Political attack on California Christian colleges advances
Higher Education | Bill to limit biblical sexuality standards on campus moves forward
by Bonnie Pritchett
Posted 7/01/16, 03:27 pm
Ignoring overwhelming opposition, the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 Thursday to advance legislation that strips faith-based schools of their ability to enforce biblical codes of conduct. The bill has one more committee to clear before going to the full Assembly in August.
After two people spoke in support of the bill, more than three dozen opponents approached the podium and asked the committee to reject the measure that cleared the Senate on May 26 with full Democratic support. By the end of the hearing, questions about religious freedom violations, possible state funding losses, and legal action against Christian schools lingered—as did misgivings about the bill’s true intent.
Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area and the bill’s author, said Senate Bill 1146 addresses “discrimination” against gay, lesbian, and transgender students on Christian campuses, but only cited as evidence anecdotes from a report drafted by the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign.
“The author started his presentation saying that universities should not be allowed … to use faith to discriminate,” said Orange County Assemblyman Donald Wagner, one of only three Republicans on the 10-member committee. “No one adopts faith so they can be bad to their fellow man. And to suggest that it is used to hide some evil intent is a profound and disturbing mischaracterization of faith.”
The accusation is deliberate, according to Christopher Yuan, a Christian, celibate, same-sex attracted professor who has spoken on over 50 U.S. faith-based campuses about the intersection of Christian faith and human sexuality.
“I never experienced discrimination as a student or as a professor who was very open about his sexuality at a school that had a community covenant with a code of conduct opposed to same-sex sexual activity,” Yuan told me. “I was never disciplined by any school for being honest about my sexuality.”
Yuan, an adjunct professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, is among a growing group of Christian postsecondary faculty and administrators watching the attack on their like-minded peers in California.
Yuan said the bill reveals an ignorance of Christian faith and “indicates an animosity toward people of the evangelical Christian faith.”
Lara, who is gay, insisted his bill only protects LGBT students from discrimination. But Sacramento Assemblyman James Gallagher, a Republican, said its muddled language leaves institutions susceptible to lawsuits by students and staff members. Questions remained about the implied threat that schools could lose state funding, especially from the 16,000 students holding Cal Grants. Lara said he did not want students to lose their funding and would “tighten the language,” hinting at more amendments.
Gallagher warned the bill crosses a line by making the government the arbiter of what is “religious.”
Citing the bill’s requirement that faith-based schools house same-sex couples in married student housing, Gallagher said, “That’s the secular view of marriage. But it’s not necessarily the religious view of marriage. That’s why we’ve always had these broad exemptions.”
In its many iterations, SB 1146 has wavered between stripping schools of their ability to claim exemptions from compliance with Title IX and California’s Equity in Higher Education Act (EHEA) to allowing exemptions but only as long as they do not “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill also requires that schools requesting Title IX compliance exemptions prominently post the request on campus and in a host of school communications. Jeffrey Berman, an attorney representing religious schools, said the requirement singles out Christian schools and holds them to a standard not required of any other postsecondary school in California.
Berman also noted the latest version removed the religious discrimination protection, which leaves religious schools open to lawsuits.
“What we’re seeing here is an effort to foist on someone whom you do not agree with your own view of the world,” Wagner said. “And I guess it’s OK to do that if you believe faith exists merely to discriminate.”
Bonnie is a correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and the University of Texas School of Journalism. Bonnie resides with her family in League City, Texas.