Faith-based schools in CA could be sued for their beliefs, college prez warns

The president of William Jessup University claims that a bill pending in the California legislature would have a “devastating” impact on religious colleges by violating their religious liberty.

In an op-ed for The Christian Post Tuesday, Dr. John Jackson claims Senate Bill 1146 is a “flawed measure that denies faith-based universities in California the ability to function based on religious beliefs and constitutional principles.”

[RELATED: CA bill would restrict religious rights of Christian colleges]

The bill, which was introduced by State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), is intended to disallow private colleges from making admission, housing, or faculty decisions based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill passed the Senate on May 26 and is currently awaiting consideration by the Assembly.

“The overall assumption of SB 1146 is that it protects gay, lesbian, and transgender students against discrimination at private Christian universities,” writes Jackson. “However, this overlooks the devastating impact on constitutional freedoms.”

According to Jackson, the bill would effectively eliminate the religious liberty of universities that integrate faith-based curriculums into the entire educational experience, paving the way for harassment lawsuits.

“The problem is that it provides a course of legal action for any student that feels they’ve been discriminated against in any other setting,” he explained.

If the bill passes the Assembly, Jackson says it would allow students who feel uncomfortable with mandatory chapel or open class prayer a private right of action, which means they would have the right to sue faith-based schools that require participation in almost any form of spiritual life on campus.

“The passage of SB 1146 would have a profound negative impact upon all California faith-based students and the universities that have successfully integrated higher education with spirituality,” writes Jackson.

Administrations of other California Christian universities have expressed their concern over the bill’s potential passage, fearing the imminent elimination of religious liberty at private, faith-based colleges.

“It really does infringe on how we carry out our mission,” Lee Wilhite, Vice President of University Communications at Biola University, told Fox News.

After passing the Senate on May 26, SB 1146 was sent to the Assembly Committees on Higher Education and the Judiciary, where it was last amended Thursday en route to a possible floor vote.

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