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An urgent threat to churches and parents

Will a town in America’s heartland criminalize Biblical truth?

Pastor Steve Viars of Faith Church in Lafayette and West Lafayette, Ind. Facebook/Faith Church of Lafayette Indiana

An urgent threat to churches and parents

Right now, even as you read this column, religious liberty is threatened in the heartland of America. For the last 45 years, Faith Church in Lafayette and West Lafayette, Ind., has offered a ministry of Biblical counseling. The church has made a costly and sacrificial commitment to ministering to people based on the Word of God. But, as WORLD’s Steve West reports, “that outreach is now threatened by a city council proposal that would penalize anyone who talks with minors to help them overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.”

The proposed ordinance is presented as a ban on “conversion therapy,” but the church categorically rejects that method as unbiblical. In reality, these so-called bans are being used as muzzles to silence evangelical churches and ministries that have never had anything to do with conversion therapy. The aim is to coerce churches into forfeiting any counsel that would imply or teach that there is anything sinful about LGBTQ behaviors, impulses, feelings, and identities. In this case, the proposal before the West Lafayette City Council would, if enacted into law, threaten the ability of churches to preach the Bible and would even threaten the right of Christian parents to counsel their own children.

This is Indiana, for crying out loud. We have seen similar legislation adopted in Canada and now considered in the United Kingdom. Across America, similar initiatives have been undertaken at both the state and local levels. But this is in the heartland of America, where many Christians believe themselves to be safe and their churches to be free.

Pastor Steve Viars of Faith Church put the matter this way: “Imagine a scenario where an area teenager voluntarily visits a self-identified faith-based counselor, but because the counselor used the Bible as their source of truth, the local police department imposed a fine of $1,000 per day.” That scenario is precisely what this proposed ordinance would produce. Pastor Viars continued, “Sound like a poorly written plotline from a dystopian flick? Actually, that could be our new reality, courtesy of the West Lafayette City Council and their proposed Ordinance 31-21.”

A look at the text of the proposed ordinance reveals that the pastor is speaking the truth. He is not exaggerating. Note that this ordinance is not addressed simply to licensed professional counselors. Instead, it is addressed to anyone who counsels, and counseling is defined as “techniques used to help individuals learn how to solve problems and make decisions related to personal growth, vocational, family, and other interpersonal concerns.” That would include the very conversations that are the life and work of the local church, and the daily life of parents.

The real issue is the determination of the moral revolutionaries—in their own words—to change the culture.

The proposed ordinance represents a direct attack upon the right of churches in West Lafayette to preach the gospel and conduct a gospel ministry based upon Biblical authority. It directly assaults the rights of Christian parents. It threatens to criminalize any effort to instruct, persuade, and encourage young people to honor Christ and obey Holy Scripture—at least when it comes to their struggles with sexuality.

The threat to American churches and Christian parents is clear. This is nothing less than an attempt to coerce our churches into total capitulation to the moral revolutionaries and the LGBTQ movement. It is bracing enough to realize that the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the so-called “Equality Act” that would subvert religious liberty and push the demands of the LGBTQ community to the forefront. In this case, we are looking at an attempt to silence Christian witness in a city in Indiana.

Councilwoman Shannon Kang, as reported by WFYI, a public radio station in Indianapolis, stated that “as a queer person herself,” she wanted the council to approve the ordinance. She added, “Ordinances and resolutions like this are intended to change the culture.”

You bet they are. This proposed ordinance attempts to change the culture by silencing the church and its ministries, by intimidating Christian parents, and by sending the public a signal that holding to the Biblical convictions of historic Christianity is not only “on the wrong side of history,” but also on the wrong side of the law.

Sensing opposition to the ordinance, the city council has twice postponed public consideration of the measure. But proponents are determined, and they are confident that momentum is on their side. Some advocates of the ordinance claim that their intention is not to silence the church but to ban certain therapeutic techniques. If that were true, they would have written the ordinance differently. As it stands, it is a direct threat to the integrity and liberty of Christian ministry.

The real issue here is not opposition to a specific and discredited form of therapy, which is incompatible with Biblical counseling in the first place. The real issue is the determination of the moral revolutionaries—in their own words—to change the culture.

If they can get away with this in West Lafayette, Ind., they can get away with it anywhere.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.

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