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California’s War on My Religious College and Others

I had a very weird college experience.

My memories aren’t of frat parties, of slugging down drinks in games of quarters or beer pong, of losing my voice cheering at big football games, and of hearing how evil Western civilization is in the classroom.

Instead, when I think of my four years at Thomas Aquinas College, I think of drawing Euclidean propositions on a chalkboard, of lively debates about Aristotle’s claims about ethics, of earnest discussions about things as obscure as the nature of being.

I remember how my heels clacked against the marble floor of the campus church, and seeing the California hills rising above the small campus. I recall nights in the women’s dorm when we’d pray the line from the Psalms that “peace be within thy walls” and weekends where, clinking beers in those hills ringing campus, we’d talk about everything from the campus gossip to philosophy.

My liberal arts college, as you might have guessed by now, was certainly religious. Thomas Aquinas College, located about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles in Santa Paula, California, is a Catholic institution and as “out” as you can get about its faith affiliation. There are crucifixes everywhere, a huge church that dominates the small campus, prayers that begin every class.

And now my college, along with other religious colleges, is under attack from California state legislators.

“It’s a direct assault on our First Amendment rights of our free exercise of religion,” says John Quincy Masteller, general counsel for Thomas Aquinas College, of the California legislation known as SB 1146.

What SB 1146 Would Do

The California state Senate already has passed SB 1146, and the state Assembly, which will return from recess Aug. 1, is likely to vote on it in the not-distant future.

The current version of the bill, if passed and signed into law by Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown, could significantly affect religious colleges’ financial status if they refused to change their current practices on issues such as marriage and gender identity. As many as 42 higher education institutions in the Golden State could be affected, according to Biola University.

“It’s about making the statement that schools that adhere to the traditional understanding of marriage and sexuality are wrong, are behaving immorally, and need to be punished,” said Greg Baylor, a senior counsel with the religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, speaking at an event hosted by The Heritage Foundation last week. “The state can’t be tainted by an association with these schools.”

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, SB 1146 has three provisions that could particularly affect religious colleges:

1) requires schools to make single-sex facilities available to students based on gender identity,

2) obligates schools providing married housing to make married housing available to same-sex couples, and

3) fails to protect a school’s practice of considering religion in admissions or hiring.

In other words, if a student born male decided to identify as female, perhaps without even changing his birth certificate or seeking any kind of hormonal or surgical medical assistance, his religious college could be forced to allow that student to live in the female housing—or face financial consequences.

College administrators could also face problems if they wanted to hire people who shared their beliefs or, believing that marriage could only exist between a man and a woman, say that only male-female married couples could have access to housing for married students.

These are not small issues. The Catholic beliefs of Thomas Aquinas College affect what is taught and how. All of my professors were Catholics, which meant their teaching in class very much included an awareness of and sometimes a discussion of a specific perspective.


While not all of the students were Catholic (and those with different religious viewpoints were treated with respect), it was clear that if you didn’t want your education informed by Catholicism at all, this was the wrong college to go to.

It was also clear that religion was not limited to the classroom. The Catholic faith affected everyday life, the kind of rules and practices the college had. For example, all housing at my college was entirely single-sex, usually two women or two men sharing a room together. Men were allowed in the women’s dorms only in select hours to do basic maintenance, and vice versa. (Since I never worked on maintenance, I never set foot in any of the men’s dorms during my entire four years.)

SB 1146 would also require colleges to disclose it openly if they requested an exemption on religious grounds from the federal government on implementing Title IX, the law that is supposed to ban discrimination on basis of sex but has been twisted to include discrimination on basis of gender identity. None of the religious colleges, to my knowledge, is objecting to that disclosure.

“There are religious institutions in California—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic, all accredited—every one of whom, in accord with all the major religions in the world, believe that gender matters, that maleness and femaleness is not arbitrary, that it’s not interchangeable, that it’s not inconsequential,” John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, said at the same Heritage event where Baylor spoke.

There are California institutions, Jackson added, that believe “marriage matters.”

“I think, quite frankly, for some in California, that’s an embarrassment. And SB 1146 is an attempt to throttle, to silence, to disempower, to marginalize those who hold to those views.”

