PC Culture

California Progressives Launch (Another) Attack on Free Speech

Transgender activists protest near the White House in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Talk of political compromise is meaningless when one side seeks your silence.

On Sunday evening, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait published a piece asking why more disgruntled Republicans don’t punish their party by switching sides. Chait notes that the “strongest defense against the election of an extreme or unfit leader is for his more mainstream partners to defect en masse.” Yet with few exceptions, Never Trump Republicans — especially Never Trump social conservatives — were steadfastly Never Hillary and remain (as Chait calls it) “Never-Democrats.” Why?

I’d suggest the answer lies in the words “extreme” and “mainstream.” Chait’s premise implies that Republicans have gone extreme, yet more-sensible conservatives are strangely refusing to join a mainstream opposition. Yet that’s not how the world looks from the right side of the aisle. From there, it looks as if the Democratic party is responding to Trump by galloping away from the center, doubling down on the very policies and ideologies that led Evangelicals to vote en masse for Trump as a form of simple self-defense.

It’s interesting, for example, that Chait makes the argument just as the California State Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would actually — among other things — ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality.

Yes, ban the sale of books.

Assembly Bill 2943 would make it an “unlawful business practice” to engage in “a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer” that advertise, offer to engage in, or do engage in “sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.”

The bill then defines “sexual orientations change efforts” as “any 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.” (Emphasis added.)

This is extraordinarily radical. Christian orthodoxy is simple — regardless of a person’s desires (their “orientation”), the standard of right conduct is crystal clear. Sex is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. When it comes to “gender expression,” there is no difference between “sex” and “gender,” and the Christian response to gender dysphoria is compassion and treatment, not indulgence and surgical mutilation.

Put another way, there is a fundamental difference between temptation and sin. California law would intrude directly on this teaching by prohibiting even the argument that regardless of sexual desire, a person’s sexual behavior should conform to Biblical standards.

Christians find their identity in Christ, not in their gender and not in their sexual orientation. The state of California says no. Your gender and your orientation are your identity, and you should engage in actions that celebrate and ratify your alleged essence. The state is creating a new religion of sexual libertinism, declaring that religions opposing it aren’t just false but harmful, and then prohibiting contrary religious exercise.

No one doubts that Christian orthodoxy is contentious. No one doubts that its teachings on sexual morality are increasingly unpopular. But they remain constitutionally protected, and no state legislature should be permitted to ban a “good” (such as a book) or a “service” (like counseling) that makes these arguments and provides them to willing, consenting consumers. In fact, state law would lock in a sexual-revolution orthodoxy that all too often hurts the very people the state seeks to protect.

When disgruntled conservatives survey the national landscape, they see a president who’s engaged in appalling behavior, and a #resistance that is sprinting away from them as fast as it can.

To take just one example, large numbers of children who exhibit gender dysphoria eventually “desist.” Their dysphoria resolves itself as they grow older. Indeed, there is serious research indicating that this is the “most likely outcome” for a child with gender dysphoria. Under AB 2943, the very act of communicating this truthful and indeed hopeful message could very well lead to legal jeopardy. This is extraordinary.

Despite the obvious constitutional problems and despite its obvious intolerance for the Christian ethics of millions of its citizens, the bill is presently sailing through — passing two committee votes by 8–2 and 8–1 margins. It may come up for an Assembly vote as soon as this Thursday.

And of course California is no marginal state. It’s hailed as the center of opposition to Trump and called the “future of American politics.” It’s the progressive model, not the progressive fringe.

And that brings me back to Chait. When disgruntled conservatives survey the national landscape, they see a president who’s engaged in appalling behavior, and a #resistance that is sprinting away from them as fast as it can. Too many members of the #resistance aren’t willing to compromise sufficiently even to maintain the culture-war status quo. There should be more tax funding for abortion, less religious freedom, and less free speech, they say. Now, in the beating heart of progressive American, not even books are safe.

When Chait asked “Why aren’t more Never Trumpers willing to support the opposing party?” my answer, via Twitter, was simple: “Because all too many progressives hate social conservatives and won’t compromise one inch to bring any in the fold.” But it’s worse than a failure to compromise. When it comes to social conservatives, the radical Left’s fundamental goal is to defeat and dominate. How do you ally with a movement that demands your silence?

NOW WATCH: ‘Free Speech On Campus: Can It Be Saved?’

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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