An Interfaith Coalition Says California’s Anti-Discrimination Bill Is ‘Un-American’

A coalition of pastors, college officials and others from different religions are denouncing California’s highly controversial Senate Bill 1146, also called the Equity in Higher Education Act.

The proposed law aims to protect LGBTQ students at private, faith-based colleges and universities. It would make it so that no school that receives funding from the government would be able to discriminate students or staff on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression. Senator Richard Lara, the bill’s author, believes it would protect LGBTQ students in California private universities.

All students deserve to feel safe in institutions of higher education, regardless of whether they are public or private. 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.

Some schools would be eligible for an exemption. The only automatic exemption being if the school was directly controlled by a religious organization, like many seminaries.

The bill generates a huge amount of controversy. Those who oppose it say it would infringe on the rights of faith-based colleges to operate from their given religious principles—namely holding students and staff to traditional religious moral standards.

An interfaith coalition, which includes high-profile Christian leaders such as Rick Warren and Russell Moore, claims the bill is “un-American.”

Published on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission website, the statement says that Senate Bill 1146 would do more harm than the good it purports.

Though it purports to eliminate discrimination, Senate Bill 1146 results in its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality. If SB 1146 were to pass, it would deny students’ ability to participate in state grant programs—programs that exist to help low-income students, and which are overwhelmingly used by racial minorities—at schools that are found in violation of the bill. …

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While we do not all agree on religious matters, we all agree that the government has no place in discriminating against poor religious minorities or in pitting a religious education institution’s faith-based identity against its American identity. …

We, the undersigned, do not necessarily agree with one another’s religious views, but we agree on the necessity of the liberty to exercise these views. …

Where the state can encroach on one religion’s free exercise, it can just as easily trample on any other religion’s free exercise. We therefore join in solidarity across religious lines to speak against Senate Bill 1146.

The statement has signatures from people such as Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Warren, the pastor and founder of Saddleback Church; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. and Hamza Yusuf Hanson, president of Zaytuna College, to name a few.

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