In a letter, religious leaders — including NAE President Leith Anderson — asked California Governor Edmund “Jerry” G. Brown, Jr., to veto a state bill that would prevent religious institutions from being able to hold employees to standards of conduct regarding health decisions that may violate the values of the religious institution.
Dear Governor Brown:
The undersigned faith groups are each dynamically present as faith-based nonprofit employers in the state of California. We write collectively to urge you to veto AB 569 (Gonzalez Fletcher), which would adversely and unnecessarily impact our effectiveness in serving the people of California by subjecting us to potential costly and irresponsible legal costs and time-consuming litigation.
Collectively we employ thousands of people to provide dozens of social and legal services agencies, hundreds of churches, elementary, secondary and higher education schools, housing for the homeless, clinics for those who are in need, and many other services offered by our foodbanks, volunteer groups and service centers. Countless people of faith respond to local and state emergencies and toil daily as volunteers in outreach to those in need. We do these activities because our faith invites us to do so, for our own members and for the general citizenry of California. Our employees intentionally exercise their personal right to work with and for us knowing clearly who we are, what we profess in public and what we strive to live out for the common good. We are consistent in our training and we remind our coworkers of our values and our expectations. While at times they are not of our faith, they respect who we are, why we do our work and what we expect of them in support of our missions. We view our activities in the society as extensions of our ministries. We treat all our colleagues with dignity and respect. We request that the state treat us accordingly.
AB 569 does not respect or protect who we are as religious institutions and employers and how we do it in society. We are aware that there are those in our state who do not value our contribution and how we express ourselves. AB 569 sadly reflects that sentiment, but as such, it should not be the law of our state. AB 569 manifests a legal disregard for us and for those who have chosen to join us in our ministries.
We are of one mind with the policy and legal arguments advanced by the California Catholic Conference in their letter. We also support the arguments of all the other employers in the state as expressed in the letters from the Chamber of Commerce and others.
The bill addresses no real problems of discrimination unaddressed in religious or general employment. As the Catholic Conference letter says so well, the proponents directly expressed that the only reason for the bill was to circumvent the religious employer exemption in the government code by offering a cause of action in the Labor code.
We respectfully request that you return this bill to the legislature as divisive and unnecessary and let ourselves and the state continue to partner effectively on behalf of the people of our state.
Exec. Director & Church Council, Church State Council Adventist Church
Exec. Director of Schools Ministry, Pacific South West District
California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Edward E. “Ned” Dolejsi
California Catholic Conference, Inc.
Presiding Bishop, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
President, National Association of Evangelicals
Shirley V. Hoogstra
President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities