[BCN editor’s note: Co-author by Tim Graham]
California has a hallowed but questionable reputation as being the birthplace of the radical Free Speech Movement on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Today, they’re not just shutting down conservative speakers on the campus. The state’s Democrats may pass a law to shut down religious speech and create a statewide LGBT “safe space.”
There’s a new legislative proposal banning all conversion therapy as a fraudulent business practice — by not just mental health providers but anyone. Since the “independent fact-checkers” are quick to swarm around conservative “misinformation,” FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and Snopes have all cried “False” at the idea that this bill is a threat to the sale of the Bible.
They declared that a threat against Bible sales is nowhere in the text of California Assembly Bill 2943, offered by gay assembly member Evan Low. That is correct … on its face. It doesn’t mention the Bible.
However, the bill would amend the state Consumer Legal Remedies Act, adding the ability to sue for damages for “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.” Any efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation “in a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer are unlawful.” That’s more than therapy. It’s any kind of an argument.
Conservative and Christian lawyers see this proposal as dangerously broad. In National Review, David French called it a “dramatic infringement on First Amendment rights.” He was alarmed at the language that defines newly unlawful “sexual orientation change efforts” as including “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
We know whose expression this bill is designed to curtail. Leftist legislators were not subtle. One assembly member spouted that it is time for legislation to nudge the “faith community” to “evolve with the times.”
In rating the claim of a threat against Bible sales “Mostly False,” PolitiFact dismissively said: “If the law had any impact at all, it would be on those occasions when a Bible is sold in conjunction with a program to change someone’s sexual orientation … with millions of Bibles sold in California, the weight of evidence suggests the bill might only touch a fraction of them.”
So if a “fraction” of conservative Christians get sued for selling the Bible or similar books, will the “fact-checkers” apologize … after the bill gets signed and becomes law?
It’s risky for “fact-checkers” to make bold claims of True or False when people make predictions during policy debates. Their crystal ball evaluations seem largely designed to “correct” (read: intimidate) conservatives from making predictions about the future. What happens when predictions come true?
This one-sided “fact-checking” goes back to 1992, when liberal journalists suggested then-President George H.W. Bush was lying when he predicted that Bill Clinton would raise taxes. Clinton was elected, and the next year he signed the largest tax hike in American history.
“Fact-checkers” also threw flags when conservatives charged that insurance premiums were “skyrocketing” under Obamacare. PolitiFact decided that the 2013 “Lie of the Year” was then-President Obama’s proclamation that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” under Obamacare. But in 2009 and 2012, it rated the statement “Half True.” Oops.
Now imagine that instead of California allowing gay activists to sue for damages over any echo of conversion therapy, it allows consumers who lost their insurance plan under Obamacare to sue it for fraudulent fact-checking. It’s unlikely the fact-checkers would rush to defend it. They would see it as … “a dramatic infringement on First Amendment rights.”
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.