Religious leaders call on California to protect religious liberty of colleges
Religion & Liberty Online

Religious leaders call on California to protect religious liberty of colleges

Today, a group Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders have released a statement in defense of the religious freedom of private colleges and universities in California. Current legislation pending in the California State Senate threatens to strip some private colleges and universities of an exemption that protects them from lawsuits and allows them to function as faith-based organizations. The effort, spearheaded by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, includes signatures from 145 religious leaders.

Here is the full text of the statement along with a list of leaders who have signed the statement. You can also add your name to the document here.

The California Assembly has proposed legislation that is harmful to the free exercise of religion in higher education. In particular, the legislation disadvantages low-income minority students who want an education at private religious colleges. Though it purports to eliminate discrimination, Senate Bill 1146 results in its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality. If SB 1146 were to pass, it would deny students’ ability to participate in state grant programs—programs that exist to help low-income students, and which are overwhelmingly used by racial minorities—at schools that are found in violation of the bill. Moreover, it would severely restrict the ability of religious education institutions to set expectations of belief and conduct that align with the institution’s religious tenets. While we do not all agree on religious matters, we all agree that the government has no place in discriminating against poor religious minorities or in pitting a religious education institution’s faith-based identity against its American identity. This legislation puts into principle that majoritarian beliefs are more deserving of legal protection, and that minority viewpoints are deserving of government harassment. Legislation of this nature threatens the integrity not only of religious institutions, but of any viewpoint wishing to exercise basic American freedoms, not least of which is the freedom of conscience.

We, the undersigned, do not necessarily agree with one another’s religious views, but we agree on the necessity of the liberty to exercise these views. At the root of the American experiment is the idea that conscience and religious conviction come before the demands of the state. Some of us disagree with the sexual ethics of orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims giving rise to this legislation, but we are unified in our resistance to the government setting up its own system of orthodoxy. As the American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” No less is this true than on matters of religious liberty. Where the state can encroach on one religion’s free exercise, it can just as easily trample on any other religion’s free exercise. We therefore join in solidarity across religious lines to speak against Senate Bill 1146.

We call on the California Assembly to abandon Senate Bill 1146. To ensure the future of the free exercise of religion in higher education in California and across America, we respectfully call on the supporters of Senate Bill 1146 to immediately withdraw their support of this bill, with the commitment to disavow similar intrusions in the future. Opposition to this bill is not grounded in the protection of religious liberty only, nor for the special pleading of one religion in particular, but for the protection of American society and American democracy. Such protection requires a civil society welcoming of religious diversity.

The future of a free America requires the full participation of religion in public life. Religious higher education cultivates both the mind and the soul. Senate Bill 1146 endangers the integrity of religious education institutions and discourages them from acting according to their conscience for fear of government retribution. As Americans with a rich legacy of freedoms afforded to us by the laws of nature and of nature’s God, and enshrined in the Constitution, we can do better. As we renew our commitment to religious pluralism in the public square, we should embrace debate, welcome dissent, and encourage civility as we work together for the sake of the common good and of a country we are all unreservedly blessed to call our home.

*Please note that the title and institution listed for each signatory is used for identification purposes only and does not necessarily constitute an official endorsement by the institution.

Russell Moore
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Barry Corey
Biola University

Rick Warren
Pastor and Founder
Saddleback Church

Douglas Laycock
Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law
University of Virginia

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Princeton University

Hamza Yusuf Hanson
Zaytuna College

Richard Stearns
World Vision U.S.

Michael McConnell
Stanford Constitutional Law Center

Jim Daly
Focus on the Family

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik
Director Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought
Yeshiva University

Shirley V. Hoogstra
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Frank R. Wolf
Former Member of U.S. Congress
Distinguished Senior Fellow, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom, Baylor University

R. Albert Mohler Jr.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Yuval Levin
The Ethics and Public Policy Center

Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Alan E. Sears
President, CEO, General Counsel
Alliance Defending Freedom

Helen Alvare
Professor of Law
Scalia Law School at George Mason University

John Inazu
Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion
Washington University in St. Louis

Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Steven D. Smith
Warren Distinguished Professor of Law
University of San Diego

Ron Sider
Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy
Palmer Seminary at Eastern University

Jo Anne Lyon
General Superintendent Emerita
The Wesleyan Church

Faizul Khan
Imam and Founder
Islamic Society of Washington Area

Michael Wear
Public Square Strategies

Paul Ague
San Diego Christian College

Daniel L. Akin
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Anthony W. Allen
Hannibal-­LaGrange University

Jason K. Allen
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College

Ryan T. Anderson
William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow
The Heritage Foundation

Bruce Riley Ashford
Provost, Professor of Theology and Culture
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

John Ashmen
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

David Azerrad
Director, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics and AWC Family Foundation Fellow
The Heritage Foundation

Mark L. Bailey
President, Senior Professor of Bible Exposition
Dallas Theological Seminary

Gregory S. Baylor
Center for Religious Schools Alliance Defending Freedom

Michael J. Beals
Vanguard University

Jim Belcher
Providence Christian College

Phillip Bethancourt
Executive Vice President
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

David Blankenhorn
Better Angels

Dan Boone
Trevecca Nazarene University

John C. Bowling
Olivet Nazarene University

John F. Bradosky
Presiding Bishop
North American Lutheran Church

Rick Brewer
Louisiana College

Bob Brower
Point Loma Nazarene University

Jennifer S. Bryson
Independent Scholar

Galen Carey
Vice President of Government Relations
National Association of Evangelicals

