California Bill Banning Biblical Views on Sexual Identity Forces Christian Group to Cancel Young Adult Conference
Summit Ministries’ president calls AB2943 “the most blatant chilling of free speech in America in my lifetime” while announcing removal of Biola University worldview training from schedule
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — One of the nation’s leading organizations helping Christian teens and young adults apply their faith to everyday living has been forced to cancel a planned conference in California due to a proposed new law analysts are calling an effort to limit free speech and the free exercise of religion.
For more than 55 years, Summit Ministries has held conferences at its headquarters in Manitou Springs, Colo., and across the nation, training nearly a half-million young Christians to become leaders in their schools, communities, churches, families, and country. But the group has had to cancel its June 10-23 and June 24-July 7 sessions at Biola University near Los Angeles due to concerns that California will forbid some of what it teaches.
At issue is AB2943, a bill recently passed by the state Assembly and likely to be passed by the Senate, that seeks to insert provisions into the state’s Business and Professions Code to the effect that goods and services “offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual” constitute deceptive business practices, and are subject to fines and penalties.
The proposed law includes a prohibition of “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
“Summit’s program helps students develop an intelligent, defensible Christian worldview before they go to college,” Summit President Jeff Myers explained. “Our speakers are leading Christian experts who base their presentations on theology as well as sociology, psychology and science. But the wording of AB2943 is a dog whistle to the left that intelligent Christians holding traditional views are fair game for discrimination, smears and frivolous lawsuits.”
Summit’s program would fall under the proposed law because its lineup includes defenders of traditional man/woman marriage and people who advocate pursuing only those sexual activities approved in the Bible. Myers said it has also been common during prior trainings for students to ask questions of Summit staff about how to address confusion over gender identity and sexual attraction in the context of their faith. By prohibiting such conversations, AB2943 would cripple Summit’s ability to care for and equip its students, Myers said.
“What are we going to say to a young person experiencing sexual confusion?” he asked. “That the state of California forbids us from allowing a biblical ethic embraced by billions of people for thousands of years to inform our answer?
“California state authorities are hijacking good-faith concerns about reparative therapy to deny constitutional protection to those who hold traditional views of sexuality and marriage,” Myers added. “We cannot and will not bend God’s truth to accommodate the state of California.
“This is the most blatant chilling of free speech in America in my lifetime.”
Summit will move ahead with its planned conferences this summer in Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. But the very real possibility that it could face costly legal action simply for endeavoring to steep students in biblically informed truth is an unfortunate bridge too far.
“We are grieved that it has come to this, but we simply cannot put our students, staff and faculty at risk,” Myers said. “We are still free to present our conferences in 49 states – and we are grateful for that. Now is the time for Californians to rise up and challenge their representatives to respect biblical values. To that end, we’re doing everything we can to mobilize our California alumni to exercise their power as citizens and work to prevent this bill from becoming law.
“And, of course, we continue to pray for our many friends and partner organizations in California, that they would see common-sense governance restored to their state.”