Former LGBT marchers shows need for religious freedom in counseling

Matt Carpenter is Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs at Family Research Council. David Closson is Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post on September 14, 2019.

Today, former homosexuals and transgender individuals will gather for a Freedom March in Orlando, Florida to tell their stories of finding freedom in Christ. To a nation engulfed in the sexual revolution, their stories are both inspirational and counter-cultural.

Last year, they marched in California to counter AB 2943 - a bill that would have made it illegal to sell counseling services, conferences, and potentially even books that help people voluntarily overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. Tens of thousands of Californians called, emailed, and lobbied their state legislators to stop AB 2943 from becoming law. At the eleventh hour, the bill sponsor pulled the bill from consideration.

However, activist legislators in California are at it again. On September 4, the California Senate passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 (or ACR 99) by a vote of 29 to 7. This resolution calls on the state’s religious leaders to “counsel on LGBT matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy.”

This resolution is an abuse of state power and represents a threat to religious liberty. Although the resolution is non-binding, its intent is to paint those belonging to religious traditions that hold orthodox beliefs on sexuality as not only outdated but dangerous.

Through ACR 99, California legislators have officially communicated to their religious citizens that orthodox beliefs on marriage and sexuality are so beyond the pale that they deserve moral censure. Moreover, the legislature has made an explicitly theological claim that contradicts the Bible—namely, that homosexuality is immutable and can’t be overcome. 

Clearly, the assumption of the legislators is that the Bible does not provide a loving message for those who want to leave the LGBT lifestyle. By claiming that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation are “ineffective, unethical, and harmful,” legislators, consciously or unconsciously, are making the claim that the gospel is inherently unloving.

The Bible is clear on these issues (Rom 1:26-28, 1 Tim 1:10-11, Lev 18:22, 20:13, Gen 19:1-5). The Bible is also clear that that change is possible. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 where Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.”

In these verses Paul condemns his readers as unfit for the kingdom of God because of their sin. However, he does not conclude with condemnation. Rather, he finishes the passage by underscoring the transformative power of the gospel: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” A powerful example of someone who was radically changed by the gospel is Jim Pocta, who recently wrote about his experience in the LGBT community before his conversion. Jim is now a biblical counselor and an elder at his church.

Paul teaches us that change is possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the hope that Christ offers the world—redemption, freedom and reconciliation with God. For those with unwanted addictions and temptations, the church offers a message of love. And for congregants struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction who desire to align their lifestyle with the sexual ethic taught by their faith, this is the affirming message they have come to expect from their pastors.

But if California legislators have their way, they will eventually ban counseling for adults with unwanted same-sex attraction, as they already have for minors. Already, with the passage of ACR 99, the official position of the state is that the biblical view of sin as it relates to sexuality and sex is morally wrong. ACR 99 relies on conflating biblical counseling and “conversion therapy,” which is defined broadly enough that it could include simple conversations between pastors and congregants.

Ironically, progressives usually sermonize more aggressively about the separation of church and state. However, ACR 99 demands pastors deny the Bible’s message for the state’s. As 1 Corinthians explains, all sin, including homosexuality, can be overcome through the power of the gospel. California politicians are not competent to tell churches what is and is not sin. Moreover, it is completely inappropriate for legislators to call upon religious leaders to counsel in a way that violates their religious teachings.

With every corner of the culture inundated by the sexual revolution, the church is the last bastion of truth regarding biblical sex, sexuality, and marriage. If the church won’t stand up for those who have found healing and redemption in Christ – like the CHANGED movement and the Freedom March – then who will?