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California's SB 1146

California's legislature is trying to tighten the screws on Christian colleges in that state. Here, as best as I understand it, is the legal situation. California's S.B. 1146 (text here) amends a law that applies to all schools in the state whose students receive state money for their education. It amends it in such a way that religious schools will find it much harder to get an exemption from "discrimination" provisions that apply to all the usual areas, including homosexuality, the transgender agenda, and even religion! That's right: Religious schools in California whose students receive government aid, despite being religious schools, wouldn't be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion! So they wouldn't be able to keep their distinctively religious character at all. The only schools that could get an exemption would be those that are controlled wholly by a denomination and whose purpose is confined to training students for the ministry. So Christian liberal arts colleges would either have to forego all government funding for their students or else abandon their distinctive moral and religious characteristics. As far as I can tell, if the schools were to forego all state and federal aid both for the school and for all of the students, they could avoid the impact of the legislation. I'm open to being corrected on that perception.

So this would mean that such a college would have to abandon its right to "discriminate" on the basis of religion in hiring its professors or require students to make a profession of faith in order to attend. It would also mean, as far as I can tell, that "transgender" students would have to be housed in the dorm of their choice. It would also presumably mean that moral prohibitions against homosexual activity would have to be abandoned. And as for teaching complementarianism in gender roles, fuhgetabout it! If you have to abandon your school's religious character altogether, it follows as a matter of course that secular feminist students, not to mention faculty, are going to feel discriminated against if you teach that only men should be ordained or anything regressive of the kind. Christian colleges would simply have to be transformed into secular colleges unless they go "full Hillsdale" and change their funding model to operate without any state or federal funding for their students.

That might not be a bad idea at all, as the very existence of this legislation and Obama's recent monkeying with Title IX amply demonstrate. But doing it overnight might well prove impossible, leading at least some of the approximately 40 institutions affected to have to close their doors.

By stripping exempt status from these institutions, SB 1146 encourages a "cause of action" (that is, a lawsuit) against them by anyone who believes he has been discriminated against in any of the usual categories. I note that provisions in the bill have been struck out that would have encouraged lawsuits even if an institution does meet the new, stringent requirements for receiving a state exemption. That confused me temporarily while I was researching this post, but I now understand: If an institution receives state funding and doesn't get a religious exemption, the institution would still be open to lawsuit. The amendment of the proposed law merely gives a little breathing space to the few schools that could still get an exemption.

One report
has it that a new amendment is in the works in negotiations that allegedly would "preserve the existing religious exemption and satisfy Sen. Lara’s concerns about protecting LGBT students who attend Christian colleges. We remain encouraged that Sen. Lara has stated that it is not his intention to restrict the rights of religious schools to operate in accordance with their faith."

Uh-oh. That doesn't sound good at all. To my pessimistic eye that reads like it means this: Christian schools would have to compromise their principles on the homosexual and transgender agenda in order to avoid lawsuit, but they would be graciously permitted to continue to require the profession of various religious creedal beliefs by their faculty and students. So, just sacrifice your moral compass and we'll allow you to hang onto all of that theological mumbo-jumbo. And worse, it sounds like some Christian colleges would be pathetically grateful for such a compromise. I hope I'm wrong, but that's what it sounds like to me.

Now, it would be easy enough for the semi-libertarian-inclined, like me, to get a little smirky and smug about receipt of public funds. I've been saying since I was a political young pup just cutting my teeth on the voucher issue (which was all the rage in conservative circles at the time) that government money is like a drug that the institution becomes addicted to. Then when you're required to compromise your principles, you can't afford to say no.

And those points are still worth making. Do remember these events next time the question of public money tuition vouchers for Christian schools comes up. Just say "no." That kind of thing is considered "indirectly benefiting" from public money, and it is as certain as God made little green apples that it would come with these sorts of strings attached.

But it would be a kind of naivete simply to shake one's head at the folly of accepting government money and move on to the next story. There is not the slightest question that these sorts of restrictions are ultimately intended to be applied to everybody, without exception, all Christian schools, all private colleges and even K-12 schools, even if they don't receive a penny of public money. This is just the start. It wouldn't do to do the old thing: "First they came for the schools that take public money, and I said nothing because I'm against accepting public money."

I'm not even sure the term "trial balloon" is the one we want here. It's just another step in the left's totalitarian agenda. For example, DC's "Human Rights Amendment Act" back in 2014 targeted (as far as I know) all K-12 schools in the nation's capital with "anti-discrimination" requirements, not only those that take government money. Some googling fails to tell me decisively what happened with that stripping of religious exemptions. There was some talk of a "measure of disapproval" by Congress, also of defunding any enforcement of those provisions by Congress, but I can't even find out what ultimately happened and whether the DC requirement for all Christian schools remains the letter of the law.

I strongly urge California Christian colleges to stand firm on their moral identity, not "just" their other theological identity. Accept no substitutes for full freedom to operate in accordance with your Christian faith. And start looking now for alternative funding streams.

Comments (9)

Now, it would be easy enough for the semi-libertarian-inclined, like me, to get a little smirky and smug about receipt of public funds. I've been saying since I was a political young pup just cutting my teeth on the voucher issue (which was all the rage in conservative circles at the time) that government money is like a drug that the institution becomes addicted to. Then when you're required to compromise your principles, you can't afford to say no.

Exactly right, Lydia. As I've said many, many times, there are always strings attached to the receipt of public funds. Always. Likewise with charitable tax exempt status. Remember that church in Georgia a few years ago whose parishioners got together and informed on their pastor for preachng politics in the pulpit. The reasoning behind it (according to the informants) was that the church couldn't afford to lose their 501(c)3 status.

Terry, that's an interesting connection re. tax-exempt status. I think the liberals definitely want to make the same connection there. But the legal precedents as far as coercing adoption or abandonment of specific *policies* are far more scarce in the case of tax-exempt status. (The one big precedent being Bob Jones and interracial dating.) In general, the big pressure concerning 501c3 status is not crossing a line in political advocacy. Strictly speaking, that is a nice, bright line and easy to avoid crossing, without even having to violate one's principles, though many pastors (and parishioners) don't know that it is. You can do a _lot_ of preaching politics from the pulpit without violating 501c3 status as long as you don't expressly advocate voting for or against named candidates and legislation. You can even say, "Such-and-such candidate (or legislation) goes against our Christian principles. Use your vote wisely," and that's still not express advocacy.

Lydia - got ya. Thanks. I'm admittedly a little paranoid about "government assistance" of anykind that can remotely be called by that name *under liberalism* as the ruling ideology of our society. I of course don't think I'm wrong to be "a little paranoid" about it, but am open minded enough to consider why I might well be.

It's actually an interesting question: What, precisely, is the nature and status of tax exemption for religious institutions, and how does it differ from government subsidy? I may write a post ruminating on that. I _do_ think it differs rather substantially in _concept_, even if the leftists decide that they will try to use it as a club in much the same way that they use actual government subsidies as a club.

I certainly would _not_ advise any church or Christian school voluntarily to give up its tax-exempt status (which would mean inter alia paying ruinous property taxes), but I would _definitely_ advise churches and Christian schools to wean themselves off of government subsidies. There are both pragmatic and ideological reasons for this distinction, and I tend to think the reasons are intertwined.

I am a little puzzled about one aspect of this. You mention losing federal funds, but I am not seeing how. The state law can strip state-designated state-tax-exempt status, but wouldn't have any bearing on federal status, would it? The state can do all sorts of stuff it wants for its state purposes, but how would that affect federal matters? To my recollection, federal "benefits" don't hinge on state status for the most part. There are a fair amount of federal rules that appear to hinge on _accreditation_ by one of the federally accepted accreditation entities (which, to some degree, represents another achilles heel for schools), but states don't control that, either.

The state ties the wording of the law in part to whether or not a school (and/or its students) receives federal funding. For example, one aspect of the law is that any California school that receives Title IX funds and that receives an exemption from Title IX on religious grounds must be added to a List that is publically available.

The idea there is presumably to tag such schools for _state_ lawsuits.

I don't know what would happen if a school voluntarily told all of its students not to take _state_ funds but still received federal funds. I believe they'd still have to be put on "The List" if they got an exemption to the whacky new Obama interpretation of Title IX. Could they still be sued in state court? That is a little ambiguous. Technically the domain of applicability of the state law is a school that receives state funding.

However, I have never heard of any school that would accept federal funding for its students but would somehow make sure that its students didn't apply for or receive any state grants that were available. I don't even know if it would be possible for a school to gerrymander it in that way.

Tony, this summary (by someone who favors the law) states,

"Additionally, if an individual encounters discrimination at a school claiming a Title IX exemption, they would be allowed to pursue civil action under the new law."


This pro-homosexual legal blogger is claiming that the law creates a *state* cause of action against any school that receives *federal* funds, claims a Title IX exemption, but "discriminates" on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Clearly, the CA activist legislators are irritated that schools are even able to receive such a religious exemption at the federal level. They want to use the fact that a school does receive such a _federal_ exemption as a strike against the school by way of state lawsuits.

I've read the text of the law. As far as I can tell, it strictly speaking applies only to schools whose students also receive state funds. That's because it is an amendment to a state law for which that is the range of applicability. So _maybe_ a school could get out of such state lawsuits by eschewing all state funds for its students while continuing to receive federal funds. I imagine that that would be left to the courts to decide, and certainly it would be called another "loophole" by the state activist legislators.

Why would someone with a sexual orientation that is not in harmony with the Christian or faith-based educational institution want to go there in the first place?

Douglas, for many years now Christian organizations have been emphasizing, _partly_ correctly, that an "orientation," meaning by that inclinations only, toward same-sex relationships is not inherently sinful. I intend to write a new post about this issue soon, either here or at my personal blog. In our increasingly messed-up world there are a sad number of people who are Christians, let us assume even sincere Christians, who have same-sex attractions. Now, in my un-PC opinion, this _still_ creates big problems for a sensible residence policy at a residential college, because people understandably don't want roommates who are sexually attracted to them. So there are issues even with those who are willing to live a Christian lifestyle.

Perhaps these issues can be worked out by one-person rooms and so forth, though I have a rather sinking feeling that these well-intentioned Christian colleges are often just having the homosexually-inclined share rooms with roommates of the same sex because "it's just an orientation."

Anyway, that answers your question as far as pure orientation _alone_: It's possible that someone might have a same-sex attraction disorder and nonetheless want to go to a Christian college because he is a sincere Christian.

That is the best-of-a-bad-situation scenario.

However, too many Christian colleges have naively accepted too many "out" homosexuals who actually want to _change_ the colleges from within. There are many, many of these people who are _not_ attending in good faith but rather are trying to hijack the colleges. In Christian college after Christian college these have constituted themselves into whine-and-complain squads, going on and on about the "heteronormativity" of the colleges and how they don't feel welcomed enough. *Usually*, at least up until a few years ago, they paid lip service to the idea that they shouldn't actually be engaging in homosexual acts, but that was never a very stable thing, and nowadays many of them just want to agitate for being "accepted" fully in the sense that, e.g., they could be "married" to a member of the same sex and still be students, even live in married student housing, openly advocate against the sexual mores of the school's faith tradition, and so forth.

I believe it was the radical feminist theologian Rosemary Ruether who, when asked why she didn't just leave the Christian church instead of trying to take it over (aka "reform" it), replied baldly, "That's where the photocopying machines are." (Though this may be anachronistic. In her own time maybe she said "mimeograph machines.")

In other words, when an institution exists, there's always someone who wants to take over its infrastructure for their own, contrary purposes.

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