Here’s What California Students Are Saying About SB 1146

SB 1146, a proposed bill that would limit the anti-discrimination exemptions of religious universities has been generating controversy in California for several months.

Religious universities and Christians across the country decried the bill, claiming it would inhibit religious freedom and quickly raised $350,000 to oppose the legislation. Earlier this week, Senator Ricardo Lara, the author of the bill, removed the portion of the bill opening religious universities to lawsuits from students. The current version of the bill would require these schools to give notice of their exemption status and alert the state government when students were expelled for reasons to do with a school’s moral conduct codes.

The bill has been covered extensively by religious news outlets, but has received relatively little attention on the national, and even to some degree, the state level, and this coverage has focused primarily on the opinions of lawmakers and religious representatives—not the students who attend these universities.

As the bill continues to evolve, students at religious universities across the state are beginning to voice their opinions. If you are a current or former student from one of these universities who would like to share your views, leave a comment below or drop us a line at thinkcuriouser@gmail.com.

 

Azusa Pacific University

Location: Azusa

Enrollment: 5,918 (undergraduate)

Religious affiliation: Evangelical Christian

Stance on SB 1146 (prior to amendment removal):

A student at Azusa Pacific University said in a survey that they think SB 1146 should be passed and don’t think the university should enforce a moral sexual code

Prior to the amendment’s removal one participant said they wanted the bill to pass because “it would make people feel more accepted.”

Another student from the class of 2019 said they did not think the bill should be a law, although they did not believe the university should force students to adhere to a traditional Christian view of sexuality.

They said the bill would “pose a financial strain on universities due to a decrease in attendance and forced changes to the campus. This would result in a raise in already high prices. This would mean I couldn’t go to a school I chose to attend.”

“Students are able to choose which university they attend. Especially when choosing private universities, students should choose which university they attend based on things such as personal conduct policies,” another student wrote. “Government should not be deciding this when students have a choice in university.”

Biola

Location: La Mirada

Enrollment: 4,373 (undergraduate)

Religious affiliation: nondenominational Christian

Stance on SB 1146:

  • Publicly opposed the legislation and later praised the removal of the amendment
  • President Barry H. Carey posted a video to YouTube about the bill’s “threat to the religious liberty of faith-based higher education”

Evelyn Medrano

Evelyn Madrano is a rising junior at Biola University. She chose to attend the school, in large part because it is a faith-based institution.

Here is what Evelyn had to say about the bill before the amendment was dropped. “SB1146 is a bill that would take away the right of faith-based institutions to teach in a method that creates great leaders for the kingdom of Jesus Christ, to have an impact on the world through Jesus Christ,” she said. “I believe this bill should not be passed, let alone suggested. Why should us Christians have to change ourselves for the benefit of the LGBT community?”

“We aren’t asking the LGBT community to change who they are,” she said. “In a sense this bill is discriminating against us as well. Biola University creates a safe and comforting environment where I can grow closer with Jesus and learn so many different things…and I would hate for that to be taken away not just from me, but as well from my peers.”

Survey

A survey participant thought the bill should be passed (this was prior to the amendment being dropped):

“It’ll give people more freedom of who they want to be. College is a time to find yourself and explore your desires and wants, so I don’t think that schools thinks should impede with that.”

Chapman University

Location: Orange

Enrollment: 6,281 undergraduate

Religious affiliation: “not a Christian college, but a church-related school”

Stance on SB 1146 (prior to amendment removal):

  • Part of a group of universities represented by the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities that said they would support the bill if it was amended

Annabell Liao

Annabell is the Student Government Association President at Chapman University for the upcoming school year.

“I don’t think there is a lot of awareness or conversation about the bill at Chapman because it should not affect the school’s admissions or tax status,” Annabell said. “Bright and ethical students, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, are welcome at Chapman University.”

“Requiring government funded institutions to provide equal learning opportunities sounds reasonable to me, but I understand why opponents have reservations about forbidding private religious universities from accepting low-income students who want a more traditional college campus that aligns with their beliefs but rely more heavily on state financial aid than the university can likely provide.”

“I hope Senator Lara can continue to advocate for educational equity in the future, even if that may require broader changes than can be expected to happen overnight.”

Fresno Pacific University

Location: Fresno

Enrollment: 3,700

Religious affiliation: Mennonite Brethren

Stance on SB 1146 (prior to amendment removal):

  • Opposed the legislation
  • The school’s president Richard Kreigbaum wrote a blog claiming the law “would threaten the religious freedom of all Christian colleges and universities in California”

Prior to the amendment removal, the Becket Fund interviewed several students about how the bill would affect them.

