California’s Latest Can Of Worms


Here in California the state assembly has recently passed AB2943, a bill that, should it pass the senate and be signed into law, will likely spark any number of law suits, which could end up in the Supreme Court.

Maybe that’s the best we California citizens can hope for.

The bill is designed to label as fraud, “conversion therapy” techniques, but the language is broad, meaning that it would not apply simply to licensed therapists: “This bill intends to make clear that sexual orientation change efforts are an unlawful practice under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.” (as quoted by The Federalist)

Because this bill is couched in terms regarding fraud, the key issue is the exchange of money:

These “sexual orientation change efforts” must occur in the context of a “transaction intended to result, or which results, in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer.” (Ibid.)

Books are “goods” and pastors make money. So do Christian schools and universities. Bibles are books as well. But there’s more:

According to the bill, it includes also “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.” Thus, any sale of a book that makes statements that homosexual practice or transgender identification are immoral actions that people ought not to commit falls easily under the purview of AB 2943. (Ibid.)

And the bill goes further. It declares illegal the advertise of these “fraudulent” activities:

Also prohibited by this bill is “advertising, offering for sale, or selling a financial product that is illegal.” Merely advertising (e.g., on one’s Facebook page or some other Internet site) or offering for sale (e.g., on a table at a conference, regardless of whether copies are sold) “a financial product” that advocates a change of attractions, behavior, or gender expression (Ibid.)

With such broad language, I don’t see how someone isn’t going to sue someone or accuse someone of breaking this law (should the senate pass it and the governor sign it). But undoubtedly any attempt to do so will be challenged as unconstitutional because of the First Amendment protections of both free speech and freedom of religion.

I really never thought I would see these freedoms come under fire in such a blatant way in America. I suppose the Senate might still reject the bill, but in our liberal dominated state, the assembly passed it by a vote of 50-18.

Of course the early cry for the bill supporters is that opponents are exaggerating the effects the bill would have, should it become law. Factcheck has declared that the Bible is not in danger of being banned, should the bill pass. But a publication such as the National Review concludes otherwise: “Yes, California Is on the Verge of Banning Some Christian Books, Here’s How.”

Because of this bill one group from Colorado that apparently holds annual conventions in California, has canceled those events. The idea is that they have speakers who believe in marriage between one man and one woman, and they don’t want to come to California and get sued.

“Our speakers are leading Christian experts who base their presentations on theology, as well as sociology, psychology and science,” Summit President Jeff Myers said in a statement. “But the wording of AB 2943 is a dog whistle to the left that intelligent Christians holding traditional views are fair game for discrimination, smears and frivolous lawsuits.” (as quoted by the Denver Post, “Conservative Colorado ministry cancels California conventions over state bill that would ban gay conversion therapy“)

The sad thing is that in the midst of the wrangling that is sure to take place, should the bill pass, people are forgotten. And that means primarily people in the LGBT community, people who are struggling with their sexual identity and want help, and parents with confused children who don’t know who to go to with their questions.

Maybe the most powerful statements in opposition to this bill came from the two individuals in this video, who once were gay, but became Christians and Christ gave them new life. I recommend watching the first 7:30, because in truth, this is an American issue, not a California alone issue. I just listened to one pastor from Canada that says they have laws similar to the one proposed here, and he is ready to face the persecution because he plans to continue to proclaim the truth: he agrees with the Bible that homosexuality is sin, and in so doing he is not entering into any kind of hate speech. The reality, as the video below makes clear, is that declaring the truth is a way to show love. I’d only add that truth and love must be intricately woven together.

Published in: on May 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm  Comments (8)  
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Offensive Words And Offensive Actions


When the United States formed its constitution, the framers added a Bill of Rights. First on the list was freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and petition:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Throughout history some definition of these freedoms was needed. For example, in the 1960s and 70s the courts determined that burning draft cards was “free speech.” Since then other illegal activity designed to protest this or that has been deemed “free speech.”

On the flip side, more recently laws have come about to prohibit “hate speech,” which supporters want to say isn’t protected as free speech. Here’s one definition:

“Hate speech is a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women” (US Legal).

This idea that what a person says can be labeled as hate speech because it is “offensive” is a little troublesome. Might not atheists find statements by Christians that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, offensive? Might not homosexuals find it offensive if a Christian says homosexuality is sinful behavior?

Already we have seen pro-abortion advocates take offense at the term “baby killers.” I admit, I bristle at that term too. But apparently being called a baby killer is more offensive than killing one’s unborn baby. The courts have said a woman has a right to kill her baby, but society says we do not have a right to say she’s a baby killer.

