This law means that convictional Christians in New Jersey may no longer participate in these professions without compromising their faith. It also means that children with unwanted same-sex attraction will have no help from licensed counselors. Christians and other people of faith in New Jersey have just had their marginalization ensconced in law.
Governor Chris Christie has just made New Jersey the second state to prohibit licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation of gay minors. Like recent legislation in California, the New Jersey law is a disaster at a number of levels.
This bill not only prohibits “reparative therapy.” It prohibits any and all attempts by licensed counselors to change a child’s sexual orientation. And there’s more. The bill not only prohibits any and all efforts to change sexual orientation. It also prohibits any and all attempts to change sexual behavior in gay minors!
So if a child has unwanted same-sex attractions and is beginning to act out on those unwanted attractions, the state of New Jersey prohibits licensed counselors from helping him. He has no recourse now but to find someone with no state credentials. How is this law not an infringement upon the religious liberty and conscience rights of this child? Not to mention those of his parents?
Any attempt to change a child’s “gender expression” is also prohibited under this law. That means that if a parent has a young boy who likes to put on dresses and wear make-up, New Jersey law prohibits licensed counselors from helping that boy. Counselors must approve and support whatever gender that child chooses regardless of the child’s sex.
The law also means that licensed service providers who also happen to be Christian will have to choose. They can either abandon Christian teaching or they can abandon their profession. The law now prohibits them from doing both. You just watch. Any counselor or therapist who tries to buck the system on this one will lose their credentials from the state. There will be no religious liberty exception.
Bottom line? This law means that convictional Christians in New Jersey may no longer participate in these professions without compromising their faith. It also means that children with unwanted same-sex attraction will have no help from licensed counselors. Christians and other people of faith in New Jersey have just had their marginalization ensconced in law.
In a note accompanying the bill, Governor Christie says that people are born gay and that homosexuality is therefore not a sin. In a signing statement, he links “gay conversion” therapies to a litany of negative outcomes and concludes that public health concern overrides parental rights and any other objections that might be raised against this law. He draws a straight line from his moral position (that homosexuality is not a sin) to the measures enacted in this law. I wonder if those who object to legislating morality will object to this particular piece of legislated morality.
I am sure I will have much more to say about this at a later time. But let me finish my initial thoughts with this. By signing this bill, Governor Christie has just issued a broadside against religious liberty and parental rights in this country. This is not coming from a Democrat, but from a Republican—one that many people hope might be the next president of the United States. This is but one more indication that the revolution is upon us, and there doesn’t seem to be any viable candidate from either party willing to push back against it.
Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar. He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and culture. This article is used with his permission.