California

LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill Stirs Controversy at Religious Schools

SB 1146 would protect LGBT students from discrimination at faith-based universities

LGBT-history
NBC Bay Area

Sen. Ricardo Lara's proposed bill, which aims to prevent LGBT discrimination at faith-based colleges, has conservative groups, Christian colleges and LGBT advocacy groups clashing.

Senate Bill 1146, scheduled for a committee hearing this week, would remove a long-standing exemption from anti-discrimination laws for religious institutions. 

According to the official synopsis during the assembly committee on judiciary hearing, "The bill specifies that existing Government Code Section 11135 - which prohibits discrimination in any state-operated or state-funded program or activity - applies to any religious college or university that receives or benefits from state assistance," and "(The Bill) requires a college or university that claims a religious exemption from Title IX laws and regulations to make specified disclosures to students, faculty, and staff, and specifies that religious colleges and universities are subject to state anti-discrimination laws, as specified."

Executive Director of LGBT advocacy group Equality California, Rick Zbur, said that SB 1146 is a civil rights bill that would force faith-based schools that receive state funding to practice nondiscrimination towards LGBT people.

"State resources should not be used to advance LGBT discrimination," he said.

But opponents call it an attack on free exercise of religion. The exemption allows schools to craft campus policies more in line with their faith, they say.

The bill would prevent discrimination against same-sex relationships, housing and bathroom accommodations for transgender students, and more.

"At a school like Biola, you could be expelled for simply advocating LGBT rights," said Zbur.

He said the second purpose of the bill is to require schools to disclose any discriminatory practices. Several Christian Universities have voiced their opposition to the bill.

Biola University released a statement on their website, "If passed, this bill would substantially interfere with the ability of California's faith-based colleges and universities to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their beliefs."

Concordia University Irvine president Kurt Krueger issued a statement on the school website, stating the main oppositions were that the bill could require the university to hire faculty and staff that do not hold Christian beliefs and cause students to lose Cal Grants (financial aid to students from the government for California universities).

"It is unfair to punish the students," said Arthur Schaper, director of California MassResistance, which the SPLC classifies as a hate group, regarding potential loss of Cal Grants.

Zbur claims concerns about religious liberty and loss of financial aid are all a "smokescreen" for what in reality is LGBT intolerance.

"This is an infringement upon First Amendment rights," Schaper said. "Homosexuality is not a civil right, it's a behavior. Transgenderism is a mental disorder."

Schaper has organized demonstrations against Senate Bill 1146, including a meeting of over 50 people at Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell's office in Long Beach last Friday.

SB 1146 has a committee hearing date Aug. 3, 2016.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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