Please understand, I am not suggesting pro-life advocates shout “baby killer” at pregnant women walking into an abortion clinic. It may be true, but it doesn’t seem grace-filled or loving, and I believe the Bible is clear that Christians should speak in a way that marks us as different from the rest of society.

That being said, I’m concerned that “offensive words” are trumping offensive actions. Today when a Christian says homosexuality is sinful behavior, it’s almost a certainty that someone will accuse him of homophobia. The declaration that the act is sinful is offensive whereas the act itself is condoned, if not approved.

What does that mean for the free speech of Christians who still believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong? Will there come a day when our religious liberty is curtailed because the statement of our beliefs is viewed as hateful? After all, when we say Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him, isn’t that exclusive? And isn’t an exclusive attitude hateful? Well, no, not when everyone is invited to the party and those who don’t come exclude themselves, but I suspect that is a point which will be lost over time.

The other side of the coin, of course is the part about offensive actions. How offended should a Christian be at abortion or homosexuality, pedophilia, sex trafficking, drug addiction, divorce, gossip, lying, bestiality, greed, or bribery?

On one hand, I want to say, not offended at all. Sinners, after all, will act sinfully. Why should that offend me? On the other hand, if I love my neighbor as myself, I should care that others are wallowing in heinous lifestyles. I don’t believe sinful behavior is the best for anyone. I also believe there is forgiveness for all who repent and accept the payment Jesus made for our sin. Nothing is so egregious that He can’t cancel the certificate of debt, nailing it to the cross.

As I write this, and struggle to figure out all the aspects of these issues, I realize that I am responsible first and foremost to God. Should I not stand up for His truth for as long as I am able?

But what is that truth? As much as I want to see the unborn protected, the pro-life message isn’t the gospel. The overarching truth is that God loves the world and pursues sinners with the intention to bring them into relationship with Himself. He loves the unborn baby and He loves the woman about to abort her. He loves the doctor and the technicians performing the abortion. God wants them all to turn from their wicked ways and find redemption in Him.

So how do we start? By repealing Roe v Wade? By pointing out the inconsistencies of belief in abortion with other closely held principles? By evangelizing those who don’t know Jesus? By advocating for a discussion about abortion in the mainstream media? Yes to all of it and more because it’s all free speech and an extension of freedom of religion.

But the true exercise of religion for the Christian means, in simplified form, loving God and loving our neighbor.

Sometimes love involves a warning—the Old Testament prophets are filled with warnings to the people they were addressing. Stop this behavior or that will happen. That’s loving. And I’m pretty sure, the warnings are not offensive to God, but the evil behavior is.

This post is a revised version of one that appeared here in May 2013.

Free Speech Dumped, So Bring On The Light


FedEx_Trucks_AlaskaThe NBA commissioner has ruled. Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, will be fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from NBA basketball. What’s more, the other team owners are being encouraged to vote him out as the owner of the Clippers. Apparently, they have the power to do so according to their constitution.

Never mind that Sterling made his racist comments in a private conversation without the knowledge that he was being taped. The commissioner responded to that fact by saying, The remarks are public now and they express what he thinks.

So there you have it. If someone says something offensive in private, he can be punished.

I cry over this. I hate that an eighty-year-old real estate mogul and sports team owner has horrible, racist attitudes. How many people has he hurt over the years with his money and power and influence? Even one is too many.

I also hate that this case of racism in high profile places sets a precedent for punishing speech because it is offensive to society. Truly, most people may not realize it, but free speech died today.

It’s horrible, I think, that something so clearly wrong—racist comments—should be at issue. But agreeing with or hating what Sterling said is not the issue. Free speech says the person holding a minority view has the right to voice his opinion. But apparently not any more.

I also hate the fact that this high profile case involving racist language has taken front stage. People died in a string of tornadoes in the Midwest and multiple people have lost their homes. A young man walked into an Atlanta area FedEx and started shooting, eventually killing himself. This just days after a boy in England stabbed his teacher to death.

Ukraine is facing the possibility of civil war, the Middle East peace deadline expired, an explosion in Syria killed dozens, gunmen stormed the Libyan parliament, over a hundred people have died in Saudi Arabi of the Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, and the Yemen army initiated an offensive against al-Qaeda.

All I can think is, how dark is the world, how much people need the light.

The light is not a list of moral imperatives. It’s not a return to the values of our Constitution. It’s not even a love-your-neighbor campaign.

The Light is the Light of the world. And Christians have been called into that light, called to proclaim that light

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)

Believers have been called out of darkness, but even more, we’ve been rescued from it:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14)

Every person we know is either in the domain of darkness or the kingdom of light. There is no neutral territory. Everyone in the domain of darkness needs to be rescued. Granted, it is God who does the rescuing, but remarkably He earmarks those of us in His kingdom to be a part of the process. Here are ways God uses believers.

