Religious liberty is in serious jeopardy. There is a recent bill in California, Senate Bill 1146, which jeopardizes the future of faith-based institutions. In the words of Biola president Barry Corey, “Never has there been proposed law in the history of our nation that would be as restrictive on the religious rights of faith-based colleges and universities. We believe this is just the beginning of an erosion of religious freedom which is not only a constitutional right but also necessary for the flourishing of our democracy.”[i]
This bill should come as no surprise. In their opinion for the 2015 SCOTUS ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, the majority judges claimed that expanding marriage to include same-sex couples would “pose no risk of harm to themselves or third parties.” However, the minority judges noted that the new ruling would help portray dissenters as “bigots” and also raise serious concerns for religious liberty. Judges Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas conclude:
Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. See Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question 1, at 36–38. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.[ii]
These words were unmistakably prophetic. If passed into law, SB 1146 would dramatically narrow religious freedom in California. It would open up faith-based institutions to unprecedented lawsuits, prevent them from consistently operating according to their religious convictions, and jeopardize Cal Grant access for California students who wish to use this aid to study at Christian schools.
Barry Corey concludes: “This bill, if it became law, would diminish religious liberty in California higher education. It would unfairly harm faith-based institutions and it would weaken the rich educational diversity of our state. Many religious freedom observers are rightly worried that this bill could set a precedent that threatens faith-based institutions nationwide.”
If you are concerned about the freedom of all Americans, including those who are religious, pleases consider a few steps:
- Contact your legislators with this easy-to-use guide.
- Share any helpful articles like this blog, or this article by Barry Corey (from the OC Register).
- Write a blog yourself, or speak out against SB 1146 in whatever platform you have.
- Contact any state lawmakers or influencers in Sacramento you might know and educate them about the bill.
- Pray that faith-based institutions in California, and beyond, can continue to operate in a manner consistent with their beliefs.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.
[i] Email from Barry Corey to Biola community entitled, “Help Spread Word about Threat to Faith-Based Colleges,” July 18, 2016.