It seems that in our society, the sacred space is being overtaken by the public space. Secularization is overwhelming the sacred space of our culture. One indicator of this is in my home state of California. Senate Bill No. 1146 would drastically undermine the religious liberty of Christian universities in the state. If it passes, it could become a model and be applied for attacks on all Christian schools across the country.
The California senate has required all educational institutions to not “discriminate” against LGBT students. The penalty for such discrimination is the loss of federal funding. Fortunately, in the past, religious schools have been exempted from this legal but immoral requirement if their “religious tenets” (faith or doctrinal statement) affirmed traditional biblical marriage and biblical sexuality.
Now this exemption is at risk. This bill, once empowered, would mean that the “religious liberty exemption” would apply only to “educational programs or activities . . . to prepare students to become ministers of the religion, to enter upon some other vocation of the religion, or to teach theological subjects pertaining to the religion.” In other words, only theological seminaries that train its students for “the ministry” would retain its protection of its religious liberty.
As Biola University warns, the bill “functionally eliminates the religious liberty of all California faith-based colleges and universities who integrate spiritual life with the entire campus educational experience.” It would “eliminate religious liberty in California higher education as we know it and rob tens of thousands of students of their access to a distinctly faith-based higher education.”
There’s even more to the story. As Jim Denison observes and extrapolates from an article in the Wall Street Journal:
“The First Amendment, often called our “First Freedom,” states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” However, a few years ago, observers began noticing a distinction between “freedom of religion” and “freedom of worship” in statements by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. What could happen if we move from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship”?
The California bill is one answer: schools that teach “worship” (theology and ministry training) have religious liberty, but those that are “religious” (all other Christian schools) do not. Extending this outcome, pastors would be free to address issues such as same-sex marriage only in sermons delivered in worship services—if they speak publicly on such issues in other forums, they could be accused of hate speech. Church facilities would be tax-exempt only if they are used expressly for worship—offices, gyms, and educational spaces could be taxed. Our personal religious convictions would be protected only when they are expressed during worship services or in private.”
A spokesman for Biola University states that:
“As many as 42 faith-based institutions of higher education in California could be impacted. Some examples of how the bill would impact faith-based institutions include:
- Faith-based institutions in California would no longer be able to require a profession of faith of their students.
- These institutions would no longer be able to integrate faith throughout the teaching curriculum.
- These institutions would no longer be able to require chapel attendance for students, an integral part of the learning experience at faith-based universities.
- These institutions would no longer be able to require core units of Bible courses, nor offer students spiritual direction or pastoral care.
- Athletic teams would no longer be able to lead faith-based community service programs.”
If this becomes law in California and is then slowly applied to not only Christian colleges but also to seminaries, then truly more sacred space will become secularized. And what if this legal principal becomes the platform to force Christian publishers to be censored from their theological convictions beyond the LGBT issue because of charges of “hate speech” and “mental harassment” and the elimination of a “safe space ”?
C.S. Lewis was right. Every square inch of the universe is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan. As a pastor, professor and publisher this type of legislation causes me to ask: How do we bring every thought captive to Christ? Live biblically in this secular world, pray fervently for our leaders, and vote properly. Remember, the New Testament does not teach Isolation but Immunization.
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Grace Theology Press