  • We can all pray—that God will send more workers into the harvest, for one. But also that He would open the spiritually blind eyes of those who do not know Him.
  • We can live life in a countercultural way that pleases Jesus.
  • We can be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a defense of the hope that is in us.
  • We can go into the world and make disciples, starting next door, down the block, across the street.
  • We can support those who take up the mantle of missionary and move to the inner city or to a country in the 10/40 window or wherever God calls.

Above all, it’s time for Christians to step up, not to hunker down. It’s tempting to duck when battle rages around us. And make no mistake—we are in a battle:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)

But we are equipped, and we have our marching orders:

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)

Yes, free speech has been dumped today, but more’s at stake—the eternal destiny of . . . well, everyone we know. So while it’s yet day, we’d best be about our real business.

Racism And Free Speech


ClipersDonald T. Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has allegedly been taped during a conversation with his mistress in which he made numerous racist statements. At issue, apparently was his mistress posting pictures with various African-Americans as well as her attending Clippers games in the company of African-Americans. According to a tape played on TV’s TMZ program, Sterling wanted her to take the pictures down and not to come to games with African-Americans.

According to the US Constitution, Sterling has a right to say he doesn’t want his mistress to post pictures of African-Americans or to attend games in their company. But in the aftermath of this TMZ reveal, sportscasters and players and any number of people have called for sanctions from the NBA for his comments and, more drastically, for him to be denied the right to own an NBA franchise.

I thought the whole “free speech” right protected people from just such reprisal.

Mind you, I have no way of knowing if Donald Sterling harbors hatred for a race of people. He is of Jewish ethnicity, as I understand, which doesn’t mean he is or is not opposed to others because of their race. But supposing he were, does the majority of society, which agrees that racism is wrong, therefore have the right to punish him for stating his views, to the point of wresting his property from him?

This is a serious issue. It’s easy to make Donald Sterling a target, especially if you live in the LA area as I do. He’s sabotaged his own sports team any number of times by his questionable decisions and his unwillingness to pay the going salary for top level players. To learn that he has a mistress, that he said inappropriate, racial things to her, and that these things were taped, doesn’t seem surprising. Rather, it’s Donald Sterling being Donald Sterling—someone who goes his own way without regard to others, who is greedy, offensive, selfish, and mean spirited.

So, is society allowed to withhold the rights of greedy, offensive, selfish, mean-spirited people? Is it OK to revoke his First Amendment rights because he’s a jerk with racist views?

We might wish so.

But here’s why it’s not a good idea to get on that bandwagon. There is no telling who society will next label as offensive, mean-spirited, and selfish.

I have no doubt, for example, that there are feminists who would find my views about women and about abortion to be offensive and perhaps sexist, though they’d have a harder time pinning that label on me as a woman than they would on men who might hold the same opinions.

In the same way, a growing number of people would find my views about homosexuality offensive because I still consider same sex activity to be sin. In fact, my views about the sin nature of humankind also are offensive to some people, and they are in contradiction to the general trend of society.

So how are we to view free speech? Are people only free to say what they want without reprisal as long as we agree with them? Or as long as they aren’t rich or in highly visible occupations?

I added that last phrase because of the Westboro Baptist people who waved horrible signs at the funerals of any number of servicemen. I don’t know what kinds of efforts people made to stop them, though I know there were some. However, I don’t recall anyone suggesting they receive a monetary fine from the Baptist denomination or that their church be taken away from them.

Lots of people would like to see the Westboro Baptist protesters and the Donald Sterlings of this world punished. We’d like them to shut up and sit down. We’d like them to stop holding offensive views, wrong beliefs.

Except, I’m offended by Sterling having a mistress. I think he’s a sinner who ought to be criticized in the press for his promiscuity as much as for his racism. If he were a politician who was maintaining a mistress on the side, I’m pretty sure his immorality would become a bigger issue—at least if the racist question wasn’t also part of the conversation.

My point is, different things are offensive to different people. But when it comes to speech, it is not OK to silence someone or punish them just because we think they’re wrong.

It’s uncomfortable to speak out against reprisals aimed at Donald Sterling, but I kind of think it’s necessary. Otherwise, tomorrow those reprisals might be targeting Christians who believe gay marriage is no marriage or abortions are wrong.

Free speech allows us to be a people of law, not of popular opinion. It protects us from the lynch-mob mentality we worked so hard to overcome in the days when the government sanctioned racist hatred.

