SACRAMENTO (ChurchMilitant.com) - California's religious universities and supporters of freedom of religion won a victory last Wednesday when a state senator amended a bill that restricted their freedom.
But nearly just as important is the effort behind the scenes to get the bill amended. The victory came after months of tedious protesting, rallies and gathering supporters against the bill. One protest on June 29 went all the way to Sen. Ricardo Lara's office. It started out with Arthur Schaper, director of the California MassResistance, setting an appointment for 4:30 p.m. with Lara's staff, hoping to talk to the senator. However, at 3:30 p.m., scores of protesters began arriving, and within hours, Lara's office, hallway, building and even the sidewalks were choked with people from Los Alamitos, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Torrance, Lomita, Long Beach, and Fontana. They were all demanding that Lara pull his bill.
Schaper said, "The turnout was beyond my expectations, and certainly shocked the state senator's office."
As the bill remained viable, more and more people began opposing it, and eventually several universities formed a new committee called the Association of Faith-Based Institutions.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty publicized the fact that three out of every four students affected by the loss of Cal Grants would be low-income minority students. The Fund then started a petition that quickly garnered 100,000 signatures.
William Jessup University President John Jackson told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Aug 12, "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."
Jackson continued, "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 And I think that’s a tremendous, tremendous encouragement to me for the health of our state."
The bill before amending would have taken away religious schools' exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, which would have allowed someone who doesn't believe the school's faith to sue them. After amending, the bill states that schools have to report to the state when they exercise their right to remove someone who doesn't follow their guidelines.
"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.
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