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Proposed State Legislation Jeopardizes Religious Freedom of California Christian Higher Education

24 Jun

BARRY H. COREY

Office of the President

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Dear Biola alumni, donors and parents,

It is unprecedented for Biola University to reach out to our community regarding legislative issues, but California Senate Bill 1146 could significantly challenge Biola University’s ability to continue in the mission that has guided us for 108 years. Though Biola and other faith-based colleges and universities have worked closely with California lawmakers in recent months to find an agreeable compromise on the language of this bill, negotiations seem to have now reached an impasse. SB 1146, if passed, would substantially interfere with the ability of California’s faith-based colleges and universities to live out their religious convictions and expect their students to do the same.

As the president of Biola University, I am asking for your help today. I am asking our community of supporters, even those who live outside of California, to raise awareness about Senate Bill 1146 and the consequences it could have for California’s faith-based colleges and universities.

SB 1146, introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), seeks to eliminate the current religious exemption in California that fully protects the freedom of Biola University, along with dozens of other California faith-based universities, to operate in a manner consistent with our religious mission and faith tenets. The provisions of the proposed bill represent a dramatic narrowing of religious freedom in California. It would mean schools like Biola would no longer be able to determine for themselves the scope of their religious convictions as applied in student conduct policies, housing and restroom/locker facilities, and other matters of religious expression and practical campus life. Though the free exercise of religion is guaranteed by both the U.S. and California Constitutions, SB 1146 would make religious institutions like Biola vulnerable to anti-discrimination lawsuits and unprecedented government policing.

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.

Faith-based institutions of higher education are making profound contributions to the intellectual and common good of society, contributions not in spite of but because of our deeply held faith convictions. Our presence in society enriches it rather than diminishes it. We provide economic vitality to our communities. Our graduates leave with servant-leader hearts. Our focus on ethics and integrity is inherent to all our programs. A disproportionate number of our graduates seek careers in public service or non-profit organizations. Why would California want to harm institutions like this?

STOPPING SB 1146 REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ACTION

Right now SB 1146 is being heard by the California Assembly’s various committees. It has already passed the California Senate. On Tuesday, June 28 it will be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. If approved, it will then move to the Appropriations Committee and then the Assembly for a full vote, likely in August. The best chance to stop it is before it reaches the Assembly floor for debate and vote. Updates on the status of SB 1146, and timely action steps you can take to help oppose the bill, will be posted on this website, so check back regularly to stay informed.

HOW YOU CAN HELP STOP IT:

·        Step #1 — Spread the Word. Forward this email to parents, students or alumni of faith-based colleges and universities, churches or others who value religious freedom for faith-based institutions in California. Anyone who has an affinity for faith-based higher education should know about this threatening bill.

·        Step #2 — Social Media. Express your concerns about the bill on social media using hashtag #SB1146. On www.opposesb1146.com you can find suggested social media posts, as well as FAQs about the bill. Please express your concerns with civility and respect.

·        Step #3 — Pray. Pray for this moment in California history when our deeply held beliefs are being challenged. Pray that Biola is able to continue living and educating in ways that are consistent with biblical convictions. Pray that our mission can remain unchanged: to prepare our students in mind and character, through a biblically grounded education, to impact the world for Christ.

In closing, I want to assure you that while this law is intended to alter the heart and soul of schools like Biola, we will continue to advocate for our religious liberty. If this bill is passed and signed by the governor into law, we would join other California religious institutions in exercising our constitutional rights to pursue legal action and, if necessary, ask the Supreme Court to intervene. If SB 1146 becomes law, it would likely not impact Biola in the near future as legal action would be filed. We would prefer, however, that this bill be stopped or amended now rather than resorting to litigation later. So please join us in raising awareness about this bill and its consequences for faith-based higher education in California.

Thank you for your prayer and support in this issue.

In Christ,

Barry H. Corey President

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. (Psalm 108:5-6)

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Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Biola University, Culture

 

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