According to analysis by the evangelical coalition, The Gospel Connection (TGC), pending California legislation called Equity in Higher Education Act (SB 1146) “threatens to strip some private colleges and universities of an exemption that protects them from lawsuits and allows them to function as faith-based organizations.”[i]
 
This legislation has gone through various stages of amendment so it remains to be seen what the final bill will say but, initially, it sought to limit religious exemptions from state anti-discrimination laws.  The effect, according to TGC, would be that:
 
Faith-based institutions in California would no longer be able to require a profession of faith of their students.
 
These institutions would no longer be able to integrate faith throughout the teaching curriculum.
 
These institutions would no longer be able to require chapel attendance for students.
 
These institutions would no longer be able to require core units of Bible courses, nor offer students spiritual direction or pastoral care.
 
Athletic teams would no longer be able to lead faith-based community service programs.
 
In short, sectarian institutions could no longer accept students with CalGrants and continue to uphold traditional ethical behavior.  
 
This would affect Catholics and Orthodox, as well. Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, says that: “SB 1146 would impede the ability of these schools to operate consistent with the tenets of their faith or to express what their beliefs are in the life of the school.”[ii]  
 
In the words of Dr. Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, “SB 1146 is a direct and blatant attack on the religious freedom of Catholic and Christian citizens of California advanced [by] the state’s LGBT legislative lobby….It severely impacts citizens constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion.
 
“Further, the argument of discrimination against transgender citizens by faith-based colleges and universities is greatly exaggerated and false….The allegation of discrimination is the cover for what is truly an attack on religious freedom. This legislation must be opposed by all citizens who value freedom.”[iii]
 
 
[i] The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is a network of churches and their clergy, primarily from the evangelical tradition, who support one another and share common concerns.  Its analysis can be read at: www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-faqs-california-bill-threatens-freedom-of-religious-colleges
[ii] Valerie Schmalz, “CA bill would remove religious exemption for most faith-based colleges,” Catholic San Francisco, 6-21-16.
[iii] Adam Cassandra, “Calif. Bill Threatens Religious Freedom of Catholic Colleges Over ‘Gender Identity’,” The Cardinal Newman Society, 6-13-16.

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Spero News columnist Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequeños newspaper and is the author of the four-volume Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies, which is available at Amazon.

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