Colleges Could Face Bleak Financial Future

If SB 1146 passes and religious colleges refuse to change, they face a much harsher financial future.

The likely outcome is that their students who are eligible no longer could receive the significant tuition assistance California offers students who attend private colleges and fulfill certain requirements, including having a 3.0 GPA and a family income below certain levels.

That’s because religious colleges would be unable to tell California they were following certain policies. California requires colleges whose students receive the tuition assistance, called CalGrants, to certify compliance with specific policies.

Already, there is concern about the impact this would have on students. A statement signed by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and others, warned that the bill could hurt Hispanic students in particular:

Members of the Hispanic community would be disproportionately affected by SB 1146 given our community’s longtime commitment toward faith-based education.

This bill would not only diminish religious liberty in California higher education; it would discriminate against minority communities in California.

The loss of CalGrants is no small threat for religious colleges. About 10 percent of Thomas Aquinas College’s 360 students receive the tuition assistance, which can go up to around $9,000 per year. Losing that would mean a 10 percent cut to the college’s financial aid budget.

William Jessup University, a Christian college of about 1,000 undergraduate students with two locations in Northern California, has about 30 percent of its students receiving CalGrants, adding up to about $2 million of the school’s budget.

“We will be faithful to our biblical and religious convictions no matter what the economic consequences,” Jessup’s Jackson said. “However, the fundamental reality is that might mean a reduction in services, it might mean a reduction in programs.”


Thomas Aquinas College is similarly adamant about not changing even if SB 1146 is passed: “The college has always taken a position that we’re not going to jeopardize our Catholic character because of any public funding of any kind,” Masteller said.

I wasn’t eligible for a CalGrant when I went to college. But as a native Californian who grew up in the now-hip Silicon Valley area, I’m stunned that Californians who do meet the eligibility requirements for a CalGrant could now face a choice between attending a college that adheres to their value system and losing thousands of dollars, or going to a secular or more progressive religious college and getting a significant financial boost.

Sure, I knew that being a conservative Catholic didn’t make me part of the mainstream in California, particularly in my family’s San Francisco-dominated liberal enclave. (Our neighbors used to wonder why our family always went to church on Sunday.) But the attitude was largely live and let live. We were the weird churchgoers, that was all.

Now it feels like my state—which I do still think of as my state, despite the seven years that have passed since I lived there—is turning on religious people, changing from an attitude of live and let live to demanding that people bow to the current conventional wisdom on certain values or be punished.

A Life of Faith Isn’t Limited to Within Church Walls

Here’s the crucial point that California state legislators don’t seem to get (or perhaps accept): Religious beliefs affect more than what someone does on Sunday mornings in a place of worship.

“You’re welcome to come, as long as you know we expect you to abide by this moral code, because we’re Catholics,” Masteller said, describing Thomas Aquinas College’s approach to prospective students.

At Thomas Aquinas College, the code of behavior is scarcely limited to matters that would affect LGBT students. In fact, in 1997 the college was sued by a female student who had been expelled, following a disagreement with college officials related to her desire to continue spending nights at her male fiancé’s house, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

A host of other rules—many of which admittedly I would not make rules if I ran a Catholic college myself—existed in part to ensure the college retains its Catholic character, according to my understanding when I was there as a student.

The rules including requiring students to follow a dress code intended in part to promote modesty; banning drinking without permission on campus; limiting internet use (making it harder to watch porn); and enforcing a strict curfew every night. In other words, it’s a fairly equal opportunity, superstrict atmosphere at my alma mater, hardly targeting any particular group.

With two of my college friends, late at night as we drove to San Francisco sophomore year for the pro-life Walk for Life held annually. Each year, many students at my college made the trek to attend the walk. (Photo: Courtesy of Katrina Trinko)

With two of my college friends, late at night as we drove to San Francisco sophomore year for the pro-life Walk for Life held annually. Each year, many students at my college made the trek to attend the walk. (Photo: Courtesy of Katrina Trinko)

And it’s an atmosphere that is truly religious. Yes, there were the obvious signs—the big church, the prayers said out loud—but there was also a real earnestness among many students to take seriously what they felt was a call to holiness. Some of my fellow students attended daily Mass. An actual debate among students, just to give you a sense of the spirit of the college, was whether it was OK to study non-theological subjects, like math or literature, in the church, or whether you should be in the church only if you were actually praying.

