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Christian Ministry Cancels Conference for Fear of Conversion Ban

Conversion Therapy

Summit Ministries backed out of California events as the state ramps up its ban on conversion therapy. Meanwhile, Hawaii just passed its ban on the anti-LGBT practice. 

A Colorado-based Christian ministry that espouses conversion therapy has canceled its California conferences this June over a bill in that state's legislature that seeks to ban the harmful anti-LGBT practice, saying its Christian speakers would be "fair game for discrimination, smears, and frivolous lawsuits." But it looks as though Summit Ministries won't be holding any conferences in Hawaii either, as that state's lawmakers just passed a ban on conversion therapy for minors, the Associated Press reports.

"Our speakers are leading Christian experts who base their presentations on theology, as well as sociology, psychology, and science," Summit Ministries' President Jeff Myers said in a statement. "But the wording of [California's] AB 2943 is a dog whistle to the left that intelligent Christians holding traditional views are fair game for discrimination, smears, and frivolous lawsuits."

The California bill, which passed in the Assembly in April and is headed to the Senate, would also ban all advertising for services that purport to change a person's sexual identity, a move that Christian groups say will lead to the state banning the Bible and other Christian books, reports The Denver Post.

California already bars licensed mental health professionals from performing conversion therapy on anyone under 18, but the new bill, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, would ban the practice beyond its use on minors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill that just passed in Hawaii's legislature bars licensed mental health professionals from attempting to change the sexual identity of people under 18 and that anyone who attempts to do so will be "subject to disciplinary action by a professional licensing authority," the AP reports. Gov. David Ige is expected to sign it into law.

When introducing the California ban on conversion therapy, Low told the Assembly about his struggles with sexual identity and depression as a teen that led him to consider a method to change his orientation.

"It is harmful and it is unnecessary," Low said of the practice, adding that he finally concluded about being gay, "There's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing that needs to be changed."

Summit Ministries stated it feared it would be subjected to the parameters set by the new bill, even though it has yet to become law, because the scheduled speakers for the California conference are "people who advocate pursuing only those sexual activities approved in the Bible" and are often placed in positions of answering questions about sexuality from students.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist