California may require Christian schools to change their teachings

California is considering a bill that would remove the exemption for faith-based colleges and universities from state anti-discrimination laws when it comes to “sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.”  The measure has already passed the state senate and awaits action from the House.

A bill pending in the California legislature seeks to strip faith-based colleges and universities of the centuries-old tradition of interweaving academics with religious doctrine. SB 1146 would force Christian schools to relinquish their fidelity to Scripture as a distinguishing characteristic of their institutions or risk lawsuits for religious and sexual discrimination.
The state’s Equity in Higher Education Act (EHEA) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. The new bill removes its exemption for faith-based schools. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, authored the bill and called the exemption a “loophole” and a “license to discriminate.” If passed, only seminaries would be eligible for the exemption.
Opponents argue the impetus for drafting SB 1146 is a baseless presumption of wide-spread and systemic discrimination against LGBT students on Christian campuses. The emotionally charged allegation stands in contrast to the bill’s threat to constitutionally protected religious liberty and indicates an ignorance of the role faith-based schools play in a pluralistic society.
“We are not willing to forego our biblical and covenantal convictions regardless of what laws are passed,” William Jessup University President John Jackson told me. “Jessup continues to believe we are to submit to Scripture and operate in accordance with the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights that includes the First Amendment providing for freedom of press, association, and religion.”
Another provision of the California bill would require schools receiving a Title IX waiver to disclose that information to the California Student Aid Commission, students, and staff. Kristen Soares, president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, supports transparency but continues to press for the exemption. Thirty-four of the 78 schools AICCU represents would be affected by the bill should it become law.
SB 1146 passed the state Senate on May 26. The state Assembly postponed its vote until next week—an encouraging sign, Soares said. She met with Lara on June 10 in an ongoing effort to convince the senator to amend the bill to keep the exemption in place for all faith-based schools. She said convincing Lara, who is gay, of the significant role religious freedom plays in the operation and mission of faith-based schools has been her main talking point.

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About Gene Veith

I am a retired English professor and college administrator. I have written over 20 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.