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California lawmaker squelches debate on bill targeting Christian colleges

With the threat of litigation looming, California State Sen. Ricardo Lara waived presentation of SB 1146 before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, sending it instead to the Appropriations Suspension Committee where it will be voted on—without discussion—Aug. 11.

The bill would strip Christian post-secondary schools of their exemption from California’s non-discrimination law, based on their beliefs about marriage, gender, and sexuality. Lara, a Democrat, originally declared the bill would have no fiscal impact on the cash-strapped state. But an analysis released Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee said the bill could cost the state, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

University representatives opposing the bill have pledged to fight it in court if necessary. After today’s delay, they expressed hope the coming week will afford productive “behind the scenes” discussions involving all parties. But, if experience is any measure of what to expect, they are preparing for the worst.

“I don’t think the behind the scenes [talks] will be in the spirit of compromise,” said William Jessup University President John Jackson.

Jackson said his conversations with three different attorneys following Lara’s waiver and the bill’s move to the Appropriations Suspension Committee resulted in three different interpretations of the politically charged situation. But they all agreed the move is not an attempt by Lara to quietly withdraw his highly controversial bill.

“It is not likely that Sen. Lara would back out of the proposed law due to potential litigation,” Biola University spokeswoman Jenna Loumagne said. “If the bill passes, Biola, along with many other faith-based schools, will pursue litigation against the state.”

Brad Dacus, Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) president, said that the few conservative lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled legislature indicated a resigned expectation the bill will ultimately end up on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who likely will sign it. Dacus said PJI already has a client ready to file suit once that happens.

Lara, who is gay, has adamantly touted the bill as a necessary measure to counter alleged discrimination against LGBT students on Christian college campuses. He finds the schools’ commitment to biblical doctrine concerning sexual codes of conduct especially egregious.

Lara’s office did not respond to questions about the waiver and potential lawsuits.

As long as the bill remains in play, Loumagne and Jackson hold out hope negotiations can continue and constitutional fidelity will prevail. But so far, requests to meet with Lara have gone unanswered.

“I’m not optimistic,” Jackson said. “But I never give up hope.”

— by Bonnie Pritchett | WNS


Here is an educational resource from Abilene Christian University that shows how spiritual development increases academic outcomes and the psychological well-being of college students.
An educational resource from Abilene Christian University

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