Q: Is California considering legislation that would ban the Bible?
A: No. Online stories making that claim have misrepresented a bill that would outlaw the advertising and selling of “sexual orientation change efforts.”
I saw on Facebook today a claim that the California legislature is trying to prohibit Bible sales. True or false?
California lawmakers have advanced a bill that would prohibit the advertising or selling of “sexual orientation change efforts” — or so-called “conversion therapies,” which many medical organizations oppose, including the American Psychiatric Association and the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization.
The bill, approved by the California State Assembly on April 19 and now before the Senate, would amend the existing Consumer Legal Remedies Act. It comes nearly six years after California became the first state to ban mental health providers from practicing conversion therapies on minors.
If enacted, the legislation would add sexual orientation change efforts to a list of business practices considered illegal when undertaken “in a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer.” Specifically, it would outlaw “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.”
Sexual orientation change efforts are defined in the bill as “practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
Some viral stories flagged as potentially false on Facebook argue that the proposal “would essentially ban the sale of books that include traditional Christian views on marriage and sexuality,” as the site westernjournal.com reported on April 19. Tens of thousands of users interacted with that story, which continued: “Shockingly, the proposed law could even be construed to make it illegal to sell Bibles, since they include verses that the far left finds unacceptable.”
A conservative radio show host went even further in an opinion column on the American Family Association website.
“The California Assembly has passed a new bill, Assembly Bill 2943, which will ban the sale of the Bible,” Bryan Fischer writes. “Yes, you read that exactly right. The sale of the Bible is about to be made illegal in the state of California.”
Those claims are indeed not supported by the language in the legislation. The bill’s architects — including Assemblyman Evan Low, who introduced the bill — also reject such claims.
A church or individual may still practice conversion therapy if they do so without charging for this fraudulent service. It does not ban bibles nor does it ban the basic sales of books as some would have you believe. #leadwithlove @eqca @HRC @TrevorProject https://t.co/cHCQTYhInl
— Evan Low (@Evan_Low) April 22, 2018
Responding to our inquiry to Low’s Assembly office, Anthony J. Samson told us that “the bill by its express terms is limited to the practice of conversion therapy as a commercial service in exchange for monetary compensation.” Samson is a registered state lobbyist in California and an attorney and policy adviser at a law firm. He said he provided Low with technical assistance on the bill.
Update, Dec. 6: California State Assemblyman Evan Low, who introduced the bill, announced in August that he would shelve the legislation and work on crafting a new measure. “Despite the support the bill received in the Assembly and Senate, I will not be sending AB 2943 to the Governor this year,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing to work towards creating a policy that best protects and celebrates the identities of LGBT Californians and a model for the nation to look towards.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
California State Assembly. “AB-2943 Unlawful business practices: sexual orientation change efforts.” (as passed by the State Assembly 19 Apr 2018.)
Eckholm, Erik. “California Is First State to Ban Gay ‘Cure’ for Minors.” The New York Times. 30 Sep 2012.
“Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies).” American Psychiatric Association. March 2000.
Samson, Anthony J. Senior attorney and policy advisor, Arnold & Porter. Emails sent to FactCheck.org. 23 Apr 2018.
“‘Therapies’ to change sexual orientation lack medical justification and threaten health.” Press release. Pan American Health Organization. 17 May 2012.