A Pentecostal Response to California Senate Bill 1146: Religious Freedom of Christian Colleges

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California Senate Bill 1146 proposes to limit the freedom of religious educational institutions.[1] This bill would deny Christian colleges the right to require current students to abide by a code of conduct based on biblical principles, or to refuse admission to students who are in violation of biblical teaching. The bill allows for an exemption only in overtly religious programs or activities such as ministry majors or theological classes, while denying this same religious freedom in the case of general education programs or activities such as nursing or business majors. This is a flagrant and unacceptable violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the US Constitution.

In matters involving the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, the government must use the least restrictive alternative to fulfill its legitimate public policy interest. There is no reason why administrators of Christian colleges should not be allowed to set religious requirements for admission based on their interpretation of the Bible and their consciences. Such requirements are not unfair as long as they are applied objectively to all applicants. Moreover, there is no legitimate reason for federal funds to be withheld from students in such programs. The quality of the education received, both in overtly religious and general education programs, should be the standard; not the private religious beliefs of an institution’s leaders and students. Far from being the least restrictive alternative, Senate Bill 1146 amounts to what Samuel James recently called a “dismantling of the idea of Christian education.”[2]

For many Christians, faith extends to all aspects of life. The Christian worldview affects more than just overtly religious acts or topics; it informs our approach to law, commerce, art, science, and even leisure. Religious educational institutions with this understanding have long played an integral role in the educational system of the United States. Indeed, many of our historic universities such as Harvard and Yale were founded on this basis. Their religious nature has not prevented them from offering a valuable service to countless students. Their alumni have incontrovertibly advanced and improved society on many levels. All schools should not be forced to be religious schools, but neither should religious schools be forced to become secular. Christian colleges have a right to exist and to practice their faith under the US Constitution.

[1] The bill suggests making those institutions subject to the provisions of the Equity in Higher Education Act which affords “all persons, regardless of disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or other specified bases, equal rights and opportunities in the postsecondary institutions of the state.” See http://bit.ly/28Yx6y2 and http://bit.ly/28V5RQU. Accessed June 25, 2016.

[2] “‘It’s Going to be an Issue.’ Biola, Conscience, and the Culture War” by Samuel James (http://bit.ly/28Uc2Ze).

 

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A Pentecostal Response to California Senate Bill 1146: Religious Freedom of Christian Colleges