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Supreme Court of the United States

Attention California Religious Colleges: The Government Wants to Silence Your Faith

October 17, 2017

It’s no surprise that California is once again trying to suppress religion. This time, it’s religious schools that must pay attention.

The California legislature is testing out a new attack on religious freedom with California Senate Bill 1146 (SB 1146), which strips publicly funded religious colleges of an exemption that allows them to hold faculty and students to ethical standards based on religious belief. The proposed law would also limit the ability of Christian colleges and universities to require students and staff to sign statements of faith, honor codes, or otherwise pledge to abide by biblical standards of conduct. It could even restrict these schools’ ability to make hiring decisions based on faith or conduct.

All of this, as usual, comes under the guise of “ending discrimination;” the state lawmakers advancing the bill claim that holding students who have voluntarily chosen to attend a particular college to certain standards of morality is discriminatory. The flashpoint is, also as usual, sexuality and gender. If this law passes, any Christian college with policies reflecting the biblical reality that marriage is between one man and one woman, or that gender is intrinsically connected to biology, will risk losing state funding.

Many of these colleges rely on state funding in various ways, but particularly in the form of Cal Grants, which are state-supplied tuition assistance grants for economically disadvantaged students. The religious schools targeted by the legislation are particularly welcoming of these students, and therefore rely disproportionately on Cal Grants to keep their doors open. So if this law passes, Christian colleges and universities will have to choose between closing their doors, changing their identity to no longer uphold the values at their core, or drastically reducing their ability to serve students, especially minority students, who depend on grants to achieve their higher educational goals.

The blatant hypocrisy of the law is apparent: in the name of toleration, people won’t be able go to the schools that they want to go to, and what’s worse, the burden will fall hardest on students who are financially disadvantaged and who happen to disagree with the government about certain things. They are the ones whose choices will be most stringently limited to appease the irritation of lawmakers who resent the fact that anyone disagrees with them. That’s pretty much the opposite of toleration.

This is a classic case of legislators run amok; there is absolutely no evidence that religious colleges in California routinely mistreat or stigmatize non-Christian students who do choose to attend. Even those who support the bill can only reference two or three concrete instances of alleged discrimination.

Unfortunately, we can see from history that what happens in California does not stay in California; the state is often a testing ground for radical agendas that are then duplicated around the country. For many Christian students and parents, the current state of higher education means that attending a Christian college or university is the only conceivable option. If this bill is passed and is allowed to stand unchallenged, that option could disappear.

Please pray with us that the option for Christians to attend colleges that uphold their views, instead of reviling and undermining them, will be upheld and protected. 

Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith