California's Senate Bill 1146 'a solution in search of a problem,' punishes religious schools for 'wrong views,' says ADF

Lawmakers in California are pushing forward with the bill that promotes equality in universities and colleges in the state, which would limit the scope in which faith-based academic institutions can use their exemption from the Equity in Higher Education Act.

A gender neutral restroom is seen in a city building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2016. | Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

"This bill is a solution in search of a problem," said Gregory Baylor, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, as quoted by WND. "There is no problem, except in the eyes of these legislators that these schools hold 'the wrong views' on these controversial issues. So it doesn't really accomplish anything but it does punish these schools for having these religious views."

Senate Bill 1146 currently says that it would limit the religious exemption of a faith-based postsecondary educational institution from the Equity in Higher Education Act "to certain educational programs and activities." These include those programs and activities that prepare students to become ministers or to enter a vocation of that religion, and those that teach theological subjects on that religion.

Baylor said that the legislators wish to restrict the scope of exemption such that "a liberal arts religious institution can no longer maintain, enforce and apply faith-based conduct standards." Moreover, faith-based academic institutions are likely to face numerous lawsuits, with people claiming "religious discrimination" for things such as required weekly chapel exercises, required prayer, theology classes in the perspective of the school's religious stance, and others. It would a problem if the school wishes to maintain their religious character by those who make up their communities and by what they do.

"In essence, it restricts freedom of Christ-centered institutions of higher education in California that participate in the state tuition assistance program known as Cal Grants," he said. Also, "We think that if legislators in the assembly understand that this is really an assault on students, on low income and often minority populations of students, that that might motivate them to protect those students and protect those students that they have."

However, he recognizes the political reality in which majority are Democrats who, he said, "tend to be more sympathetic to the gay rights agenda."

According to WND, the bill might reach California governor Jerry Brown by late summer or early fall, who might sign it into law.

"I do think the bill violates constitutional protections of religious freedom, of freedom of association, equal protection of the laws," Baylor said. "It would be very unsurprising to me if some of these schools and the students who would be harmed would commence litigation if this bill becomes law."