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."
(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."