California Legislature Passes Resolution Attacking Religious Liberty

By Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
September 12, 2019 Updated: September 13, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif—On Sept. 4, 2019, the California Legislature passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 (ACR 99), which blames religious groups and leaders for “disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals.”

Assemblymember Evan Low (D-San Jose), author of ACR 99, introduced the resolution on June 4, 2019, in hopes of garnering more support for this goal of completely banning conversion therapy for minors.

In 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill banning conversion therapy performed by licensed therapists for minors. ACR 99 is taking it a step farther by paving the way for banning conversion therapy performed by religious leaders.

During a hearing for ACR 99, Assemblymember Low said, “the notion of conversion therapy is antithetical to my very existence, my very being sitting here, that we should be loved and celebrated, that there is something inherently wrong, that something should be changed. There’s nothing wrong with individuals like myself, members of the LGBT community.”

Since ACR 99’s introduction, the resolution has passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee with a vote of 9-2, one legislator not voting. It then passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 7-2 vote in favor.

As of Sept. 4, ACR 99 has passed through the entire California State Legislature receiving a vote of 29-7 in favor of the resolution. Four legislators did not vote.

Despite support from Low’s fellow legislators, ACR 99 has been met with criticism and concern from both the public and media, arguing that ACR 99 is a direct attack toward people’s freedom of religion and choice.

An article by the Washington Examiner stated that “The bill throws aside religious liberty and targets religious people and organizations under the guise that failure to agree with the LGBTQ lifestyle could cause ‘suicide and depression,’ falsely placing blame where there shouldn’t be, in addition to several other bogus ideas.”

Dean Broyles, president of National Center for Law and Policy, testified before the California State Senate in a hearing for the resolution, explaining that “This resolution will not foster or promote the classic liberal ideals of authentic tolerance, diversity, or inclusion. It will crush them and destroy them.”

The resolution is also a possible violation of the First Amendment, which not only protects people’s freedom of religion, but the establishing clause states that the government must remain neutral on issues of religion.

“ACR 99 represents a misguided authoritarian attempt to coercively mold the beliefs of California’s citizens regarding controversial and sensitive issues on human sexuality, and thus will only serve to chill and suppress the freedom of thought, speech, conscience, and religion of our citizens safeguarded by the First Amendment,” Broyles added.

In the same hearing, Russell Willingham, executive director of New Creation Ministries, expressed his concern regarding the resolution’s impact on future laws in California.

“I believe ACR 99 sets the stage for future laws that will criminalize pastoral caregivers like me who provide just such a resource. Resources that offer an option for those who don’t want what the state is telling them they must accept,” Willingham explained.

Senator Jim Beall (San Jose-D) confirmed these concerns, stating he believes religious clergy, ministries, and counselors are criminals who should be “charged with mental health malpractice.”

While ACR 99 is only a resolution, people are worried that California Legislators will propose a bill to turn ACR 99 into law.

“We believe in free speech. They [the legislators] have every right to criticize our position, but the state government does not have the right to use its power to coerce us to change. And that’s where we believe this resolution is heading,” Greg Burt, California Family Council’s Director of Capitol Engagement, said in an interview with The Epoch Times.

A History of Religion

“Never before has the State of California viciously attacked the Christian and religious community by blaming them for suicides and calling religious counseling for those who wish to abandon sexual urges and lifestyles ‘ineffective, unethical, and harmful,’” wrote Capitol Resource Institute in a press release.

California is a state that is home to 21 missions, all established between 1770 to 1823. Many areas throughout the state contain visible proof of the role religious faith and ministries have played in building the state.

Capitol Resource Institute elaborated that “one needs to only look at the names of many cities up and down the state that bear the name of religious figures; from San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Gabriel, San Bernardino, Santa Monica, to San Diego.”

California has a rich history and long connection to religious faith. Assemblymember Low is using ACR 99 to now blame religion for issues relating to the LGBTQ community.

“The many religious leaders and churches in the state of California now know that their government is against them and asking them to change their belief systems about gender and sexual behavior,” said Burt.

State Senator Andreas Borgeas (Fresno-R) echoed this by warning his fellow senators that they are “treading onto dangerous territory by denying people of their First Amendment rights of freedom.”

Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai