The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) joins Catholic, Jewish and other religious leaders nationwide in expressing grave concern over California State Bill 1146, the Equity in Higher Education Act. In an attempt to address anti-discrimination concerns, California legislators overreached and are proposing a bill that would constitute one of the most significant limitations of religious freedom in U.S. history.
S.B. 1146 would eliminate the current religious exemption in California that gives its faith-based colleges and universities the opportunity to operate in ways that are consistent with their beliefs. Under the provisions of S.B. 1146, only seminaries or other schools that train clergy and ministers would qualify for a religious exemption. Any other faith-based school that receives state monies or enrolls students who depend on the Cal Grants financial aid program would be forced to change their policies on student conduct, housing and restroom/locker facilities, and other matters of practical campus life that are currently informed by the institution’s religious convictions.
“Christian doctrine and beliefs are 2,000 years old and held by two billion Christians around the world,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “The California Assembly is voting to change Christian policies and practices to comply with the new doctrines of California state legislators. The bill is a threat to the mutually beneficial relationship that has existed between faith and higher education for the entire history of our nation.”
The bill would disproportionately punish minority communities, especially the Hispanic and African American communities, which often find opportunity in faith-based education and are recipients of state financial assistance that could be eliminated if S.B. 1146 were to pass.
The NAE does not believe that protecting one minority community requires the alienation of others, and we urge California’s leaders to take a more measured approach, vote “no” on S.B. 1146, and embark upon a meaningful dialogue to find a mutually beneficial solution to concerns.