According to Soares, Lara said he does not want his legislation to penalize students who want to attend faith-based schools. But SB 1146 does just that by denying schools their constitutionally afforded right to inextricably link academics and doctrine, she said. The bill also conflicts with the guaranteed free exercise of religion afforded by the California and U.S. constitutions.
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.”