Editor’s note: The following letter was submitted to the Anchorage Assembly for their Aug. 25 meeting in which they will consider an ordinance (AO 2020-65) to ban counseling for minors who are struggling to overcome same-sex attraction or who have difficulty living in accordance with their biological sex.
Members of the Anchorage Assembly;
My name is Rick Benjamin. I was born in Anchorage in 1956, I have lived here my whole life and raised my family here. I have served as a Christian minister in Anchorage for over 40 years.
I am writing concerning the proposed Anchorage Assembly ordinance AO 2020-65. As a pastor, people with same-sex attraction and gender issues have asked me for help. I’ve tried to help, based on my understanding of what the Bible says about God and people. I used to think that same-sex attraction was a choice, but I have come to understand it is more of a discovery, a realization. I also learned the sources of same-sex attraction and gender confusion are a complicated mix of genetics, family, environment, tendencies and experiences.
I believe this ordinance is not needed; it is “a solution in search of a problem.” I know many pastors and Christian counselors in Anchorage. I know of no pastor or Christian counselor that practices what is called “conversion therapy” in Anchorage. So why make it illegal? But I can say I know people who have experienced real conversion and transformation – without “conversion therapy,” or even any therapy at all – simply because of the love and power of God.
Under the proposed ordinance, part of our ministry as pastors and Christian counselors in Anchorage would become illegal. This would be a violation of our First Amendment right to free expression of religion.
I also have real concerns for the sections of the proposed ordinance relating to minors. I was a youth pastor for 5 years. My wife and I raised our 2 sons who are now young adults. I know how confused adolescents can be about so many life issues (including gender) and how often they change their minds. Young people need trusted people and resources to help them navigate these important issues. And parents of minors have the right and responsibility to know who is helping their children.
I don’t believe Anchorage needs AO 2020-65. I believe AO 2020-65 would violate religious freedom. I believe AO 2020-65 would remove resources that Anchorage adolescents (and adults) need. I believe AO 2020-65 would interfere with parental rights. For all of these reasons I am asking you to oppose AO 2020-65.
Thank you for reading and considering my comments, and thank you for your service to our city.
Rick Benjamin, Pastor