…for religion is made manifest by its SB 1146, Equity in Higher Education Act, currently under consideration before the California Senate.
As it currently stands, parochial schools—church schools, religious schools, schools run according to a clearly stated set of religious tenets—are exempt from discrimination laws where such discrimination is centered on religious beliefs. Schools and their students are free to follow their conscience and to require employees, and students, to adhere to certain basic sets of behaviors. As Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bishop Charles Blake put it in their piece,
Current California law exempts religious schools from nondiscrimination laws in cases where applying these laws “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.”
For years now, this policy has worked well, enabling church-run colleges and universities to hire personnel and establish policies and expectations regarding religious practice and personal conduct that reflect their beliefs and values.
California State Senator Ricardo Lara’s (D) bill seeks to destroy this (Gomez and Blake are more polite about Lara’s motive and his bill’s overall impact. I don’t agree, though, that Lara doesn’t understand what he’s doing). His bill would only exempt seminaries or other schools that train clergy and ministers; it would rescind that religious freedom protection everywhere else.
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 to accommodate practices that in some cases would be contrary to their beliefs and teachings.
Detailed provisions in the legislation include rules for bathroom use and sleeping arrangements in dormitories. The bill even has the government setting guidelines for what “religious practices” and “rules for moral conduct” will be acceptable on these campuses.
All in the guise of “protecting” individual choice. Never mind, though, that Lara knows full well that those who wish to work or study at these schools are making their choice at that point. Never mind, either, that Lara knows full well that his bill allows those who disagree with the school’s religious tenets can attend, or get hired, and then force the school to violate its own tenets to accommodate these.
Never mind, either, that Lara knows full well the damage his bill will do to those he claims to be trying to help, low-income and minority families—including millions served by our respective faith communities here in Los Angeles. As Gomez and Blake note—and as Lara surely knows—60% of these religious schools’ students are minorities and nearly 90% need financial aid. Aid that Lara’s bill would cut off unless these schools kowtow to his demands.
It shouldn’t take elders of the religious community to point this out. Any lay person—me, for instance—can see this plainly. Which means, in particular, that Lara, whose bill this is, sees it plainly. And doesn’t care.
Keep in mind one other thing, too. Rights granted by Government, or presumed granted by Government, can be withdrawn by Government, too, and at that Government’s whim. Lara’s bill is a clear demonstration of that.