People used to expect that attending something sponsored by religious organization required abiding by mores and behavior that religious body professes. There was a simple option for avoiding the ideas or practices of a belief system you don’t agree with: don’t frequent their space. This courteous expectation naturally applied to all religions and expressions of faith.
California is now attempting to end this system of free association that allows people to define their local and religious cultures. California Senate Bill 1146 (SB 1146), which is slated for a vote Tuesday, seeks to limit the religious exemptions from federal Title IX regulations that colleges and universities use for hiring instructors, teaching classes, and conducting student services in line with their faith. Under SB 1146, a college would be eligible for an exemption only for training pastors or theology teachers.
“The most troubling provision of this bill limits the religious liberty to integrate faith and learning throughout the educational experience,” said Dr. Kurt Krueger, president of Concordia University Irvine, in a letter about this bill. “The bill effectively eliminates the religious exemption under current law that allows Christian colleges and universities to operate in accordance with their beliefs, including the freedom to hire only Christian faculty and staff. If passed without amendments, the new law would also very likely disqualify students attending California Christian colleges and universities from eligibility for Cal Grants, a key state-level student aid program.”
You can read the text of the bill in full here.
No One Forces People to Attend Religious Schools
The bill came directly after LGBT activists got the Obama administration to release a list of religious higher education institutions that receive exemptions from federal regulations requiring androgynous and secularizing policies, such as sex-eradicated group showers and the freedom to hire partially based on fidelity to strains of philosophy or theology a particular institution promises to uphold.
“Universities [currently] are able to submit an exemption request to the U.S. Department of Education, and are typically granted the exemption by the department. But SB 1146 makes these universities’ biases public, informing students, staff members and other academic institutions ahead of time so that certain individuals can protect themselves from being targets of discrimination…LGBT individuals [may otherwise] have no idea what type of educational institution they are attending or working at, and what sorts of consequences this exemption may have for their health, safety and well-being,” a California legal firm says in its supportive rundown of the bill. There’s no obvious reason a legal firm that specializes in suing over employment law would want expand the ways people can sue regarding employment, right?
Bill supporters say religious teachings constitute discrimination and therefore should be banned in higher education: “California should not be using taxpayer money to subsidize colleges that choose to discriminate against LGBT students,” Assemblyman Evan Low said, according to EdSource. “He called the schools that seek a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws ‘the worst of the worst in terms of institutions that discriminate.’”