In the battle against the totalitarian Left, every victory is welcome. Christians and other people of faith should celebrate such a victory in California – but keep the powder dry for the protracted conflict.
We’ve reported (see here and here) on proposed California legislation that would have required private, faith-based colleges and universities (in shorthand for our purposes, “Christian universities”) to knuckle under to the state government’s sweeping anti-discrimination mandates if even one of their students receives state financial aid. The new protected class under this bill, of course, is LGBT students whose conduct violates the religious tenets of the university.
This legislation would have banned Christian universities from operating in any way that reflects negatively on LGBT behavior. Married-student housing would have to be made available to same-sex as well as heterosexual couples; transgender students would have to be allowed to live in dormitories for the opposite sex; student-conduct policies could not treat LGBT behavior any differently from heterosexual behavior. In other words, a Christian university that is founded on biblical principles would have to abandon those principles to the extent they conflict with the new sexual orthodoxy.
As David French of National Review pointed out, one of the more reprehensible features of this legislation was its use of poor students as pawns to advance the radical agenda. Presumably the students who take advantage of financial aid to attend Christian universities know that those institutions are (gasp!) Christian. Maybe that’s even why they choose to enroll there. But under the California bill, their very matriculation would force the universities to jettison the values and policies that attracted the students in the first place. The result? All financially needy students, unlike their wealthier counterparts, would be denied the faith-based education they want.
It would have been understandable for Christians to despair about derailing this bill. Since vast numbers of mainstream Americans have fled America’s left-most state, the barriers to totalitarianism there are rickety at best. But no doubt to the surprise of the forces of government-imposed secularism, who are probably unfamiliar with Deuteronomy 31:6 and Matthew 19:26, the Christian universities didn’t roll over. Instead, they formed the Association of Faith-Based Institutions and spent $350,000 on a grassroots campaign to alert the faithful to the danger. National faith leaders weighed in with a lesson in American principles. Alarmed citizens deluged the legislature with objections to this un-American legislation.
And they won. On Wednesday, the bill’s sponsor grudgingly announced that he would drop the provisions that force compliance with the draconian anti-discrimination provisions.
Two caveats. First, other objectionable portions of the bill remain, such as the requirement that universities report to the state if they take advantage of the religious-institution exemption from federal Title IX requirements (the state would publicize this information in an effort to shame the institutions into giving up the federal exemption). In addition, the universities would be required to report to the state any student expulsions for violating morality codes. The bill’s sponsor said he wants to see how common such violations are. So Christian universities would have to, in a sense, justify their operations to a wannabee petty tyrant who brandishes his power just because he can.
This commissar also threatens that in the future he may reintroduce the discarded parts of the legislation. So for Californians of faith, the rule of eternal vigilance remains in effect.
That being said, Christians and other citizens who value America’s founding principle of religious liberty should take heart from this episode. Even in the most radical state in the nation, home to many of the most craven corporations that intimidate politicians into submission, the good guys won this round. On to the next.
Jane Robbins is a senior fellow at American Principles Project.