While we were far from a perfect group of young adults, there was certainly a genuine amount of trying among the students. We talked about what virtue was, and, amid all the usual pettiness and drama of any community’s life, there were plenty of good-faith efforts to be kind, to be charitable, to be understanding.

“I’m not saying people don’t make mistakes, and I’m not saying that there are not challenges; we certainly are fallible people,” Jessup’s Jackson said. “But I want to tell you that the religious institutions in California treat people with dignity and respect because it’s part of our religious conviction.”

Forcing Religious Colleges to Change

In a video released at the end of June, Biola University President Barry H. Corey strikes similar themes, saying the college in Southern California has “zero tolerance for bullying” and strives to be one of the “safe places that demonstrate the love of Christ to all students.”

“Contrary to the simplistic picture painted by SB 1146, institutions like Biola seek to live in harmony with and love the LGBT community,” Corey said in the video. “We want to respect this community’s rights and protect them from discrimination and hate. Not because of the law, but because of the love and grace of Jesus Christ.”

“We are not asking the LGBT community to change who they are,” he added. “We are simply asking that they do not force us to change who we are either.”

But if SB 1146 becomes law, religious colleges will be forced either to change or tell their students they do not have access to the same funds as their peers in California, just because they want to attend a religious college.

As I’ve acknowledged, my college experience was unusual.

Most teens don’t hear of a college where they can read and discuss Einstein and de Tocqueville, Jane Austen and Kant, and think: Sign me up.

Most teens aren’t interested in how many daily Masses a college offers (for those wondering: three, sometimes four) and being able to have classroom discussions where you can think about the connection between Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s understanding of the relationship of beauty and truth and Thomas Aquinas’s take on it.

But there are some, like me, who are interested in such a college experience.

And California shouldn’t punish them and force them to cough up as much as an additional $36,000 to attend college, just because they think the best college education is informed by a religious perspective. Because that’s discrimination, too: discrimination against people of faith.


I want to believe that my state isn’t there, that the legislators aren’t serious about singling out people of faith for discrimination like this.

But I don’t know.

In our conversation, Masteller was blunt about what he sees as the objectives of SB 1146’s proponents.

“They want to wipe religion out of the public square.”

Original post can be read here: http://dailysignal.com/2016/07/25/californias-war-on-my-religious-college-and-others/

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Lara drops key parts of bill on religious colleges

After intense opposition from the state’s religious schools, the author of a controversial bill that would have exposed private religious colleges in California to anti-discrimination lawsuits has agreed to remove a key provision.

Pushed by gay rights organizations, Senate Bill 1146 would have required religious schools receiving state money – including those that enroll students with Cal Grant scholarships – to comply with California’s anti-discrimination laws or risk private lawsuits.

In order to comply with the law, schools could have had to provide housing for same-sex married couples and allow students to use bathrooms based on their gender identity, something they said was a nonstarter because it violated religious beliefs.

The Association of Faith-Based Institutions, formed a little more than two weeks ago, had raised $350,000 from religious schools to fight the bill.

But on Wednesday, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, removed the provision that would have allowed students to sue if they felt they had been discriminated against. Now the bill requires the schools to publicly disclose their exempt status from non-discrimination laws so prospective students are aware of the rules. The amended bill also requires colleges to notify the state Student Aid Commission, which oversees Cal Grants, each time a student is expelled for violating a school’s moral code of conduct.

“With SB 1146, we shed light on the appalling discriminatory practices LGBT students face at private religious universities in California,” Lara said in a statement. “These provisions represent critical first steps in the ongoing efforts to protect students from discrimination for living their truths or loving openly.”​​

The schools have said they are not opposed to the new provisions of the bill, and religious groups cheered the decision.

“Without a doubt, the unmodified version would have jeopardized Christian institutions and egregiously penalized all students of faith, especially Latino and African-American individuals,” the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said in a statement.

Cal Grants were a key issue in the debate over the bill. Students can use the money, which is awarded based on financial need and academic merit, at any state school and some independent schools. To attend a private four-year college, eligible students can get up to $9,084 from the state each year.

State law prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors in any educational program funded by the government, but the more than 30 religious colleges and universities in California are currently exempt. In its earlier form, SB 1146 would have removed that exemption, allowing schools who violate the law to be sued.

Because of that, critics argued that religious schools would have simply stopped accepting Cal Grant students to avoid costly lawsuits and that the bill would have restricted school choice for low-income students. Cal Grant recipients comprise up to 30 percent of the student body at some religious schools and the schools say the majority of them are first-generation and minority students.

“What about people that can’t write the check, and the state offers them assistance, but then they can’t pursue the education of their choice because they choose to go to a Christian university that practices biblical principles,” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who opposed the bill, said Monday.

But supporters of the bill said it was necessary to prevent discrimination against LGBT students on religious campuses.

Jo Michael, the legislative manager for Equality California, a group that supported the bill, said students are reluctant to come forward but his organization was aware of a number of instances of discrimination.

“It’s tough to get individual stories about issues like this, because it’s a particularly painful experience and one that can be difficult to share,” he said.

But Anthony Villarreal testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee that he was expelled from William Jessup University, a private Christian school in Rocklin, because he was gay.

The school has disputed his claim and said he was expelled after being arrested for domestic violence, a violation of the school’s anti-violence policy.

Villarreal acknowledged the arrest but said there was no evidence of domestic violence and that no charges were pursued. He said that, as a result of the arrest, the school became aware that he was gay and living with his partner at the time in an off-campus apartment. He signed a disciplinary contract with the school that required him, among other things, to move out of his apartment and attend counseling.

After a protracted appeals process, he was given notice of expulsion Sept. 9, 2013. He said he considered suing the school but decided against it because the school was Title IX exempt.

Villarreal said that before his arrest and resulting disciplinary action, he had not experienced any discrimination at William Jessup. “If they don’t discriminate, then they shouldn’t fear any lawsuits,” he said.

Michael said that if a school wants to follow its own rules, it should do so without accepting public funds, including Cal Grant students.

“If a school wants to be able to go against California law, then the best way to do that is to make sure that they are operating as a totally private entity,” he said.

The schools say their campuses are already places of tolerance.

“We love our students, we try to treat them incredibly fairly,” Barry Corey, the president of Biola University, a private Christian university in La Mirada, said. “Of course we work within our religious tenets, (but) we have LGBT students, we don’t deny admission, we don’t expel them for being gay.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article94875902.html

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Rick Warren, Russell Moore and other evangelical leaders protest California education Bill

Pastor Rick Warren is among signatories to a statement opposing a proposed California Bill limiting religious exemption in private educational institutions.

Evangelical leaders Rick Warren and Russell Moore are among a range of signatories from Christian, Muslim and backgrounds who have put their name to a statement denouncing a California Bill that would limit religious exemptions for private educational institutions.

The statement – Protecting the future of religious higher education – was published on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) website yesterday and is signed by pastors and other figures from the religious and educational spheres.

Leading Christians who have signed include Moore, the ERLC President and Warren, the Saddleback Church Pastor.

The protest is over Senate Bill 1146, a piece of proposed legislation currently being considered by California’s state legislature which critics fear will dramatically curb the religious freedom of private academic institutions.

The statement denounces the Bill as “harmful to the free exercise of religion in higher education” and says that if enacted 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.”

It goes on: “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.”

Those who signed “do not necessarily agree with one another’s religious views, but we agree on the necessity of the liberty to exercise these views,” the statement said.

“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…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.”

Other signatories to the statement include Biola University President Barry Corey, Zaytuna College President Hamza Yusuf Hanson, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University, former US Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, and Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of Washington Area.

At the same time, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has also condemned the Bill as an attack on religious liberty.

NAE President Leith Anderson said yesterday: “The California Assembly is voting to change Christian policies and practices to comply with the new doctrines of California state legislators. The bill is a threat to the mutually beneficial relationship that has existed between faith and higher education for the entire history of our nation.”

Separately, Moore called the bill “un-American”: “Applying legal or political pressure on institutions that disagree with the cultural majority of the moment is not merely unwise or unfair — it is un-American…A healthy American culture is one in which ideas can freely be discussed and debated, in good faith, among people who, though they disagree, would defend the right of the other to participate.”

The Bill, introduced by Democratic California State Senator Ricardo Lara, is also called the Equity in Higher Education Act.

The proposed Bill “prohibits a person from being subjected to discrimination on the basis of specified attributes, including sex, in any program or activity conducted by a postsecondary educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance or enrolls students who receive state student financial aid.”

It “would, except as provided, specify that a postsecondary educational institution that is controlled by a religious organisation and that receives financial assistance from the state or enrolls students who receive state financial assistance is subject to that prohibition and violation of that prohibition may be enforced by a private right of action.”

In April, Senator Lara argued that the Bill was necessary for the protection to LGBT students. “All students deserve to feel safe in institutions of higher education, regardless of whether they are public or private,” Lara said.

“California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/rick.warren.russell.moore.and.other.evangelical.leaders.protest.california.education.bill/92811.htm

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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez ‘Grateful’ California Dropped Plan That ‘Jeopardized Christian Institutions’

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is “grateful” that the California legislature recently dropped a proposal in a pro-LGBT bill that critics say would have curbed religious liberty for private schools.

California state Sen. Ricardo Lara announced earlier this week that he was dropping a measure in a bill that would have removed certain exemptions from religious colleges.

As president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Rodriguez said in a statement Wednesday that he and his organization “hope and pray that future legislative proposals will engage the faith community in a viable conversation that will protect the rights of all.”

Samuel Rodriguez

(Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)Rev. Samuel Rodriguez on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission panel on “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty,” at the Southern Baptist Convention, Baltimore, Maryland, June 9, 2014.

“Religious liberty stands as the quintessential firewall against secular totalitarianism. Accordingly, we are grateful that Sen. Ricardo Lara modified the legislation of California Senate Bill 1146,” stated Rodriguez.

“Without a doubt, the unmodified version would have jeopardized Christian institutions and egregiously penalized all students of faith, especially Latino and African-American individuals.”

Also called the Equity in Higher Education Act, according to its legislative counsel digest SB 1146 “prohibits a person from being subjected to discrimination on the basis of specified attributes, including sex, in any program or activity conducted by a postsecondary educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance or enrolls students who receive state student financial aid.”

“This bill would, except as provided, specify that a postsecondary educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization and that receives financial assistance from the state or enrolls students who receive state financial assistance is subject to that prohibition and violation of that prohibition may be enforced by a private right of action,” continued the digest.

SB 1146 also mandated that any college receiving a Title IX exemption must disclose said exemption to students and faculty.

The bill garnered backlash from conservative groups and religious colleges, which charged that the proposed legislation curbed the conscience rights of Christian educational institutions.

For his part, Rodriguez signed on to an open letter along with a diverse array of clergy and academes denouncing SB 1146.

“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,” read the letter in part.

“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.”

In response to the outcry, Lara decided to withdraw the provision within his bill that removed religious exemptions from antidiscrimination laws.

“The goal for me has always been to shed the light on the appalling and unacceptable discrimination against LGBT students at these private religious institutions throughout California,” said Lara, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“I don’t want to just rush a bill that’s going to have unintended consequences so I want to take a break to really study this issue further.”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/rev-samuel-rodriguez-grateful-california-dropped-plan-that-jeopardized-christian-institutions-167839/#UGmoLp28qxSaTqWe.99

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A Major Win for Religious Liberty

Legislator Amends Concerning Bill After Southern Evangelical Seminary President and Evangelical Leader Dr. Richard Land Joins 140 Other Influential Voices on Multi-Faith Statement on CA Measure

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Earlier this week, more than 140 Evangelical leaders, including Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES,www.ses.edu), signed a statement released by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention in direct response to a proposed measure in California that would have compromised religious higher education.

ERLC President Russell Moore updated the signatories yesterday that, one day after the rollout of the unified statement, the state legislator who proposed the bill has amended it, dropping the language that would remove the exemption for religious schools.

“To be sure,” Moore wrote in an email, “we still oppose this bill, but this is a major win for those of us who are advocates for religious liberty. Were this bill to have passed in its earlier form, dozens of institutions’ very existence would have been jeopardized, thousands of students would have been harmed, and a dangerous precedent would have been set that would have imperiled religious liberty across the country.”

Said Land, “Indeed, our statement was a concerted attempt to protect religious liberties and freedom of conscience from the totalitarian tactics of the state legislature in California—and these Evangelical leaders’ voices were heard! I enthusiastically signed on with other leaders, from multiple faiths, to maintain the religious freedom that faculty and students currently hold at faith-based institutions. When the government gets involved in how we protect our beliefs in education, the workplace or society in general, we will experience an irretrievable loss of freedom in even more areas than our faith.”

According to Townhall.com, “California Senate Bill 1146 threatens to upend Christian colleges across the state. Under current guidelines, religious schools are exempted from an anti-discrimination law that requires them to offer a ‘safe space’ for LGBT students. Yet, Bill 1146, which is working through the state legislature, would remove that exemption and allow students to sue schools they believe are not inclusionary.”

In addition to Dr. Land, other signers to the statement included: Jim Daly, President, Focus on the Family; Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Jerry A. Johnson, President and CEO, National Religious Broadcasters; Jonathan Keller, President, California Family Council; Jennifer Marshall, Vice President, Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity, The Heritage Foundation; R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; David Nammo, Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society; Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, WORLD; Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor, National Review; Alan E. Sears, President, CEO, General Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom; Richard Stearns, President, World Vision U.S.; John Stonestreet, President, Colson Center for Christian Worldview; Tony Suarez, Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Kristen K. Waggoner, Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Advocacy, Alliance Defending Freedom; among others.

Before assuming the presidency of SES, Dr. Land previously served as president of the ERLC from 1988 to 2013.

Issues such as religious liberty will be a central focus of SES’s 23rd annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics, hosted by Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 14-15, approximately three weeks before the presidential election. The seminary will welcome such top name speakers as Norman Geisler, Richard Howe, Richard Land, Josh and Sean McDowell, Hugh Ross, Jay Sekulow, Lee Strobel, Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace, along with many others. The theme of the 2016 conference, “The Defense Never Rests,” focuses on the ongoing charge to Christians to defend their beliefs rationally, intelligently and lovingly. For registration information, visit conference.ses.edu.

SES is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. Many courses focus on societal issues from a Christian worldview, delve into scientific apologetics or contemplate creation research.

SES explores ethical issues through its “Ethics in Emerging Technology” program; for more information, visit www.ethics.ses.edu. Southern Evangelical Seminary also recently unveiled a new apologetics blog atwww.WhyDoYouBelieve.org, where Land and other SES voices address the most pressing issues of the day.

Land is featured in his nationally syndicated daily radio commentary, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on almost 400 stations nationwide, including nearly 200 on the American Family Radio Network and 100 on the Bott Radio Network. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” is also podcast daily on the free SES mobile app and airs locally in the Charlotte, N.C., area every weekday. The “Bringing Every Thought Captive” television program, hosted by Land, airs on the NRB Network Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and midnight EST. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” also reaches nearly 2 million households in the Chicago area on the Total Living Network. For details about stations, times, downloads and more, click here.

Land has taught as a visiting or adjunct professor for several seminaries and has authored or edited more than 15 books. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University in England and his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) from Princeton University. Land also earned a Master of Theology (Honors Program) degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Broadman Seminarian Award as the Outstanding Graduating Student. Dr. Land was the 2013 Watchman Award recipient from the Family Research Council for his leadership on moral and cultural issues. He also received the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth from Biola University in 2010. Land served previously (1988-2013) as president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families. In 2014, he was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow of the ERLC’s Research Institute, and in 2015, he was named in the top 15 of Newsmax’s “Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”

Southern Evangelical Seminary invites visitors to its web site to join the more than 20,000 people who have already downloaded the SES Apologetics App for Windows mobile devices and Android and Apple phones and tablets. Those with the app can get the very best news and information in Christian apologetics, including articles, audio, video, blogs and more from today’s most able defenders of the Christian faith—William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William Dembski, Frank Turek, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas and other well-known speakers, authors and teachers.

