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New California Proposal Puts Pressure on Faith-Based Colleges


Title IX of the Civil Rights Act prohibits a person from being excluded from any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance on the basis of his or her sex.

Additionally, the Equity in Higher Education Act prohibits a person from being subjected to discrimination on the basis of specified attributes — namely sex — from any program or activity offered by postsecondary education institutions that benefit from state financial assistance or whose students accept state financial aid.

In both of these cases, there exists an exemption for postsecondary schools controlled by a religious organization.  This was done to protect against the government interfering with the school’s fundamental beliefs and tenets.

Enter, California.

In February, California Senator Ricardo Lara introduced SB 1146, which would target religious postsecondary schools and interfere with their ability to exercise their religious tenets in educational programs, activities, and facilities.

If enacted, the bill would allow seminaries to retain the exemption from Title IX, but it would remove the exemption for most religious colleges and universities. It would also require schools to publicly notify the state, students, and faculty that they are seeking exemption and the reasons why.

Not only would this be bad PR for the school, but it makes the university vulnerable to lawsuits by authorizing students to seek a remedy if they feel that they have been discriminated against in any way.

What sets a religious educational institution apart from its secular counterparts are the fundamental beliefs and tenets of the school. These beliefs inform practically every aspect of how the school operates, including chapel services, facilities, education programs, student activities, and living situations. In other words, if this bill passed, it would compromise the very things that make a religious university what it is.

The bill’s supporters argue that religious schools should not be allowed to discriminate against students on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

The question begs to be asked, though: if a student is aware of the school’s beliefs but disagrees with them, why is he or she there in the first place? One must attend the school in order to be subjected to discrimination. Why voluntarily attend a school that possesses fundamental convictions with which you disagree?

While everyone can certainly agree that the safety of all students is important, one begins to wonder why a transgender student, for example, would choose to attend an evangelical university with beliefs on gender and sexuality are antithetical to their own.

The cries for tolerance from liberals and progressives begin to look more like intolerance of opposing views. SB 1146 would limit a religious institution’s right to exercise their religious beliefs.

Biola University lists these examples of how the bill would impact religious schools that lose their exemption:

  • 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, nor offer students spiritual direction or pastoral care.
  • Athletic teams would no longer be able to lead faith-based community service programs.

How do you think religious universities should handle this issue? Should they should comply with Title IX and all of its implications, even if they are compelled to compromise their beliefs? Leave a comment below.


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