Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 99 (ACR 99) was sponsored by Assembly Member Evan Low and passed the California Assembly in June. The Senate’s party-line approval of 61-11 gave their agreement. ACR 99 gives the legislature’s views about homosexuality and transgenderism, saying these are “normal variations that occur in sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The California Family Council (CFC) a Focus-affiliated group, opposed the proposal. Along with a coalition of religious and policy leaders, medical practitioners and mental health professionals, CFC sent a letter to the legislature condemning the measure. While it doesn’t have the force of law, the measure is highly problematic.
First, the legislation blames religious people for creating stigma that “has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals.” It is true that men and women who identify as LGBT or engage in same-sex behaviors do struggle with higher levels of these problem, as meta-analyses over the years have shown. Knowing about such difficulties should cause Christians to have deeper love and compassion for LGBT-identified individuals – while still holding to biblical truth about God’s design for sexuality.
But are these issues caused by social stigma, as ACR 99 claims? And, is that stigma “often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups”? Glenn Stanton points out that this is an ideological assumption. He writes, “There is no reputable, serious research showing people commit suicide because a particular religion refuses to embrace homosexuality. None.”
Dr. Andrè Van Mol, writing at the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, agrees that ACR 99 is wrong to scapegoat religious groups and pastors. He and Stanton point out that even in countries with sexually tolerant attitudes and fewer people of faith, LGBT-identified individuals still have higher risks for suicidality and mental health struggles. Both these are complicated and usually involve many factors. Blaming therapists and pastors is irresponsible and unfounded.
The coalition letter points out that same-sex attractions and gender dysphoria are not simply biologically caused, but often change. The letter explains that such issues may have contributing factors such as childhood sexual abuse, trauma or psychological factors. These factors may also contribute to the higher levels of health and relational issues that LGBT-identified people struggle with.
Second, the legislation is part of the ongoing assault on religious freedom from activist groups on the left. ACR 99 tells pastors, churches, religious workers and religious centers how to think about sexuality and how to respond to LGBT-identified men and women. The state government is telling the church what to believe and how to act.
As the coalition letter opposing the resolution points out, “Religious leaders have the Constitutionally protected right to teach religious doctrine in accordance with their faith, and politicians have no right to tell clergy what is moral, dictate the content of their sermons, or instruct them in religious counseling.”
Oddly enough, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State were silent about the state legislature telling religious leaders what to think about sexuality issues. Groups that scream and threaten lawsuits whenever a student brings a Bible or verse to a public school apparently have no problem with the government telling people of faith how to think and act.
I searched these civil rights group’s websites in vain for opposition to the state’s encroachment into religious and moral issues, infringing on First Amendment freedoms. There was nothing. Nada. Crickets.
So how do we respond when the government tells the church what to do? On the one hand, Christians are called to treat all people with love, compassion and respect. There, at least, we agree with the California State Legislature. The Bible teaches that every human being is created in the image of God. We are deeply loved by Him.
At the same time, the Bible teaches other truths that Christians must hold to, truths that the California State Legislature seems to reject. These include: Humans are created male and female; God designed sexual expression for marriage between a husband and wife; all of us are deeply fallen, marred by sin; and, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we can all experience forgiveness, grace and healing.
The California Legislature seeks to stifle those important truths. As Christians, we must continue to love people and proclaim the truth, and we must stand courageously against government intrusion into our faith and freedom.