About two weeks ago, Right Wing Watch noted that Religious Right groups and Christian media outlets were lying about a nonbinding resolution that was nearing a vote in the California General Assembly. They’re still at it.
The resolution, known as ACR-99, calls upon educators and religious leaders to approach LGBTQ issues with love, compassion and knowledge of the potential for harm caused by conversion therapy, and calls upon Californians “to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance.” It also calls upon the people and institutions of California “to model equitable treatment of all people of the state.”
The resolution was introduced by state legislator Evan Low, who last year withdrew legislation that would have declared conversion therapy fraudulent after meeting with Christian leaders who portrayed that bill as a threat to religious liberty; some falsely claimed that it would have banned the Bible.
People of good will can have and express honest disagreement about whether it’s a good idea for legislators to encourage, even in a non-binding way, religious leaders to take any particular approach to pastoral counseling. But that’s not the same as fanning fears of religious persecution by claiming that the resolution amounts to “tyranny” and forces pastors to preach a certain way. In reality, the non-binding resolution does not force anyone to do—or not do—anything.
After the resolution passed the assembly last week, the Christian Broadcasting Network blared out a story declaring, “The Church is Under Attack,” once again misrepresenting the impact of the non-binding resolution with a headline that reads: “CA Lawmakers Pass Measure Forcing Pastors to Embrace LGBT Ideology.”
Pastor and anti-LGBTQ activist Michael Brown has urged California pastors to stand up to “government tyranny” by opposing the “draconian” resolution, which he wrote “would dictate what pastors preach from the pulpit.” More from Brown:
Put another way, these legislators are telling pastors and spiritual leaders to throw out the Bible, disregard the Lord’s will, ignore the testimony of thousands of ex-gays, and conform to extreme political correctness – or else.
This is one of the most frontal attacks on our religious freedoms in memory (or, perhaps, in our nation’s history). And it confirms what I have said for the last 15 years: Those who came out of the closet want to put us in the closet. This is nothing less than that ancient spirit of Jezebel trying to silence God’s messengers through fear and intimidation.
When a CBN host asked Liberty Counsel’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Roger Gannam about “this push to force clergy to promote the LGBT lifestyle,” Gannam declared that the resolution is “bad all the way around.” Gannam dismissed “conversion therapy” as a political term, adding, “The whole idea here is to make illegal the very idea that change is possible.”
Gannam at least acknowledged that the resolution does not have the force of law, but said it “lays the foundation” for future laws that would make it illegal to tell a person in a counseling room that change is possible. “It just shows that the church is under attack and is the target of folks like Assemblyman Low in California.”
The misleading messages from CBN and Brown were boosted by other Religious Right outlets. Brown’s was amplified by the Trump-promoting “prayer warriors” at Intercessors for America. CBN’s bogus headline about the resolution “forcing pastors to embrace LGBT ideology” was promoted on social media by Charisma, a right-wing multimedia publishing operation with a heavily Pentecostal audience.
Low’s non-binding resolution has the support of Dr. Kevin Mannoia, a Christian university chaplain and former head of the National Association of Evangelicals. That earned Mannoia a denunciation from Liberty Counsel, which called him “a prop for the LGBT agenda.”