Religious freedom and the future of California colleges

Religious freedom and the future of California colleges

Abp. José Gomez and Presiding Bishop of Church of God in Christ issue joint statement arguing that pending bill goes too far in pursuit of “a salutary purpose”

Archbishop Gomez – “We need to be clear about our language” [but not necessarily with our photo-ops; meeting with some of the politicians who will sponsor, vote for, and sign the bill into law]


The following comes from a joint statement by Archbishop José H. Gomez, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Bishop Charles E. Blake, Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ and Pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ. It was published August 2 by the Angelus.

This week the California Assembly begins final deliberations on Sen. Ricardo Lara’s “Equity in Higher Education Act” (SB 1146).

The bill, which passed the Senate in late May, has a salutary purpose — to ensure against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at California campuses.

Unfortunately this legislation goes far beyond that.

As it is written today, SB 1146 would violate the religious freedom of faith-based colleges and could jeopardize higher educational opportunities for the tens of thousands of Californians they serve, including many who are black, Latino, Asian and low-income.

Here is the problem, as we see it.

Current California law exempts religious schools from nondiscrimination laws in cases where applying these laws “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.”

This is sensible and reflects our nation’s founding principles of religious freedom. For years now, this policy has worked well, enabling church-run colleges and universities to hire personnel and establish policies and expectations regarding religious practice and personal conduct that reflect their beliefs and values.

SB 1146 proposes to drastically narrow that historic exemption so that it would only protect seminaries or other schools that train clergy and ministers.

Any other faith-based school that receives state monies or enrolls students who depend on the Cal Grants financial aid program would be forced to change their policies to accommodate practices that in some cases would be contrary to their beliefs and teachings.

Detailed provisions in the legislation include rules for bathroom use and sleeping arrangements in dormitories. The bill even has the government setting guidelines for what “religious practices” and “rules for moral conduct” will be acceptable on these campuses.

If passed as written today, this bill would force faith-based institutions to choose between compromising their deeply held beliefs or risking an endless wave of costly litigation to defend themselves.

This is a choice that no individual or institution should face in our state or in our country. In fact, the First Amendment and Bill of Rights were enacted to prevent precisely the kind of government interference reflected by SB 1146. Title IX of federal law also respects the rights of faith-based colleges and universities to operate free from government meddling.

But those who would truly be punished by this bill are California’s low-income and minority families — including millions served by our respective faith communities here in Los Angeles.

Historically, faith-based institutions have been a refuge for blacks, Asians and other minorities seeking a college education in the face of economic hardship and racial discrimination. That was true in the days before the Civil Rights Act and it is still true today.

Christian and other private nonprofit colleges in California serve a diverse student body — nearly 60 percent are minorities and nearly 90 percent need financial aid.

Senator Ricardo Lara: “No university should have a license to discriminate” [but the state should]

Many of the schools that would be effected by this legislation participate in the federal government’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) initiative to expand Latino access to higher education — schools such as California Lutheran, Azuza Pacific, Fresno Pacific, Notre Dame de Namur, among others.

To qualify for HSI status means these schools have student populations that are at least 25 percent Hispanic. Many of these students are children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college.

We question why lawmakers would want to make it harder for Latinos and other minorities to receive an education by potentially denying their schools the opportunity to redeem Cal Grants. This is not fair to those students and it contradicts the state’s noble tradition of seeking to expand educational and economic opportunities for all Californians.

And all of this is unnecessary to achieve the goals of protecting the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender students.

The simple solution is to require that faith-based schools clearly state — on their websites and in written materials — what they believe, what accommodations they intend to provide to students, and what will be expected of students in terms of religious practice and personal conduct.

Most faith-based colleges and universities already do this. Sen. Lara’s bill proposes some helpful requirements that would further strengthen transparency and public disclosure at these institutions. But his legislation should stop there.

It is important to remember that no one is compelled to attend a private religious college or university. Those who do so make a deliberate decision because they are seeking an academic environment and community in which they can live, learn and serve with others who share their beliefs, values and aspirations.

We respectfully urge lawmakers to amend SB 1146 so that California continues to protect the freedom and integrity of faith-based higher education and continues to afford poor and minority students the freedom to attend the college or university of their choice, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest Catholic community. Bishop Charles E. Blake is pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ and Presiding Bishop of the worldwide Church of God in Christ, a 6 million-member Pentecost-Holiness denomination.

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One comment on “Religious freedom and the future of California colleges

  1. [Meanwhile down in the trenches, an East coast group has gone West to help]

    Inside the local office of California Assembly Member David Hadley in Torrance.

    California MassResistance: Full-court press against LGBT anti-religion bill during July legislature recess

    Note: This California bill, also reported by LifeSite, is a dangerous new development in the growing state suppression of beliefs and institutions that follow traditional morality. Mass Resistance of Massachusetts has achieved remarkable successes in stopping “gay” movement advances through its politically incorrect, very frank, unapologetic and determined grassroots efforts. Their successes contrast with the far more heavily funded, but overly timid and failed Church and other marriage defending organization efforts. Those efforts have refused to publicly acknowledge the harms and evil of homosexuality. The result is that more chapters of Mass Resistance are forming in other U.S. states. These are ordinary people achieving extraordinary things. They are willing to endure the constant ridicule and personal threats that come with telling the uncomfortable, full truths about homosexuality and the “gay” movement’s real agendas.

    Steve Jalsevac

    August 5, 2016 (Mass Resistance via LifeSiteNews) –The battle to stop the most aggressive LGBT anti-religious legislation in the country, SB 1146, is continuing in California, with California MassResistance in the thick of the fight.

    While the California Legislature was in recess during the month of July, the fight intensified. California MassResistance activists personally went to numerous Assembly members’ local offices, and engaged them at their public events. (See below.) They also put the pressure on local city governments to formally oppose the bill.

    UPDATE: SB 1146 did NOT pass the Appropriations Committee on Aug. 3. However, the committee will take it up again on Thursday, Aug. 11. But if it does not pass the committee by Aug. 12, it is killed! We are continuing to fight hard!

    Direct confrontational approach

    A key ingredient to being effective is being 100% truthful about the nature of this battle, which too many pro-family groups are unfortunately reluctant to do.

    As Arthur Schaper, director of California MassResistance, says:

    Barry Corey, the president of Biola University, one of the oldest Christian colleges in California, issued a statement about this legislation: “We are not asking the LGBT community to change who they are,” Biola president Barry Corey said in a video created as part of the college’s “Oppose SB1146” campaign. “We are simply asking that they do not force us to change who we are, either.”

    This approach does not attack the core issues relating to this agenda, that so much of it is predicated on lies and distortions. In fact, homosexuality is a destructive behavior and transgenderism is a mental disorder. They are not civil rights.

    In spite of the tepid response from most establishment pro-family groups, California MassResistance is taking on a more direct, confrontational approach. It’s just not effective to merely rely on persuasion. Most lawmakers must feel the heat to see the light! Our team is committed to making that very clear to legislators.

    Taking the fight directly to California Assembly members!

    After SB 1146 was passed by the hostile Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 30, California MassResistance members knew that they had their work cut out for them. Pro-family people across California immediately began to contact members of the Appropriations Committee.

    See the full Mass Resistance article here.

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