Stanley Carlson­-Thies
Founder and Senior Director
Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Matt Carter
Pastor of Preaching and Vision
The Austin Stone Community Church

Derry Connolly
John Paul the Great Catholic University

Barry Creamer
Criswell College

Michael Cromartie
Vice President
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Kevin A. Culbertson
Professor of Business; Chair of Business Department; MBA Program Chair
John Paul the Great Catholic University

Jerry C. Davis
College of the Ozarks

Mark DeMoss
DeMoss Public Relations

David S. Dockery
Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Jason G. Duesing
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College

Ronald L. Ellis
California Baptist Seminary

Erick­-Woods Erickson
The Resurgent

Kevin Ezell
North American Mission Board

William Edmund Fahey
President and Fellow
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Thomas F. Farr
President Religious Freedom Institute and Director, Religious Freedom Project
Georgetown University

Matthew J. Franck
Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution Witherspoon Institute

David French
Staff Writer
National Review

Richard W. Garnett
Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law
University of Notre Dame

Timothy George
Beeson Divinity School of Samford University

Tim Goeglein
Vice President
Focus on the Family

Sandra C. Gray
Asbury University

Thomas P. Harmon
Professor of Theology and Culture
John Paul the Great Catholic University

George A. Harne
Northeast Catholic College

Jack W. Haye
Patrick Henry College

Jairy C. Hunter, Jr.
Charleston Southern University

William H. Jones
Columbia International University

Hyepin Im
President and CEO
Korean Churches for Community Development

Jeff Iorg
Gateway Seminary

John Jackson
William Jessup University

Jeffrey Jeremiah
Stated Clerk
Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Jerry A. Johnson
President and CEO
National Religious Broadcasters

Jeffrey K. Jue
Provost and Executive Vice President
Westminster Theological Seminary

William J. Katip
Grace College and Seminary

Jonathan Keller
California Family Council

Chuck Kelley
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Thomas S. Kidd
Distinguished Professor of History
Baylor University

John A. Kincaid
Professor of Theology and Scripture
John Paul the Great Catholic University

Daniel Kroeze
Professor of Biblical Studies
Kuyper College

R. Alton Lacey
Missouri Baptist University

Richard Land
Southern Evangelical Seminary

Steve Lemke
Provost & Professor of Philosophy and Ethics
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Stephen D. Livesay
Bryan College

Bryan Loritts
Abundant Life Christian Fellowship

Erwin W. Lutzer
Pastor Emeritus
The Moody Church, Chicago

Jennifer Marshall
Vice President, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity
The Heritage Foundation

Brett McCracken
Managing Editor Biola Magazine
Biola University

Gerald R. McDermott
Anglican Chair of Divinity History and Doctrine
Beeson Divinity School

Michael F. McLean
Thomas Aquinas College

Steve Miller
University Counsel
Colorado Christian University

Greg Mitchell
International Religious Freedom Roundtable

J. P. Moreland
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Biola University

Richard J. Mouw
Professor of Faith and Public Life
Fuller Theological Seminary

Jeff Myers
Summit Ministries

David Nammo
Executive Director and CEO
Christian Legal Society

Marvin Olasky
Editor and Chief

Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver
Union University

Daniel Patterson
Chief of Staff
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Paige Patterson
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Daniel Philpott
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Matthew Pinson
Welch College

Charles W. Pollard
John Brown University

Ramesh Ponnuru
Senior Editor
National Review

Karen Swallow Prior
Professor of English
Liberty University

Dennis Rainey

Patrick J. Reilly
The Cardinal Newman Society

R. R. Reno
First Things

Eugene F. Rivers III
Founder and President
Seymour Institute

Alan Robinson
National Director
Brethren in Christ Church, U.S.

Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches

Gabriel Salguero
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Richard Samuelson
Associate Professor
California State University, San Bernardino

Christof Sauer
International Institute for Religious Freedom

Thomas Schirrmacher
Moderator of intrafaith and interfaith relations
World Evangelical Alliance

Timothy Samuel Shah
Associate Director Religious Freedom Project
Georgetown University

Robert Sloan
Houston Baptist University

Kevin L. Smith
Executive Director
Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

Timothy L. Smith
University of Mobile

Roger L. Spradlin
Senior Pastor
Valley Baptist Church of Bakersfield, Calif.

Randy Stinson
Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Provost
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

John Stonestreet
Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Tony Suarez
Executive Vice President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

C. Pat Taylor
Southwest Baptist University

Justin Taylor
Executive Vice President for Book Publishing

Peter W. Teague
Lancaster Bible College

Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy

Jim Towey
Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, Fla.

A. B. Vines
New Seasons Church

Robert K. Vischer
Dean and Mengler Chair in Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law

Kristen K. Waggoner
Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Advocacy
Alliance Defending Freedom

Andrew T. Walker
Director of Policy Studies
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Jon Wallace
Palmer Seminary at Eastern University

Edward Whelan
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Evans P. Whitaker
Anderson University

Thomas White
Cedarville University

David Wesley Whitlock
Oklahoma Baptist University

Luder G. Whitlock, Jr.
President Emeritus
Reformed Theological Seminary

Fermin A. Whittaker
Executive Director California Southern Baptist Convention
California Baptist University

William M. Wilson
Oral Roberts University

George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Adam C. Wright
Dallas Baptist University

Ashfin Ziafat
Lead Pastor
Providence Church

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).