The Ohio lawmaker sponsoring a bill to prohibit transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming treatments once gave a sermon defending conversion therapy and linking LGBTQ identity to Satan and Nazism by claiming it undermines traditional family structures.
State Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery) gave the sermon, recorded and subsequently posted to YouTube, four years ago at the Fremont Baptist Temple, where Click is a pastor.
While Click has denied that his bill, which he touts as a measure to “protect children,” is motivated by his personal religious beliefs or anti-LGBTQ animus, his words from the sermon appear to undercut that claim, according to the Ohio Capital Journal.
Throughout the sermon, Click asserts that God has a specific plan for the family, involving two parents of opposite sexes raising children together in a committed marriage, and that homosexuality and transgender identity, as well as single-parent households, run afoul of God’s plans for humankind.
He says that Satan works to tempt individuals to stray from that plan, and that the breakdown of the two-parent nuclear family subsequently leads to the “crumbling” of society.
“You’re not born that way,” Click says of transgender people suffering from gender dysphoria. “God’s not going to curse you in the wrong body. He’s not going to curse you with desires that cannot be adequately and appropriately and biologically fulfilled correctly.”
At one point in the sermon, Click condemns a California bill seeking to bar sexual orientation change efforts by prosecuting so-called “conversion therapy” as a form of consumer fraud, calling the measure “an assault on the First Amendment.”
He also describes conversion therapy as providing counseling to “someone who struggles with those same-sex attractions, or struggles with their gender identity” by showing them “what the Bible says” and how to be “at one with the body God gave them.”
Click then appears to admit to helping with conversion therapy. “I’ve helped people overcome that before,” he says.
Conversion therapy has been condemned by most mainstream medical and mental health organizations, as well as human rights groups, as it treats patients as intrinsically disordered and promises to alter of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Some proponents and former patients who underwent conversion therapy admit that they continue to experience feelings of same-sex attraction. However, they credit the therapy for teaching them how to sublimate their desires or alter their behavior rather than literally “changing” their orientation.
Towards the end of the sermon, Click discusses a trip he took to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
While displaying a picture of himself standing next to a wall featuring the famous poem “First they came,” which talks of the various groups targeted by officials in Nazi Germany, he compares the Nazi atrocities against different groups to what he sees as an attempt to undermine the religious values he claims create strong societies.
“When the family crumbles, society crumbles,” Click concludes, urging his followers to become engaged politically and speak out against the normalization of LGBTQ identities and other concepts that undermine “traditional” family structures.
“If the church is silent, then the church will be held responsible,” he says. “We can’t afford to be silent. We need to speak up. We need to be proactive, we need to be engaged in each and every way that we can. God has a plan for us.”
Under Click’s bill, which has not yet gone through the full committee process, physicians would be subject to discipline, including the potential revocation or suspension of their license to practice, if they recommend any gender-affirming treatments to minors suffering from gender dysphoria.
The bill bans hormones, puberty blockers, and gender confirmation surgery — the latter of which is rarely performed on minors — for anyone under 18, and allows any discontented patient who later experiences “remorse” over having pursued gender-affirming care to sue their former medical providers.
It also requires mental health professionals to screen transgender-identifying patients for other conditions, including ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and other mental conditions — conditions some believe make individuals more susceptible to feeling they need to pursue gender transition — before addressing a patient’s gender dysphoria.
Critics say these provisions effectively endorse conversion therapy for trans-identifying youth.
While Click claims to have helped people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction in his sermon, he previously testified, in response to a question from State Rep. Rachel Baker (D-Cincinnati), that he has never practiced conversion therapy and does not know anyone who has.
When subsequently approached by the Ohio Capital Journal after the discovery of the YouTube sermon, Click told the newspaper it is “inaccurate” to say he has promoted or practiced conversion therapy, seeking to draw distinctions between people forced into therapy against their will and those who legitimately wish to eradicate feelings of same-sex attraction.
“[C]onversion therapy requires force or at minimum an act of trying to change someone into something that they do not wish to be…” he said. “When an individual is struggling with unwanted feelings and they approach me or someone else, it is entirely ethical to listen to them, pray with them, and provide encouragement and strength, and reinforcement as they determine for themselves how they wish to live.”
Click’s biography on Fremont Baptist Temple’s website states that he currently serves in an “advisory capacity” for Baptist International Outreach, a missionary group that states, in its doctrinal statement, that homosexuality is “an abomination to God and a scourge to any society.” The statement also claims the Bible “condemns cross-dressing and effeminacy.”
“Being ‘Gay’ or ‘Lesbian’ is not a lifestyle. It is a sin. A person is not born a homosexual, but rather becomes one by giving into the perverseness that is in his or her heart,” the statement adds.
When approached by the Ohio Capital Journal about his affiliation with the group, Click said he is no longer serving in an advisory role, adding that Baptist International Outreach is a “good organization” but that he is “not familiar with what their doctrinal statement currently says.”
Click also defended his role as a pastor, saying his religious role does not conflict with his role as a state lawmaker, writing in an email, “the fact that science and the Scripture harmonize is not a conspiracy, it is a reality.”
He did not clarify what he meant by “science.”
In the sermon encouraging his audience to get involved politically, Click mentioned several right-wing Christian political organizations, including Citizens for Community Values, which the Journal now notes is called the Center for Christian Virtue.
That organization reportedly approached Click in the spring of 2021, asking that he sponsor the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, which bears a title and provisions identical to measures that have been introduced and passed in close to 20 other states seeking to prohibit trans-identifying minors from accessing gender-affirming treatments.
Watch Click’s sermon below:
Here is an abbreviated snippet of the sermon, posted by David DeWitt of the Ohio Capital Journal:
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