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CA Lawmaker Ends Bid To Erase Religious Colleges; Settles For Public Targeting

Senate Bill 1146 would have pulled college subsidies from students who attend religious colleges unless those colleges strip their distinctive religious practices.


A Democratic state lawmaker has ended for now his bid to bankrupt or secularize all religious colleges in California, settling instead for public humiliation and harassment.

Yesterday State Sen. Ricardo Lara amended language inside his Senate Bill 1146 that would have pulled state and federal college subsidies from students who attend religious colleges unless those colleges strip their distinctive religious practices, especially in the areas of human sexuality and theology instruction. It also would have opened these institutions up for lawsuits by aggrieved students who don’t like the openly disclosed policies of the institutions they freely choose to attend. Biola University, for example, would have been forbidden from requiring students and faculty to sign a statement of faith. Holly Scheer gave other examples earlier this spring:

This threatens religious institutions’ ability to require that students attend daily or weekly chapel services, keep bathrooms and dormitories distinct according to sex, require students to complete theology classes, teach religious ideas in regular coursework, hold corporate prayer at events such as graduation, and so on. In other words, it threatens every practice that makes religious institutions distinct from secular institutions.

Lara himself argued that core teachings of all the world’s major religions constitute discrimination and therefore should be banned from schools: “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.”

The bill as now amended still requires schools to publicly disclose if they have an exemption from federal mandates that violate core theological tenets of the world’s major religions (such as placing men and women in the same dorm rooms and shower facilities) and report to the state when they expel students for violating the school’s religiously informed standards for behavior. LGBT activists pressured the Obama administration into publishing a nationwide list of colleges who have taken similar actions, which has been called a “hit list” for leftist activists to use in harassing donors, supporters, leaders, employees, and students.

Lara dialed down his bill a day after a coalition of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders released a public statement condemning it. Students, college leaders, religious freedom coalitions, and their allies have hammered the bill all summer, highlighting that “All Cal Grant recipients are low-income, and 75% of Cal Grant recipients at religious colleges are minorities. The bill’s author has now promised to completely remove the language that would have affected Cal Grants,” said Ryan Colby, a spokesman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in an email. A Becket press release further stated:

A new website (also available en Español) and a series of videos helped turn the tide against SB 1146, explaining how the bill victimizes poor African-American and Latino students – many of whom are the first in their families to attend college – by forcing them to drop out of college or into failing state schools with dismal graduation rates for minorities. The website was circulated to over 15 million California voters, and over 100,000 immediately responded by signing a petition opposing SB 1146.

If SB 1146 passed as previously written, religious institutions would have had to choose between staying true to what they believe is best for the young souls in their care, and not only jettisoning or adding huge debt loads to some of their neediest students but also making huge budget cuts that would have jeopardized their very existence. That’s because half of full-time college students use the federal subsidies Lara wanted to make contingent on schools shedding their religious identities. In addition, roughly one in seven California college students gets Cal Grants, according to NCES data squared with Cal Grant numbers.