In current deliberation among California legislators is Senate Bill 1146. I am gravely disturbed by this bill that strikes a direct blow to religious liberty and severely infringes on personal freedoms and the freedoms of Christian institutions in California.
The so-called “Equity in Higher Education Act” is designed to erode the free exercise of religion given us in both the United States Constitution and the California Constitution, by limiting the involvement of colleges to have students, faculty, and employees live according to the dictates of God’s Word.
This bill reads, in part,
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code, including the perception that the person has any of those characteristics or that the person is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of those characteristics.”
West Coast Baptist College is staunchly opposed to this bill that erodes religious liberty and opens the door for the state to impede our purpose of “training laborers for the harvest.”
As Bible-believing Christians, we believe that every person is made in the image of God and is thus worthy of and should be treated with respect. We welcome students of all nationalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds. We cannot, however, change our biblical convictions regarding morality and adherence to a biblical moral code.
SB1146 purports to protect against discrimination. This bill, however, is a form of discrimination against religious liberty itself. In the words of Senator John Moorlach, “Restricting private institutions from adhering to its religious beliefs is a violation of their First Amendment rights and an act itself of intolerance.”
The Constitution prohibits laws which impede religious and biblically-held beliefs. Christian colleges for hundreds of years, have had biblically-based codes of conduct prohibiting extra-marital sex and other activities prohibited by Scripture.
Not only would this bill impact an institution’s ability to hire or retain staff and accept students based on faith-based practices and morality, but it would impact students themselves who wish to seek education at an institution that aligns with their beliefs. If passed as law, this bill would reach into the dorms, locker rooms, restrooms, and even the academic and spiritual programs of institutions. The bill also creates a system whereby faith-based institutions must report their beliefs before the state, in essence, for approval.
Although West Coast Baptist College receives no funds from the state of California, we adamantly stand in opposition to SB1146 as a gross overreach of government and a direct violation of religious liberty and personal freedoms. We ask you to help us stop this bill as well.
What You Can Do
1. Contact Legislators
SB1146 has already been passed by the California Senate and was sent to the California Assembly. It is now in the Assembly Judiciary Committee where it is scheduled for a final hearing and vote on Thursday, June 30, 2016.
Our goal is to stop the bill at the Judiciary Committee. If this does not happen, it will then be presented to the Assembly for vote and returned to the Senate, and we anticipate it to reach the governor’s desk and be signed into law. From there, we are prepared to stand against this bill in the courts if need be.
However, the best time and place to stop this bill is now while it is in the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee is comprised of just ten members. We are asking that you would contact each of them today.
2. Spread the Word
We also ask that you spread the word among other Christians, particularly those who live in California. Ask them to call and email as well.
Additionally, I have asked pastor friends to consider sharing this concern in church on Sunday. (Click here to download a printable copy of the insert we are putting in our bulletin, which you are welcome to use as well.)
You can also voice your concerns on social media. The website opposeSB1146.com provides suggested posts for social media including downloadable images and sample posts.
Finally, please pray. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” And Hebrews 11:33 tells us of Christians “Who through faith subdued kingdoms….”
I don’t know what will come of this particular bill. I am confident that if it does pass it will be a significant and dangerous move toward government-imposed restriction on religious liberty.
Ultimately, I trust the Lord and know we will continue in the work of the Great Commission. Whatever comes of this moment, however, I do not want to be guilty of not taking action, and I ask you to do the same.
July 1, 2016 Update
West Coast Baptist College has continued to diligently follow what has been happening in the California Legislature with Senate Bill 1146 and has had staff in Sacramento working on these matters. This bill presents extremely grave concerns for Christian colleges throughout the State of California concerning the issue of homosexual and gender rights. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee with all of the legislators voting along party lines, with one exception who declined to vote.
Because of an amendment placed in the bill, Christian colleges who do not receive government funds are exempted from its provisions at this time. This is a great blessing as West Coast Baptist College has never received any government funds.
When the Legislature reconvenes in August, this bill will once again be the subject of a contested debate as it is trying to put its provisions on all Christian colleges. Please keep praying for this bill’s defeat, and be sure to correspond with your legislator when the bill will be up for a final vote later this year.
West Coast Baptist College will continue to post updates with any further developments.