Christian Education and The State

By Caleb Keith

If you are in any way associated with Christian higher education, you are probably aware of California Senate Bill 1146 (SB1146). The bill threatens the way religious colleges operate in the state of California. To understand what the bill proposes, I read and re-read it several times last night. The essential function or purpose of SB1146 is to trap and punish religious higher education institutions who currently operate under a title IX discrimination exception. Under the current exemption, religious organizations can “discriminate” in their hiring and admissions practices so long as they are in line with their religious beliefs. For example, a Christian college may require all of its professors to be Christian and reserves the right not to employ non-Christians. Currently, schools which fall under title IX and certain California state exemptions can and often do receive federal and state aid. This funding ranges from student Cal-grants to institutional support. SB1146 seeks to remove state aid for institutions that claim religious exemptions and stop religious schools from “discriminating” in their hiring and admissions policies. SB1146 is a clear attack on religious freedom, but it may be one that was invited in.

SB1146 is as much about religious liberty and free speech as it is about money. Title IX exemptions, as well as various state exemptions, are what allow religious universities to accept federal and state student aid. The problem is, by taking money from the government, schools must meet certain requirements. When schools are in compliance with federal and state policy, their students receive more aid, and a reliably steady type income opens up to the university. Up until now, religious institutions did not have to compromise their values necessarily for their students to be eligible for government scholarships and loans. SB1146 changes the game, demanding that religious institutions forsake their values in exchange for reliable government aid.

The movement to attack religious freedom, particularly with Christianity, is on the rise. SB1146 is proof of that. However, SB1146 is also evidence that Christian schools should have never been taking government aid in the first place. By accepting such aid, Christian universities have made themselves subject to the ebb and flow of the American political landscape. I pray that SB1146 does not pass. However, this bill is only the first of many to come as Christianity and religious freedom continue to be attacked by the State.