Perspectives

California’s bill seeks to silence religious liberty at faith-based colleges

It is often said that there is nothing new under the sun. History often does, in fact, repeat itself and is a great teacher, yet most of us don’t know our history very well and too often proudly spurn or quickly forget its tougher lessons. One of history’s greatest teachings is that, if we value our freedom, appeasement is not the answer to tyranny. We learned that during our American revolution and the world learned it on a horrific scale in the 1930’s and 1940’s. And we are learning this hard lesson yet once again here in the Golden State under the blazing sun of what may be aptly called the “summer of hate.”

German pastor Martin Niemoller, addressing persecution, guilt, and responsibility of his countrymen said in 1946:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.

Ouch! The truth hurts, and it should! As the progressive blitzkrieg against biblical Christianity in America continues unabated and the noose tightens around our necks, what are we doing to stop it?

Why is it the “summer of hate?” If you haven’t been paying attention, over the past 10 to 15 years, the radical LGBT agenda, with the aid of the cultural elites, have been disrespecting and misinterpreting the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment, and passing law after law that seeks to marginalize and silence religious dissent, especially biblical Christianity. The latest targets are religious colleges and universities in California. SB 1146 places California’s religious colleges and universities on the proverbial cultural chopping block and the axe is about to fall.

Golden State appeasement came in the form of extended fruitless attempts to negotiate with SB 1146’s author Senator Ricardo Lara, a homosexual who is unapologetically carrying water for Equality California and is happily pushing the radical LGBT agenda. Thankfully, in the past few weeks, religious civil rights organizations and Christian colleges have finally started to break from this ineffective strategy and openly oppose SB 1146.

Christian leaders who have become aware of SB 1146 are now sounding the alarm. “The California Legislature is poised to consider legislation that could destroy the ability of numerous faith-based colleges and universities to pursue the mission for which they were created,” writes pastor, author and speaker Ed Stetzer on his June 24, 2016 Christianity Today blog, the Exchange titled: California’s Religious Liberty Moment-Coming to a State Near You. Stetzer was soon joined by Christian author Eric Metaxas, who on his June 27, Breakpoint broadcast A License to Discriminate: California’s Assault on Christian Colleges announced that “The California state Senate has passed a bill that would make it harder for Christian institutions to obtain religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT individuals, and make state grant money more difficult to obtain while making it easier for students and staff to sue them.” Simply put, SB 1146 will diminish educational diversity, inclusion, and tolerance in California by greatly expanding harmful litigation against faith-based institutions.

We cannot afford to lose religious freedom in America. Because religious freedom is our “first freedom,” and it includes honoring religious liberty for individuals and institutions, federal and state laws have for decades carved out exemptions, protecting religious colleges from having the government dictating religious policies and practices. This includes being coerced to comply with unyielding anti-discrimination provisions. SB 1146 targets these constitutionally-valid protections for legislative destruction.

But what does SB 1146 actually do? It essentially narrows and destroys long-standing religious exemptions from anti-discrimination provisions, forcing biblically-faithful Christian Colleges in California to choose between:

  • Forfeiting government funding (i.e. Cal Grants) but remaining faithful to biblical beliefs and practices; or,
  • Maintaining funding, but voluntarily compromising and secularizing, by embracing government mandated “anti-discrimination” provisions (including sexual orientation and gender identity) to avoid financially-crippling lawsuits and court injunctions; or,
  • Attempting to maintain funding and biblical beliefs and practices, but being subject to financially-crippling lawsuits and injunctions.

This is a classic Hobson’s choice. None of the three options are good and will very likely lead to the rapid destruction of Christian higher education in California. If this cancer starts here it will likely metastasize across the United States.

Under growing pressure, Sen. Lara keeps changing the language of SB 1146. The initial version of the bill narrowed the religious exemption by only allowing exemptions for the limited portions of Christian colleges or universities involved in pastoral training (i.e. seminary). This essentially destroyed the religious exemption for institutions that do not train pastors. If the institution included a seminary it would only protect that department from financially-crippling lawsuits and court injunctions-the entire rest of the college or university would be vulnerable. The latest version of the bill, as amended last week, would allow religious schools to discriminate for “religious reasons,” but they could still be sued by students if the students believed they were being discriminated against regarding sexual orientation or gender identity.

What radical LGBT advocates like Senator Lara either do not understand or do appreciate about Christian colleges is that, in spite of growing secularization, many of these religious school still maintain a pervasively Christian spiritual environment, where faith is infused and integrated throughout the curriculum and all of student life. At my alma mater, Westmont College, faith was a part of everything that happened on campus, including in the dorms, during classroom devotions, in chapel, and on mission trips. It is impossible and is a fool’s errand to try to separate the secular from the sacred. Biblical teaching includes policies on marriage and sexuality, which are clearly at odds with the popular culture’s push for unrestrained sexual liberty.

Furthermore, SB 1146 addresses a problem that does not exist. Yet, even with these tenets of faith at Christian schools that place them at odds with the culture, there has not been any widespread denigration or bullying of LGBT students. That is because, in spite of the popular cultural narrative (propaganda) of  “hateful Christian bigots,” Christians actually believe that every person is unique and valuable, because we are all created in the imago dei, the image of God. That is why all students at California’s Christian colleges are treated with dignity and respect. So I must ask, who is hating whom here?

Unfortunately, as in Germany, far too many American Christians, fearing man more than we fear God, are passive, disengaged, and silent in the face of the imminent threats to religious freedom. We lack the courage of our convictions and are feebly concerned that our pagan neighbors will judge us, call us names, or perhaps do worse. Love of the world is hatred towards God (James 4:4). Oh, that the church of Jesus Christ would get a spiritual spine and rise up as roaring lambs! Yet, as in Germany, we who are silent and refuse to speak the truth in love shall bear the moral responsibility for what is happening on our watch. As a friend of Neimoller, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” The time to speak and act is now.

Bonhoeffer also wrote that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” We must not leave our children with an impoverished immoral America, religiously cleansed of Christian influence. Stetzer’s Christianity Today article concludes, “If you care about Christian education anywhere in the United States, then speak up now. If you are in California, call your representative, and not just the ones who agree with you.” To the phones!

Things that you can do:

• Contact members of the Judiciary Committee today(hearings on June 30th) and your assemblyperson and let them know you oppose SB 1146.

• Pray for the coalition opposing SB 1146, that God gives us wisdom, favor, and success.

• For updates and more information please visit our Facebook page or Biola’s SB1146 website.

Dean Broyles

— by Dean R. Broyles, Esq.

Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom. Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.

Tags

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker
X