A former top official with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has testified in favor of legislation that blames stigma from religious groups for a high rate of suicide among persons who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ).
Dr. Kevin Mannoia testified before a California State Assembly judiciary committee on Concurrent Resolution 99 (ACR 99) which seeks to curtail “Practices or therapies that attempt to create a change in a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”.
“On behalf of some Christian pastors and church leaders, I write to express various levels of support for the Resolution ACR 99 dealing with Conversion Therapy and LGBTQ persons,” Mannoia wrote in a letter of support.
Mannoia, who currently serves as Azusa Pacific University chaplain, was vague in his letter to Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), writing of “deep desire to collaborate with others in the common good and on behalf of the dignity of every person.”
“Frankly, one of the underlying interests that I have is to change the tone of the conversation,” Mannoia testified. “I come from a tradition that is a conservative tradition in the church, and I appreciate [Assemblyman Low’s] willingness to remain in dialogue.”
The language of the legislation is more direct, asserting that “The stigma associated with being LGBTQ often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals.”
The resolution calls upon religious leaders “to counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy.”
“We call on the people of California–especially its counselors, pastors, religious workers, educators, and legislators–and the institutions of California with great moral influence–especially its churches, universities, colleges, and other schools, counseling centers, activist groups, and religious centers–to model equitable treatment of all people of the state,” the resolution reads.
The California Family Council noted that after the hearing, “Low wasted no time touting Mannoia’s testimony as a gesture of full support for ACR 99 on social media.”
Alongside a shot of Low and Mannoia together on a state Capitol balcony, the Assemblyman tweeted, “@Kmannoia, Former President of the National Association of Evangelicals & Chaplain at @azusapacific, speaks in support of #ACR99, to reaffirm our values of love and dignity while also acknowledging the harmful practice of #ConversionTherapy.”
In 2018 Low introduced AB 2943, a bill that would have censored counselors providing therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or gender confusion. According to Liberty Counsel, the bill “also tried to ban sales of printed materials and books expressing the viewpoint that unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion can be reduced or eliminated.” Low withdrew the bill on the last day of the legislative session.
It is unclear what, if any, concessions Mannoia may have gained from Low by offering testimony that favored the new resolution’s passage and optics that signaled evangelical endorsement. Mannoia was NAE President from 1999 to 2001, and also served as a bishop in the Free Methodist Church.
The bill passed committee 6-2 with one member not voting and was subsequently passed by the Assembly on June 24. It awaits legislative action by the California State Senate.
The entirety of Mannoia’s testimony can be viewed on Facebook video by clicking here.