A threatening and overreaching bill (Senate Bill 1146) is working its way through the California legislature. If passed as is, this bill would strip California’s faith-based colleges and universities of their religious liberty to educate students according to their faith convictions.
The proposed legislation seeks to narrow a religious exemption in California only to those institutions of higher learning that prepare students for pastoral ministry. This functionally eliminates the religious liberty for students of all California faith-based colleges and universities who integrate spiritual life with the entire campus educational experience. Prayer or requiring chapel services, spiritual formation groups and ministry service are an integral part of the educational experience for faith-based campuses, and they are at risk if SB 1146 is passed. In addition, it would eliminate religious liberty in California higher education, as we know it today, and deprive tens of thousands of students of their access to a distinctly faith-based higher education.
The AICCU (Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities) and Biola President Barry H. Corey have engaged with Sen. Lara and his staff on a number of occasions to voice concerns and to propose amendments to SB 1146 that would both preserve the existing religious exemption and satisfy Sen. Lara’s primary concerns about protecting LGBT students who attend Christian colleges.
If passed as is, this bill would significantly challenge Biola University’s ability to continue in the mission that has guided us for 108 years.
As many as 42 faith-based institutions of higher education in California could be impacted. Some examples of how the bill would impact faith-based institutions include:
Faith-based institutions in California would no longer be able to require a profession of faith of their students.
These institutions would no longer be able to integrate faith throughout the teaching curriculum.
These institutions would no longer be able to require chapel attendance for students, an integral part of the learning experience at faith-based universities.
These institutions would no longer be able to require core units of Bible courses.
Athletic teams would no longer be able to lead faith-based community service programs.
Currently, the bill is waiting to be heard by the California Assembly’s various committees. It has already passed the Appropriations Committee and the California Senate. Action is expected as early as the week of June 13. If approved, the bill could then move through the Assembly — perhaps by June 30 — for a full vote. Our best chance to stop it is right now before it can get to the Assembly floor for a vote.
The author (Sen. Ricardo Lara) of SB 1146 has publicly stated that it is not his intention to restrict the rights of religious schools to operate in accordance with their faith. However, the legislation as currently written will greatly impact faith-based higher education.