Measure seeks special protection for Bible speech

A proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt Bible-based speech from the constitution and state law’s existing restrictions – including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes – has been cleared to start circulating petitions.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said proponent Allan Esses, a pastor from Irvine, must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from registered voters by Dec. 2 in order to qualify the initiative for next year’s ballot.

Here’s the state Attorney General’s official title and summary for the new proposed measure:

BIBLE-BASED SPEECH. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Exempts speech based on biblical authority from existing constitutional and statutory restrictions applicable to all other speech, including restrictions against discrimination and hate crimes. Repeals constitutional provision denying protection to acts of religious expression inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially minor increased costs to state and local governments to resolve legal issues pertaining to the effect of the measure. (13-0003.)

Article 1, Section 4 of the state constitution says, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.”

Esses’ amendment would strike the second sentence in that section (“This liberty of conscience…”) and would add this section:

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that it is not a crime, hate crime or unlawful for a person to use any part of the Bible’s content as authority: and do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith. to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven, or abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing., cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, marriage, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga, or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, film, theater, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals or by means of a computer, electronic devise, telephone, cell phone or fax machine. These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.

Penal Code Section 302 criminalizes the intentional disruption of a religious gathering; Section 602.11 criminalizes blocking entry or exit from a health care facility (such as an abortion clinic), place of worship or school; and Section 11412 criminalizes making someone refrain from religious activity by means of a threat.

Esses failed to gather enough signatures for a similar measure in 2011.

“Although the Bill of Rights guarantees religious liberty, recent restrictions on the free exercise of religion have compelled the organization to submit clarifications of citizen’s First Amendment rights, similar to the need felt by some of the nation’s Founding Fathers to clarify in the Bill of Rights what they believed existed in the Constitution,” Esses had said of that earlier proposed measure in 2010. “What is particularly ironic and disturbing is the growing intolerance of so many people who preach tolerance. Increasingly, Christians are expected to violate our beliefs and conform our religious convictions to accommodate those who support positions that are clearly unbiblical.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Punch bowl, foreign object etc.

  • ReilleyFam

    Of course this means interpretations of the bible and so basically anyone can say anything and justify it as being “biblical” speech.

  • JohnW

    Any bets on whether this guy can actually get the signatures for this? I almost wish he could. The campaign for it would be a real hoot.

  • RR senile columnist

    This petition is clearly out of order. It is vague, arbitrary and capricious.

  • Steve Mehlman

    More from the American Ayatollahs who want to turn our nation into a Christian theocracy.

    Pastor Esses must have worked at Westboro Baptist Church before moving to Irvine.

  • JohnW

    He seems to have all the deadly sins covered, including yoga. I’m pretty sure Jesus would be in the anti-yoga camp.

  • dw christensen

    Well, hell, why not just declare the State of California a theocracy and get it over with? Don’t the followers of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, et. al count for anything?

  • Elwood

    @ 3

    See 1

  • JohnW


    “…Why not just declare the State of California a theocracy…”

    The official religion of California is Public Unionism.

  • Common Tater

    Not to worry, it will be declared unconstitutional like every other conservative initiative.

  • JohnW


    I would sign this petition purely for the purpose of entertainment.

  • DW Christensen

    Be careful what you wish for, JohnW – when dealing with religious fanaticism, you may get more than you anticipate. The sort of world view as represented by Rev. Esses scares the you-know-what out of me. Not that I expect his lunacy will become law, mind you, but there are enough secular craziness out in the world right now to make any rational person wonder just what might be possible (e.g. Proposition 8).

  • JohnW


    You’re right, DW. Of course, I’m more worried about the stuff that is becoming law than the aforementioned crazy stuff that won’t.

    It seems hardly a month goes by without some state legislature passing a bill to ban Sharia law or requiring women who choose to have an abortion to first undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound. In North Carolina, they even managed to combine both into the same law. But it’s good to know that North Carolina won’t soon become an Islamic state.

  • JohnW

    More in the nutty law department:

    Missouri legislation passes law making it a felony for a federal agent to enforce federal firearms laws in the state. Bill also makes it a crime for a newspaper to publish the name/photo of a gun owner — including, the way it is written, a picture of a proud hunter standing next to his fallen prey and holding the gun used.

    Governor has vetoed, pointing out that the first part violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and that the second part violates the Bill of Rights amendment that comes just before the Second Amendment.

    Legislature may have just enough votes to override the veto. Missouri State Rep. Doug Funderburk (gotta love the name) has declared that the Supremacy Clause doesn’t apply in this case, because enforcement of gun laws is unconstitutional. His legal opinion presumably is based on the education in constitutional law that he received while attending Rankin Technical College.

  • MichaelB

    Already in the nutty department. Let’s see if JohnW bothers noticing.

    Criminal violence is now “gun violence”. A propaganda term from so called progressives seeking additional support for gun bans on law abiding citizens while blaming firearms for the actions of criminals. Gotta love this – people marching down streets in high crime areas holding up signs signs saying “stop the gun lobby” and blaming the NRA (not criminals) for what happens there.

    Barack Obama and Eric Holder being quoted earlier that failed Washington DC gun bans (clearly violating the 2nd Amendment) were really “constitutional”.

    New York City area newspapers publishing the names of legal pistol permit holders thinking they are doing a “public service” by predicting “suspects” in the next school shootings.

    Andrew Cuomo’s rant about his version of the 2nd Amendment “not needing 10 bullets to kill a deer” or “gun confiscation being an option” in his state.
    A “high capacity” magazine is now anything over 7 cartridges in New York State. What percentage of handguns have magazines currently holding more than that amount? Most of them.

    At least the guys in Missouri believe in/want to defend the 2nd Amendment. It’s clear the other side doesn’t.

  • JohnW


    Okay, I’ll take the bait. I bothered “noticing.”

    The Missouri laws that were vetoed are still “nutty.”