Religious Leaders Unite to Oppose Anti-Religious Freedom Law in California

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission released a statement with other faith leaders condemning proposed legislation that threatens religious freedom in California.

“While we do not all agree on religious matters, we all agree that the government has no place in discriminating against poor religious minorities or in pitting a religious education institution’s faith-based identity against its American identity,” the statement said.

Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The California bill the statement is referring to, SB 1146, proposed to close loopholes that exempt religious schools from diversity regulations. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish institutions in California would be limited in their ability to exercise their religion freely.

Essentially, only seminaries would be allowed to continue to uphold traditional religious morality on campus, denying other schools the ability to live out their consciences.

“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,” the ERLC’s statement went on to say.

Prominent figures who signed the statement include ERLC’s own Russell Moore, Princeton professor Robert P. George and Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson, popular evangelical pastor Rick Warren, conservative intellectual Yuval Levin, National Review’s David French and Ramesh Ponnuru, and a lengthy list of other public intellectuals.

Additionally, the presidents and faculty of a number of colleges, including the country’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts university, signed on.

This kind of cooperation, rarely seen among such a diverse group of religious activists, is a sign that the United States’s religious population is finally waking up to the developing threats to their freedom, and they are preparing to meet the problem head-on. 

In the words of the statement, “Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.’ No less is this true than on matters of religious liberty. 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.”

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Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.