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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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California bill threatens existence of faith-driven colleges

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

SACRAMENTO, California, August 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The state of California is attempting to strip Christian colleges of the right to follow their religious convictions.

The state Senate passed SB1146, sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), which removes Title IX exemptions for nearly all religious schools, forcing Christian colleges and universities to abandon moral codes for students and faculty, hire homosexuals, and/or to assign housing according to self-chosen "gender identity," among other anti-Christian measures. The bill now goes to the state Assembly.

The California Student Aid Commission's Patti Colston acknowledged that the bill would create a path for lawsuits against religious schools from students and employees.

The proposed law reads, "A postsecondary educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization and that receives financial assistance from the state or enrolls students who receive state financial assistance is subject to Section 11135, and violation of that section may be enforced by a private right of action."

“Section 11135” forces the college or university to provide "housing or restroom accommodations ... consistent with their gender identity."  It also requires married housing to include "married same-sex couples." 

Only seminaries are exempt. "This section does not apply to an institution ... if the purpose of the institution is to prepare students to become ministers of the religion” or theology teachers.

Concordia University Irvine President Dr. Kurt Krueger issued a statement on the school's website, explaining, "Senate Bill 1146 would significantly challenge Concordia University Irvine’s — and all Christian colleges and universities in California — ability to continue offering a Christ-centered education to our students."

"The most troubling provision of this bill limits the religious liberty to integrate faith and learning throughout the educational experience," Dr. Krueger elaborated. "The bill effectively eliminates the religious exemption under current law that allows religious colleges and universities of all faiths — Lutheran, Buddhist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jesuit, Jewish, Muslim, and Roman Catholic 0151 to operate in accordance with their beliefs, including the freedom to hire only Christian faculty and staff."

Biola University created a website, “Oppose SB 1146”, dedicated to stopping the legislation.

The bill is so sweeping that The Federalist headlined its report, "California Bill Would Ultimately Erase Religious Schools."

And even EdSource modestly acknowledged, SB1146 "would shrink the number of religious colleges that qualify for religious exemptions."

Title IX, first put into effect in 1972, prohibits “discrimination” on the basis of sex in schools receiving federal assistance. 

Christian schools and other moral institutions of higher learning have always been able to apply for religious exemption to the portions of Title IX law that would force them to violate their faith. For instance, schools whose religion teaches it is not modest or healthy for women to compete in violent physical-contact sports are allowed to apply for Title IX exemption in that area.

Originally, the law applied to women’s sports, but two years ago the Obama Administration officially redefined Title IX to include what he determined was “discrimination” against gay, lesbian, transgender, and “gender non-conforming” students.

As a direct result of the redefinition of Title IX law, Christian schools faced a new scenario, forcing them to offer married student housing to homosexuals or allowing transgender males to stay in the female dormitories. 

When homosexual controversies threatened educational institutions’ freedom of religion, Title IX exemption applications increased. Fifty-six colleges and universities since 2013 have requested religious exemptions

LGBT activists want Title IX religious exemptions eliminated completely, striking down all opposition to their political agenda on conscience grounds.

"This recent attempt to force Christian colleges to promote sin by employing those who openly defy their Christian faith and mission is reminiscent of atheistic regimes that tried to stamp out Christianity," Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mathew D. Staver told LifeSiteNews. 

“The secular states is at war with Christianity and those who hold Jude-Christian values," Attorney Staver summarized. "California is leading the charge down this dangerous and tyrannical path."

"California ought to learn a lesson from history – tyrannical regimes that sought to crush Christianity are no more, but the Church of Jesus Christ is still alive and well.”

Greg Scott, vice president of communications for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), agrees. “The California bill is an unprecedented and targeted attack on the freedom of private Christian institutions to operate according to their faith without with fear of punishment by the government,” Scott told LifeSiteNews.

“The bill essentially tells religious institutions to convert to the state’s religion or suffer the disastrous consequences. 

“Not only would the bill threaten to deny disadvantaged students the opportunity to choose an educational experience that aligns their faith, it would force schools to abandon policies that affirm marriage, and honor the difference between men and women, and to hire staff and faculty that are hostile to the beliefs of the institutions.

“It’s hard to imagine a greater intrusion by the state into matters of the hearts, minds, and souls of American citizens.”

John Paul the Great Catholic University President Derry Connolly said, “It’s no longer ‘Live and Let Live.’ It’s, ‘If you don’t toe the line with us, we’ll take you to court big time.’”

Another part of the legislation requires schools to announce to potential and current students, faculty and staff if they have a Title IX exemption. Significantly, the bill requires the schools to file all exemption information with the government’s Student Aid Commission.

Critics say this threatens every Christian college's ability to receive state grants for poor students, called “Cal Grants.”

William Jessup University President John Jackson complained, “They’re putting a gun to our head: ‘Either change the way you believe and practice your faith, or you won’t be able to participate in Cal Grant.’”

“We want ... to be faithful and don’t want the state to have a license to discriminate.”

Montse Alvarado of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty told LifeSiteNews, "SB1146 discriminates against poor minorities." 

"Three out of four students who would have their Cal Grant taken away by SB 1146 are poor minority students," Alvarado explained. "And forcing poor minorities out of the religious colleges they chose to attend and into state schools will cost taxpayers nearly $100 million a year."

"SB 1146 lets politicians squeeze vulnerable minorities for a few short-term dollars and check a few political boxes, but it comes at the long-term cost of wrecked dreams and higher taxes," Alvarado predicted.

"This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It tries to hide behind noble pretensions, but clearly harms the most vulnerable students — many of whom are the first in their families to go to college."

Shortly after LGBT activists demanded the federal government release a “List of Shame,” the Obama administration made public for the first time a list of those religious colleges — mostly Christian — that applied for and received Title IX exemptions on religious grounds.

The Obama Administration has also argued that not all religious colleges qualify to apply for an exemption, but rather only those with a specific denominational affiliation. This would not allow evangelical colleges, such as Wheaton College, to apply for an exemption.

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