SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Concerns are being expressed over a California bill that some believe could ban Christian universities from living out their faith in regard to homosexuality and transgenderism, and potentially other issues as well.
S.B. 1146 was introduced in February by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, to close what Lara called a “loophole” in current federal and state law, including the religious exemption allowed under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” Title IX reads in part.
Although the law has been most known as being applied to discrimination against women and in situations related to girls who desire to participate in sports programs, the Department of Education recently told various schools that it interprets Title IX to also apply to transgender students. Faith-based schools are allowed to request an exemption if the “application of the law would conflict with specific tenets of the religion.”
Christian identifying schools have increasingly requested the exemption because of the Obama administration’s view of the meaning of Title IX, and last month, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of colleges and universities that have requested exemptions. Six of those schools are in California.
California law also contains a provision in its non-discrimination law that exempts “an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization if the application would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.”
Now, Sen. Lara wants to close what he views as a “loophole” in federal and state law by requiring all faith-based schools that request an exemption to provide prospective students and staff notification on the school’s policies on homosexuality and transgenderism.
“Each postsecondary educational institution in this state that claims an exemption pursuant to Section 901(a)(3) of the federal Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 … shall disclose to current and prospective students, faculty members, and employees the basis for claiming the exemption,” his proposed bill reads in part.
The only exemption would be in relation to programs that “prepare students to become ministers of the religion … to enter upon some other vocation of the religion … or to teach theological subjects pertaining to the religion.”
“California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws. No university should have a license to discriminate,” Lara said in a statement.
But the bill has also drawn concerns from those who believe that the bill’s intention is to force faith-based schools to violate their convictions on homosexuality and transgenderism, and that only schools that train pastors will be left with any protections.
“The effect of the amendment would be to redefine religious liberty so as to make a clear distinction between institutions that integrate religious faith and public vocation and those that focus only on parochial training,” explained Samuel James of the Southern Baptist Convention in a recent post on the matter.
“Conceivably, supporters of the bill are fine with the idea of students receiving a religious education that teaches that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that sexual expressions outside this category are morally problematic—as long as this education is clearly not intended to go beyond the walls of a church service or a seminary lecture hall,” he stated. “Pastors and polemicists, yes. Business managers and brain surgeons, not so much.”
James opined that the concept could carry over into other sins as well.
“[T]his isn’t just about sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s about the right to take seriously a narrative of human nature that disagrees with the progressive consensus,” he said. “Forget same-sex marriage. Why should the California legislature suffer any school that forbids premarital and extramarital sex to exist? Why should any school be allowed to tell an adulterous husband that he is morally disqualified from ministry? Why should any institution of higher learning be allowed to lecture on the permanence and indissolubility of marriage to a student who has fallen in love with someone else?”
“Thus, Christian education itself unravels,” James stated. “Conservatives have warned for some time now of a serious attempt by sexual revolutionaries to make religious belief synonymous with religious worship; ergo, the private ritual of religion is what’s protected by ‘free exercise,’ not the living out of such beliefs in the public square.”