California Christian Colleges Dodge a Bullet — For Now

Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is dropping a provision that would have removed a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws for faith-based schools

Sen. Lara told the Los Angeles Times that he will move forward with an amended bill that requires faith-based schools to publicly disclose their religious exemption and report to the state when they expel students for violating their standards of conduct. “The goal for me has always been to shed light on the appalling and unacceptable discrimination against LGBT students at these private religious institutions throughout California,” Lara said.

 

A California state senator says he will amend a bill on Thursday that would have forced Christian colleges to give up their beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity or lose state aid for low-income students wanting to attend their schools.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is dropping a provision that would have removed a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws for faith-based schools.

Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, told CBN News last month that the bill would have used the leverage of state financial aid to try and prevent faith-based schools from using religious beliefs as criteria in admissions and hiring decisions.

“If you can’t hire the people who are going to teach and administrate according to your principles, what difference does it make if you called yourself a particular religious institution?” she said.

Greg Baylor, an attorney with the conservative non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom, explained, “the California government is proposing this legislation that would at the end of the day force these schools to choose between participating in state student aid programs and maintaining their religious identity.”

Dr. John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, a Christian college outside of Sacramento, said that Sen. Lara plans to formally amend the bill in the Senate appropriations committee on Thursday.

“We can support a bill that’s about transparency and reporting as long as it’s not about Cal Grants,” he told CBN News.

Cal Grants provide as much as $10,000 a year to low-income students attending California colleges and universities.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty called Lara’s latest move a big win for low-income, minority students in California. The bill would have cut their state aid to Christian colleges that uphold what the state considers to be discriminatory beliefs.

“Minority students have spoken and the politicians have listened,” Montserrat Alvarado, with the Becket Fund, said. “This is a huge win for progress and diversity in higher education.”

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