It seems absurd to suggest that the United States is witnessing the tempered unfolding of the criminalization of Christianity. After all, the vast majority of the American population claims affiliation with the Christian tradition – just over 70% in the most recent Pew Research study.
But while I still regard the threats of religious interrogations and incarcerations overly exaggerative and hyperbolic, it’s anti-intellectual to pretend current legislative action occurring in numerous states and municipalities does not represent a direct threat to the legal expression of traditional, orthodox Christian thought. Specifically, thinking and acting according to Christian sexual ethics is becoming illegal – the criminalization of Christianity.
The most flagrant example of this reality occurred just days ago in Maryland where a Republican governor, Larry Hogan, signed into law a hastily written, poorly defined, dangerously broad ban on licensed counselors providing minors with therapy designed to resolve confusion over gender or with coping strategies for managing unwanted same-sex attraction.
In other words, it is now the official position Maryland’s government that counseling for a young child struggling with discontent in his own body can only be legal if it affirms and facilitates the discontent. Trying to help that tortured soul find comfort in the body God gave him is now regarded as immoral and illegal, while encouraging a medically dangerous, and scientifically untenable “transition” into being a girl is applauded and recommended.
Starting in October, it will be illegal to perform on a minor “any effort to change the behavioral expression of an individual’s sexual orientation, change gender expression, or eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.” Violators will be deemed to have “engaged in unprofessional conduct” and risk a suspension or revocation of their health or child care licenses.
The ban applies to all minors regardless of whether they or their parents desire or consent to the treatment.
The effect this will have on Christian professionals should be self-evident. A therapist or counselor who is a Christian will now have to violate specific tenets of their faith, willfully participating in furthering an ideological cause that mocks God and His natural order, in order to be in compliance with the law. Failing to do so will result in the loss of their livelihood and career. That’s hardly being burned at the stake or stoned for their faith, but it is legal persecution nonetheless. And it is based entirely on an individual’s allegiance to a key principle of Christian doctrine.
Further, in deference to the chic “fierce urgency of now,” Maryland lawmakers have written such an imprecise piece of legislation that a counselor could lose his or her license for nothing more than engaging in a simple conversation about a person’s unwanted same-sex attraction or by bringing up meaningful reservations about rushing into sex-change regiments.
And keep in mind what is most galling about this legislation is that it is not just a ban on coercive counseling, where a minor is forced to attend despite their objections. This law bans a Christian offering help to a young person who comes asking for it.
While Maryland is far from alone – ten other states and D.C. have already passed similar legislation – the timing of their new law peculiarly coincides with the recent Freedom March that featured the moving testimony of Pulse Nightclub terror survivor Luis Ruiz and Jeffrey McCall – men who have chosen to walk away from the homosexual and transgender life, respectively.
They have done so not because all their urges have left or their temptations have ceased. They have done so because they want to live in obedience to the will of Christ rather than as slaves to their own desires.
An increasing number of backwards governments in the United States are doing all they can to make that path more difficult for those who chose it, particularly children. Given what Jesus said about millstones and those who cause little ones to stumble, may God have mercy on them.