So now, we’re going to bring back the idea of reprisals against those we deem to be prejudice? Today we’re clamoring for Sterling’s head because of his racist views, but tomorrow the “prejudice” could be against sexist men or homophobe Christians or people wearing red.

Seriously. In certain parts of the city, wearing the wrong gang colors requires reprisal.

At some point, we citizens need to decide what our values are. Here in the US we talk a good game when it comes to freedom, but then a Donald Sterling tape surfaces, and suddenly “free speech” comes with the right to institute sanctions against “that kind of talk”—the kind that ought not to be allowed in the NBA or anywhere else, so the outraged say.

Well, yes, I wish people didn’t think less of others. I wish people didn’t judge others by the color of their skin. I wish people didn’t malign those with whom they disagree. But if they choose to do so, I get to say they are wrong, but I don’t get to hurt them or take their property or put them in jail or fine them.

It’s the downside of free speech, that people like Donald Sterling get to say offensive things. It’s the upside that the rest of us get to say how wrong he is without worrying that he’ll prevent those who wish to watch the Clippers from doing so.

Offensive Words And Offensive Actions


Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_ACWhen the United States formed its constitution, the framers added a Bill of Rights. First on the list was freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and petition:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Throughout history some definition of these freedoms was needed. For example, in the 1960s and 70s the courts determined that burning draft cards was “free speech.” Since then other illegal activity designed to protest this or that has been deemed “free speech.”

On the flip side, more recently laws have come about to prohibit “hate speech,” which supporters want to say isn’t protected as free speech. Here’s one definition:

“Hate speech is a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women” (US Legal).

This idea that what a person says can be labeled as hate speech because it is “offensive” is a little troublesome. Might not atheists find statements by Christians that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, offensive? Might not homosexuals find it offensive if a Christian says homosexuality is sinful behavior?

Already we have seen pro-abortion advocates take offense at the term “baby killers.” I admit, I bristle at that term too. But apparently being called a baby killer is more offensive than killing one’s unborn baby. The courts have said a woman has a right to kill her baby, but society says we do not have a right to say she’s a baby killer.

Please understand, I am not suggesting pro-life advocates shout “baby killer” at pregnant women walking into an abortion clinic. It may be true, but it doesn’t seem grace-filled or loving, and I believe the Bible is clear that Christians should speak in a way that marks us as different from the rest of society.

That being said, I’m concerned that “offensive words” are trumping offensive actions. Today when a Christian says homosexuality is sinful behavior, it’s almost a certainty that someone will accuse him of homophobia. The declaration that the act is sinful is offensive whereas the act itself is condoned, if not approved.

What does that mean for the free speech of Christians who still believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong? Will there come a day when our religious liberty is curtailed because the statement of our beliefs is viewed as hateful? After all, when we say Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him, isn’t that exclusive? And isn’t an exclusive attitude hateful? Well, no, not when everyone is invited to the party and those who don’t come exclude themselves, but I suspect that is a point which will be lost over time.

The other side of the coin, of course is the part about offensive actions. How offended should a Christian be at abortion or homosexuality, pedophilia, sex trafficking, drug addiction, divorce, gossip, lying, bestiality, greed, or bribery?

On one hand, I want to say, not offended at all. Sinners, after all, will act sinfully. Why should that offend me? On the other hand, if I love my neighbor as myself, I should care that others are wallowing in heinous lifestyles. I don’t believe sinful behavior is the best for anyone. I also believe there is forgiveness for all who repent and accept the payment Jesus made for our sin. Nothing is so egregious that He can’t cancel the certificate of debt, nailing it to the cross.

As I write this, and struggle to figure out all the aspects of these issues, I realize that I am responsible first and foremost to God. Should I not stand up for His truth for as long as I am able?

But what is that truth? As much as I want to see the unborn protected, the pro-life message isn’t the gospel. The overarching truth is that God loves the world and pursues sinners with the intention to bring them into relationship with Himself. He loves the unborn baby and He loves the woman about to abort her. He loves the doctor and the technicians performing the abortion. God wants them all to turn from their wicked ways and find redemption in Him.

So how do we start? By repealing Roe v Wade? By convicting Kermit Gosnell? By pointing out the inconsistencies of abortion positions to other closely held principles? By evangelizing those who don’t know Jesus? By advocating for a discussion about abortion in the mainstream media? Yes to all of it and more because it’s all free speech and an extension of freedom of religion.

But the true exercise of religion for the Christian means, in simplified form, loving God and loving our neighbor. Sometimes love involves a warning–the prophets are filled with warnings to the people they were addressing. Stop this behavior or that will happen. That’s loving. And I’m pretty sure, the warnings are not offensive to God, but the evil behavior is.

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