit banning any fraudulent conduct, and, “The faith community, like anyone else, needs to evolve with the times.” During a speech on the bill at Google headquarters, homosexual activist, Sam Brinton, admitted that he wanted to stop pastors and churches from counseling people with unwanted same-sex attractions. As with the Espinoza case here in Montana, this is classic viewpoint discrimination, and will be challenged immediately if the bill becomes law.
In addition to the First Amendment considerations, the bill also seeks to deny any services to people trapped in homosexuality who want to get out. Thousands of people every year walk away from the homosexual lifestyle, some with the help of the church, some with the help of secular counselors and some out of nothing less than their own desire to be free. Regardless of how it happens, people should be free to seek the counseling that they desire. And the church should be free to preach the Gospel as written in the Bible. Anything less is un-American.
As we said before, what goes on in California rarely stays in California, and there’s a good chance we could see one of these bills in Montana in the very near future. That means it’s time to stay vigilant.