Many commentators have raised concerns about a bill currently in the California Senate, Assembly Bill 2943. The bill would amend California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act to prohibit “sexual orientation change efforts.”
Most of the discussion about the bill has focused on its potential ban on the sale of the Bible. It seems much more likely that the bill will make religious education programs the target of “death by litigation.”
The bill states: “The following unfair competition methods and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in connection with a transaction intended to result in or which results in the sale or rental of goods or services to a consumer are illegal:â¦ to advertise, offer for sale or sell services constituting efforts to change sexual orientation to an individual.
AB 2943 is based in part on the California Business and Professions Code. Section 865 defines âsexual orientation change effortsâ as âall practices of mental health care providers who seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change gender behaviors or expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic feelings or attractions towards people of the same sex. Section 865.1 states: âUnder no circumstances should a mental health care provider engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a patient under the age of 18.
Bill forbids “any practice” which proclaims Christian doctrine
Unlike this section of existing law, AB 2943’s definition of âsexual change referral effortsâ is not limited to âpractices of mental health care providersâ and its prohibitions are not limited to minors. AB 2943 defines “sexual orientation change efforts” as “all practical who seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change gender behaviors or expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic feelings or attractions towards people of the same sex.
The only express exclusion of the bill from “all practices” are “psychotherapies which: (A) provide client acceptance, support and understanding or facilitation of client adjustment, social support and counseling. exploration and development of identity, including neutral sexual orientation interventions to prevent or combat illegal behavior or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.
Thus, under AB 2943, “any practice”, with the exception of certain psychotherapies, would be considered an unfair and deceptive commercial practice, as long as it is intended to form part of a sale of goods or services. services. There is no indication as to what qualifies as “to seek[ing]to change an individual’s sexual orientation.
This easily includes catechism lessons
According to these broad and ill-defined terms, âany practiceâ could include Catholic catechism classes, commonly referred to as CCD, in which every Catholic child who attends public school must participate in order to make First Communion and Confirmation. Parents pay for their children to attend these classes, so they buy a service. The purpose of these courses is to teach the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to teach students to live according to the teachings of the Church.
The catechism is very clear about the church’s position on homosexuality in three sections:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relationships between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex. It has taken a wide variety of forms over the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Based on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of serious depravity, tradition has always stated that “homosexual acts are inherently disorderly”. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not come from a true affective and sexual complementarity. In no case can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is an ordeal. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Any sign of unfair discrimination against them should be avoided. These people are called to accomplish the will of God in their life and, if they are Christians, to unite with the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter in their condition.
2359 Homosexuals are called to chastity. Through the virtues of self-control which teach them interior freedom, sometimes through the support of a disinterested friendship, through prayer and sacramental grace, they can and must gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Since the issue of human sexuality is raised in a CCD class, the catechist is obligated to tell the students what the church’s view is on homosexuality. It would certainly be seen as an attempt to âchange behaviorâ in the context of sexual orientation. Articles 2357 and 2359 of the catechism expressly call on people attracted to the same sex to refrain from such behavior by leading a life of chastity, and article 2357 states that âin no case [homosexual acts]be approved.
Pupils in CCD classes for first communion can range from 7 to 12 years old, for children whose parents have failed to enroll them in second year. Confirmation classes welcome students aged 15 to 16. Classes for children who have not been baptized and who are seeking to be baptized into the church at an older age may include students up to the age of 17.
Given these age groups, questions about the church’s position on marriage, sexuality, sexual orientation, cohabitation and divorce will most certainly arise. If the teacher performs his duties accordingly, he is required to refer to articles 2357-2359 of the catechism and, if AB 2943 is in place, to expose the parish to a possible trial.
This law could also ban Christian schools
The potential risk that parish schools, especially high schools where gender and sexuality issues are an important part of student life, will be trapped by AB 2943 is also high. Parents in these schools pay tuition fees and therefore pay for services and goods. The mission of Catholic schools, like CCD classes, is to educate students in the teachings of the Catholic Church, including Sections 2357 to 2359 of the Catechism.
AB 2943 would force teachers in these schools to choose between fully and freely teaching the entire catechism, thus exposing the school to possible lawsuit under AB 2943 and censoring the portions of the catechism taught to avoid litigation. AB 2943 would cool down any discussion of the church’s position on homosexuality and same-sex acts in religious education classes, including debate among students regarding the merits of that position.
More than 10 million adults in California identify as Catholics. There are 306 parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone. There are also hundreds of Catholic elementary and secondary schools throughout California. AB 2943 would dampen the religious freedom of Catholics to study and examine the principles of their faith.
AB 2943 is unacceptably vague and broad. As written, it will infringe on the First Amendment rights of many religious groups. Many religious education programs will censor themselves due to potential lawsuits. Those who refuse to do so risk prosecution or submission.
AB 2943 is not yet law and is currently still in committee. Perhaps with sufficient opposition it will never become law. The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for July 2, 2018. The Senate Appropriations Committee meets every Monday at 10 a.m. in room 4203. The mailing address of the committee is State Capitol, room 2206 Sacramento, CA 95814 .
Eileen Han is the pen name of a lawyer who lives in California.
U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue