At Risk: Children, Religious Freedom

Children cannot drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or get a tattoo until they are of a certain age. They don’t yet have the ability to assess the risks and consequences of potentially dangerous or permanent decisions. But many Arizona lawmakers believe children can make the life-altering decision to attempt to change their gender with puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries. Senator Warren Peterson sponsored SB 1138 in an effort to protect children from regret and the harmful and irreversible effects of such treatment. But the Senate Health and Human Services Committee failed with a 4-4 vote to pass the bill Wednesday, which would have prohibited puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender surgeries for minors. Senator Tyler Pace cast the bill killing vote, allowing the experimental practice to continue in Arizona.

Families and individuals on both sides of the issue jammed the hearing room, one by one, telling their stories of pain and confusion. For many, living as if they were the opposite sex was the only answer they could fathom. It was also the only answer offered by medical authorities. But it requires ignoring science and biological reality with long-term consequences. Clifton Burleigh urged the committee to protect children from themselves, citing his own childhood trauma that led to seven years of living as a woman and ended with irreversible physical damage. He said, “The therapists and medical researchers were wrong. Changing my body did not resolve my internal conflict and it did not make me happy… even at 30 I made a horrible decision.”

Pediatric Endocrinologist, Dr. Paul Hruz testified extensively about the lack of evidence showing any real benefit for children who receive this type of treatment. In fact, more than 80% of children who struggle with their biological gender go on to embrace it during puberty and beyond. But those who are given puberty blockers go on to further attempt to transition. Dr. Hruz specifically addressed the often-repeated, inaccurate claim that without affirmation, children will commit suicide, “Contrary to the purported benefit in preventing suicide, the largest long-term study to date found completed suicide rates that were 19-fold above the background population decades AFTER medical transition.”

More of the same

Activists have set their sights on Arizonans, stepping up efforts to advance transgender ideology at the Capitol. Beyond starting children off on hormones, lawmakers and leftist activists filed a bill that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in state law. That means artistic businessmen and women would be forced to create messages that violate their deeply held beliefs. It also would violate the privacy and safety of girls and women, by forcing them to share locker rooms, restrooms and other private spaces with biological males.

HB 2802, sponsored by Rep. Amish Shah (Democrat) and House Speaker Rusty Bowers (Republican) also bans talk therapy for families seeking help for their children with their gender or unwanted same sex attraction. So, transgender activists want children to get hormones and surgeries with irreversible consequences, but they don’t want those children or someone struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to have access to a therapist with which they can talk it through.

It’s a coercive bill that conflates disagreement with discrimination, leaving no room for differing opinions on human sexuality. The deceitful effort cloaked in compromising language carves out weak exemptions for a select few. In reality, it is a direct attack on religious freedom and free speech.

There is good news!

1. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed HB 2449. Lawmakers last year passed Representative Quang Nguyen’s bill to allow clergy visitation in hospitals during a public emergency. This bill would extend that right to hospice and other care facilities. Representative Walt Blackman said, “In combat, my worst fear was dying in a field hospital without family in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s appropriate that people in their last moments and their families be able to say those goodbyes. It’s important because that may be the last time they see that person. I would hope that all 60 members on the house floor take away the politics of this and vote yes as I am voting yes today.”

All ten members of the committee voted in favor of the bill.

2. The House Judiciary Committee also passed HB 2507, which would make churches and other houses of worship essential services, ensuring they are not treated any differently than other essential services during a public emergency like the pandemic. You may remember several examples of casinos and liquor stores open for business during the COVID lockdown, but many churches were forced to close. Representative Ben Toma sponsored a similar bill last year that came up short, so he brought it back this year. It passed out of committee with a vote of 6-4.

3. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed another religious freedom bill, SB 1399, which protects the interest of children and the religious freedoms of faith-based adoption and foster placement agencies by prohibiting discrimination by state government. States and cities have given in to pressure to exclude individuals, companies, and organizations that hold a historical or religious view of human sexuality. This unconstitutional mandate forces religious organizations to either violate their religious convictions or stop providing adoption and foster care services. By prohibiting this discrimination, the bill preserves religious freedom, and it maximizes services aimed at finding forever homes for children in need. The bill passed out of committee with a vote of 5-3.


  • Read here how “Transgender ideology has already achieved a powerful hold on our court system.”
  • Read here how “CA schools can change students’ gender categories without parent consent.”
  • Read here about what is wrong with the “Fairness for All” effort that local activists and legislators based their legislation on in the Arizona House. And read here on the problems with the therapy ban portion of the bill.

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