“The people considering SB 1146 really need to understand the impact this bill will have on people’s education,” said Deja Alewine, an African-American student who comes from a single-parent household. “This impacts our lives. It impacts our future. ”

“My parents originally came here because they were farm workers. It was only because I received a Cal Grant … that school became an option for me,” said Jorge Cubillos, who was the first in his family to attend college. “SB 1146, if it passes, it’s going to hold back a lot of students. It’s going to hold back a lot of potential. Future leaders, future inventors, future teachers. It’s going to hold back progress.”

“There are a lot of students out there like me who are heavily supported by the Cal Grant,” said Leonel Loera, a journalism student at Fresno Pacific University. “Without it, we won’t be able to accomplish our dreams.”

This post will be updated as more students come forward. If you are a current or former student of a religious university in California leave your thoughts in the comments below or email us at thinkcuriouser@gmail.com.

Westmont College

Location: Santa Barbara

Enrollment: 1,313 undergraduate

Religious affiliation: nondenominational Christian

Stance on SB 1146 (prior to amendment removal):

  • Part of a group of universities represented by the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities that said they would support the bill if it was amended
  • The president wrote an email voicing the university’s official opposition to the bill

Leandra Marshall

Leandra is the student body president for the 2016-2017 year.

“I am skeptical at the intentions behind SB 1146,” she said. “A private Christian college has the right to govern within its moral convictions, convictions in Westmont’s case are based upon Biblical principle. SB 1146 seems to cast such institutions as agents of hate
and discrimination, but the Biblical principles upon which Westmont was founded and holds today are in direct opposition to the accusation supposed by SB 1146.”

“This bill is endorsing a like-minded, uniform mindset and legislating a progressive intolerance, an intolerance that takes the form of a new moral standard that opposes Biblical principles. Not only legislating this new ‘morality’, with this bill lawmakers are attempting to gain the power to silence those who believe otherwise, thereby attempting to eliminate the voices of opposition. Our American society only flourishes when individual virtues are nourished and true tolerance supersedes intolerance to opposing practices. We will only sustain our freedom if citizens defend their own views as well as the right of others to disagree with those views.”

Leandra says she hopes Westmont will “unquestionably hold fast to Biblical Truth, at all costs.” After the bill was updated to remove some of restrictions that were troublesome to Christian schools, she still had reservations.

“Maybe this bill has become less dangerous to the targeted institutions in California, but the lawmakers creating this document have not. Senator Lara has made it plain that the change in this bill was not because of a change of heart, and I fear that we will see very similar legislation proposed in the future.”

Donald Scherschligt

Donald Scherschligt graduated from Westmont in 2015 and was the president of Spectrum, originally started as an on campus group and now working for “intersectional LGBTQ justice within the Santa Barbara community and beyond through a Christian worldview.”

“Westmont is betraying its student body by falsely pitting LGBT students against students needing financial aid—and just to be clear, those two groups aren’t mutually exclusive,” Donald said. “Westmont claims that in order to support one of those groups, they must give up on another. That’s simply not true, and it shows that Westmont truly cares more about their coffers than their student community. The bill doesn’t go far enough really. I spent the majority of my time at Westmont feeling unwelcome, my faith constantly questioned, my views constantly attacked. I have friends who have lost jobs or student leader positions because of their sexual orientation. Students use gay slurs and chapel messages reinforce the idea that LGBT people are subhuman. Sure, many colleges have just recently applied for Title IX exemptions, but they were discriminating long before that—Westmont included. And until we have a bill that goes further than SB 1146 or a community that doesn’t let Westmont get away with discrimination, Westmont will continue to harass and discriminate against LGBT students and get away with it, too—no federal exemption required.”

Jason

Jason is currently a student at Westmont. He wrote a post on his blog explaining how he came to attend Westmont and the reasons he believe the school is wrong to oppose the law.

“SB 1146 is, at its core, a measure to close glaring loopholes in Title IX,” Jason writes. “Title IX is the reason I can serve in leadership positions as a gay man. Title IX is the reason my scholarships can’t be revoked for my coming out. Title IX is the reason I can’t be expelled for identifying as LGBT+.”

He criticized President Gayle Beebe’s email ignoring the potential negative affects of Title IX for students.

“Without debating whether SB1146 would indeed be bad for Westmont, the fact that the aforementioned email makes exactly zero reference to any of that is telling. It takes an enormous effort to go out of one’s way to neglect such a significant portion of the bill, and I seriously doubt a brilliant man like our president would commit such an egregious error of omission by accident. Regardless of how it’s worded, Westmont is seeking grounds to strip me of my leadership positions, revoke my scholarships, and expel me without legal consequence.”

“Institutions that refuse to discriminate on the basis of “race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, genetic information, or disability” incur no restrictions from SB1146 — so why would Westmont voice a position against it unless it fully intended on discriminating?”

Survey

We put out a brief survey to gather student responses to SB 1146 anonymously.

One participant from Westmont said they thought the bill should not be passed because it would lead to a “more hostile, less religious environment.”

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