Original post can be read here: http://www.highlandnews.net/news/political/a-major-win-for-religious-liberty/article_c8aff4cc-600a-11e6-a79b-e38d18d23840.html

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What Conservatives Did to Pull Off Religious Liberty Win in California

“We literally were able to see tens of thousands of people mobilize to make calls and to write their legislators, and to participate in the political process,” says William Jessup University President John Jackson. (Photo: Hill Street Studios Blend Images/Newscom)

California conservatives won a surprise victory this week, changing a state assembly bill that would have curtailed the freedom of private religious colleges.

“We literally were able to see tens of thousands of people mobilize to make calls and to write their legislators, and to participate in the political process,” William Jessup University President John Jackson told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

“We were hearing from legislators who said that they had gotten hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of phone calls on just this one piece of legislation,” he added. “And I think that’s a tremendous, tremendous encouragement to me for the health of our state.”

It’s a victory that they hope will prove a bellwether for institutional liberty fights to come.

Facing a maelstrom of grassroots controversy, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, said Wednesday that he would remove the portions of his bill, SB 1146, that would have harmed the right of religious colleges to operate according to their principles.

Under the previous wording, SB 1146 would have ultimately blocked low-income students from receiving Cal Grants, California’s system of need-based education aid, if they attended colleges with policies such as bathroom use based on biological sex that violated the state’s LGBT policies. It also would have enabled students who feel discriminated against in light of these policies to bring a lawsuit against their college.

“Without a doubt, the unmodified version [of the bill] would have jeopardized Christian institutions and egregiously penalized all students of faith, especially Latino and African-American individuals,” Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said in a statement.

Conservatives who opposed the measure say they are relieved by this change, but some stressed that the current version of the bill, while less concerning, may still negatively impact religious colleges. Jackson mentioned a new amendment that would make religious colleges release data on expelled students—ostensibly to ensure they were not expelled for discriminatory reasons.

“What we’ve indicated to the senator [Lara] is that we’ll have to review the bill and compare it to [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] regulations,” Jackson said.

But religious liberty activists say they are pleased to have an effective blueprint for success as that battle progresses, a blueprint that involves building national coalitions focused on preserving the rights of religious Americans.

In addition to grassroots mobilization, conservative nonprofits also played a pivotal role in the controversy.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty publicized the fact that three of four students affected by the loss of Cal Grants would be low-income minority students, circulating a petition that quickly garnered 100,000 signatures.

With an open statement, Andrew Walker’s, the director of policy studies at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, commission publicly opposed the bill with the support of a diverse group of advocates and thinkers both on the ideological left and on the right. Notable signatories included law professors, administrators at religious colleges, Hispanic and Islamic leaders, seminary presidents, Christian denominational authorities, intellectuals at think tanks (including three from The Heritage Foundation), and conservative magazines.

The statement was publicly released on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Lara announced that he was changing the provisions.

“I just think that this was a multifaceted effort that really showed what effective communication and strategy can result in,” Walker told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “You get your national coalitions working with your people on the ground, coupled with strong messaging—and religious liberty, we found out, is not dead in California.”

Continued defeats on issues of individual conscience, Walker said, showed that advocates of religious freedom still have a long way to go. But as lawmakers nationwide begin to bicker over the limits of freedom of conscience for religious institutions, the changes to SB 1146 represent a heartening opening salvo.

“There’s one discussion about private citizens engaged in commercial acts, like the bakers and the florists and the photographers, but what we see here is that the ability to protect religious institutions and their religious integrity remains very intact and very strong,” he said. “We’re going to have to turn especially and fight on all fronts, and that includes institutionally. We had a large institutional win in California.”

Jackson and Walker also stressed that conservatives must remain vigilant to oppose similar encroachments in the future.

“The sponsor of this bill has said that he intends to study this issue at further depth, and possibly reintroduce legislation like this next year,” Walker said. “We’re not naïve to the fact that this is an ongoing battle.”

Original post can be read here: http://dailysignal.com/2016/08/12/what-conservatives-did-to-pull-off-religious-liberty-win-in-california/

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