Update, 7:03 PM, Thursday, June 30:
Our staff members Jonathan Keller and John Gerardi recored a short Facebook Live video explaining today’s hearing. Please watch and share!
Update, 3:24 PM, Thursday, June 30:
#SB1146 has passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, 7 in favor, 2 in opposition, 1 abstaining.
Senator Lara introduced his recently amended bill to the committee along with two witnesses: one, a student who claimed he had been expelled from a Christian college for his sexual orientation; the other, the director of Equality California, one of the most powerful LGBT groups in the country. Aside from the ACLU representative who thought the bill was not liberal enough, the opposition presented two witnesses: Jeff Berman, one of the leading attorneys in America dealing with religious liberty rights for religious colleges and universities; and Dr. John Jackson, the president of William Jessup University. Both spoke strongly in favor of the rights of religious schools to maintain their doctrinal beliefs without interference.
The members of the committee posed a few questions to the witnesses; James Gallagher and Donald Wagner had particularly pointed questions of the bill author, Senator Lara. Unfortunately, it seems that party politics controlled the day, and the Democrats voted monolithically in favor of the bill, assuring its passage out of the committee.
UPDATE, 1:47 PM, Thursday, June 30:
#SB1146 is currently being heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Please follow @CAFamily on Twitter for photos and breaking updates. You can also watch the hearing live at CalChannel.
Original Post, 11:30 AM, Thursday, June 30:
We wanted to provide our supporters with an update on the current status of SB 1146, the bill that inhibits the religious freedom rights of California religious colleges and universities. Here’s what the bill does now, and where it stands.
- The bill has passed the California State Senate, as well as the California Assembly’s Higher Education Committee. The bill will be heard today (June 30) in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, following the ongoing floor session, in room 447 at the State Capitol. If it passes, the law will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee at some point in early August, followed by a vote on the Assembly Floor. If it passes the Assembly, it will need to receive a final confirmation vote in the State Senate, and then will head to the Governor’s office for his signature.
- In previous editions, SB 1146 would have prohibited religious schools from having requirements for chapel attendance, corporate prayer, theological course requirements, and other ways in which faith is incorporated throughout the curriculum. Since then, the bill has been amended: it no longer affects these areas of academic and religious life. The author of the bill has made it clear that he is not interested in addressing these questions.
- SB 1146 still would prohibit any faith-based policies that “discriminate” against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. It specifically prohibits any policies restricting married student housing to couples in male-female marriages, policies requiring transgender students to live in the dormitories designated for their biological sex rather than their perceived “gender identity,” and any other conduct policies that specifically forbid LGBT activity but not heterosexual activity (e.g., PDA between members of the same sex, persistent cross-dressing, etc.).
- Schools that violate these provisions are open to lawsuits seeking “equitable relief,” but not “damages.” This means that an LGBT student who believes that he/she is adversely affected by a school’s policies may sue the school, but may not receive money in damages. He/she may obtain “equitable relief,” which means a state-enforced court order requiring the school to treat that student or other students in a fashion that accords with SB 1146.
- In order not to be subject to these requirements, religious schools would have to withdraw from participation in the Cal Grants program. There are thousands of students who attend schools like Biola, Fresno Pacific, Thomas Aquinas College, Azusa Pacific, William Jessup, and others on a Cal Grant, a state-funded scholarship open to lower-income students. This law would profoundly and negatively impact student choice, and we sincerely believe that the chief collateral damage for this bill will be students.
- As currently written, SB 1146 also may have religious implications for schools that have an on-campus chapel that hosts weddings. In its current version, the bill may require such schools to make their on-campus chapel open to the celebration of same-sex weddings. It is unclear if this provision will remain in the bill, or if it will be removed in future amendments.
- The current version of the bill also would prohibit schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring. This means a school could be open to a lawsuit for refusing to hire a professor living in a same-sex marriage. The author of the bill, however, has repeatedly stated that he does not wish for his bill to relate to employment questions, and will likely amend this portion of the bill. Nevertheless, the sloppy fashion in which the bill has been drafted and amended is extremely distressing and alarming for those of us who are concerned about religious liberty.
California Family Council is committed to keeping you informed on the status of SB 1146 and other bills in the State Legislature that adversely impact our core issues of Life, Family, and Religious Liberty. We sincerely appreciate your support of our efforts, and sincerely ask your prayers for the defeat of this terrible bill.