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California Drops Proposal to Limit Religious Freedom for Faith-Based Schools Amid Backlash from Christian Groups

( [email protected] ) Aug 11, 2016 10:23 AM EDT
Amid backlash from Christians and conservative groups, California State Senator Ricardo Lara announced that he will be dropping a provision from a bill that would limit religious exemptions for schools and open faith-based universities to lawsuits from homosexual and transgender students.
A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina, United States on May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

Amid backlash from Christians and conservative groups, California State Senator Ricardo Lara announced that he will be dropping a provision from a bill that would limit religious exemptions for schools and open faith-based universities to lawsuits from homosexual and transgender students.

On Wednesday, Lara announced he will instead will continue with the amended bill that would still require faith-based schools to disclose if they have an exemption and report to the state when students are expelled for violating morality codes.

"The goal for me has always been to shed the light on the appalling and unacceptable discrimination against LGBT students at these private religious institutions throughout California," Lara said.

"I don't want to just rush a bill that's going to have unintended consequences so I want to take a break to really study this issue further," he added.

S.B. 1146, introduced in February by Sen. Lara, sought to minimize the number of California colleges and universities that were able to claim exemptions from federal Title IX anti-discrimination law, applying the exemption only to seminaries and schools of divinity.

The proposed law, also known as the Equity in Higher Education Act, would have made up to 40 Christian universities susceptible to lawsuits from homosexual and transgender students. While the law originally applied to discrimination against women and in situations related to girls who desire to participate in sports programs, the Department of Education earlier announced it interprets Title IX exemptions as also applying to "gender identity" and sexual orientation.

The bill was met with opposition from a number of Christian and conservative groups who feared it would be "harmful to the free exercise of religion in higher education."

"This legislation puts into principle that majoritarian beliefs are more deserving of legal protection, and that minority viewpoints are deserving of government harassment," reads a statement signed by a coalition of interfaith leaders, including Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Rick Warren, the pastor and founder of Saddleback Church, and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.

"Legislation of this nature threatens the integrity not only of religious institutions, but of any viewpoint wishing to exercise basic American freedoms, not least of which is the freedom of conscience...Where the state can encroach on one religion's free exercise, it can just as easily trample on any other religion's free exercise. We therefore join in solidarity across religious lines to speak against Senate Bill 1146." it continues.

Sen. Lara said he will pursue other legislation next year, possibly including the provision dropped Wednesday.

Tags : California, Senate Bill 1146, Religious Freedom, gay marriage, Homosexuality, Christian school, businesses and religious liberty