Christian college administrators were advised last week to be proactive when it comes to protecting their institutions’ religious liberties and institutional identities as new laws and regulations have popped up across the nation that have threatened their Christian missions.
A panel of four Christian college presidents representing institutions located in two of the most liberal states in the United States — New York and California — convened last Thursday at the quadrennial Council of Christian Colleges and Universities’ 2018 International Forum.
In a breakout session titled “Faith in Action: Politics and Policy in Changing Times,” presidents of Biola University, Point Loma Nazarene University, Houghton College and Roberts Wesleyan University shared how they and other colleges in their states have responded to challenges presented to them by statewide initiatives like free tuition and legislation aimed at providing more discrimination protections to LGBT classes.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right, it didn’t take long for bills to be introduced in California that sought to limit the right of religious institutions to enforce campus and hiring policies related to sexual immorality and homosexuality.
According to Barry Corey, president of Biola University in La Mirada, 20 to 30 faith-based colleges in California banded together and put pressure on lawmakers in 2016 to amend S.B. 1146. The bill would have drastically narrowed Christian colleges’ religious exemptions to discrimination laws provided to protect institutional beliefs on sex and marriage to just seminaries and other institutions that actually train clergy.
“It’s crazy because four years ago at the [CCCU International] Forum in Los Angeles, nothing like this was really on the horizon,” Corey explained. “Suddenly, it all happened between these quadannual forums we are having.”
Corey said that the Christian colleges in California had little choice but to mobilize and unite.
He said Christian colleges throughout the state pulled resources and hired a communications firm to let legislators and their staffs know how the legislation could negatively impact their institutions. Corey said he was a bit surprised to learn just how little of an understanding some state lawmakers and their staffers have when it comes to Christian colleges and their positions.
Corey said there was also an effort to debunk myths about the way LGBT students are treated on their campuses.
“We were quick to criticize lawmakers because when S.B. 1146 and 1888 — two bills that were directly going after Christian higher education in California — were introduced, they were based on anecdotes, stories that were heard and information from special interest groups,” Corey detailed. “No one had ever come to our college campuses to assess students who identify as LGBT to see if they were being treated poorly, not admitted or dismissed.”
Part of debunking such myths requires allowing state lawmakers or their staffers to come to see how LGBT students are treated on campus for themselves, the panelists stressed.
“We realize in California that unless you are very intentional in telling your story, your story is going to be told for you,” Corey continued. “The story that is told for you is going to be a false narrative in many ways as far as who you are as a faith-based college and university.”
According to Corey, the collaboration of schools also mobilized a grassroots effort led by local churches and Christian leaders who pushed for a change in S.B. 1146. After pressure was applied, the state senator who proposed the S.B. 1146 removed the provision in the legislation to limit religious exemptions for Christian colleges.
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Source: Christian Post