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Muslim and Jewish college leaders protest California bill that punishes religious schools

If you thought that anti-discrimination laws only hurt Christians and their institutions, look at the list of signatories to this letter calling on California lawmakers to kill SB 1146.

The Senate-passed bill now under consideration in the Assembly would purportedly protect the rights of sexual minorities at educational institutions whose lifestyle and housing codes reflect their religious beliefs, but California Christian colleges have said it’s intended to cripple them financially.

The president of the nation’s first accredited Muslim college, California’s Zaytuna, and director of Yeshiva University’s Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought joined with preeminent law scholars and Christian college leaders to denounce SB 1146.

MORE: First Muslim college accredited in California

The letter was organized by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and its signatories go beyond the predictable conservative Christian leaders:

Former Obama administration religion adviser Michael Wear (who also spearheaded a letter that asked for religious exemptions from contractor anti-discrimination rules)

Imam Faizul Khan, founder of the Islamic Society of Washington Area

University of Virginia Law Prof. Douglas Laycock, perhaps the nation’s top religion law scholar

Prof. Ron Sider, a forefather of progressive evangelical activism, and President Jon Wallace of Eastern University’s Palmer Seminary, which is affiliated with the liberal American Baptist Churches USA

MORE: California attacks ‘pluralism’ with anti-religion bill

Director Michael McConnell of Stanford Constitutional Law Center, former judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Former congressman Frank Wolf, whose 17 terms focused on global human rights, now at Baylor University

Princeton University Prof. Robert George, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

President Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Tellingly, the letter was signed by Liberty University’s Karen Swallow Prior – perhaps best known for her portrayal as a “gay-affirming” professor at the evangelical powerhouse in an Atlantic feature – but not Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr., who has prominently endorsed the religiously muddled Donald Trump for president.

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The letter leads with the legislation’s disproportionate effect on “low-income minority students” who want to attend religious schools using CalGrant (state) aid money:

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. This legislation puts into principle that majoritarian beliefs are more deserving of legal protection, and that minority viewpoints are deserving of government harassment.

They emphasize their coalition is a big tent with a common purpose:

Some of us disagree with the sexual ethics of orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims giving rise to this legislation, but we are unified in our resistance to the government setting up its own system of orthodoxy. As the American Founding Father 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.

MORE: Christian Colleges Doomed By Obama’s No-Exceptions Hiring Order

Echoing an earlier stinging public letter by Biola University President Barry Corey, the letter tells California lawmakers to not be narrow-minded and parochial:

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.

Read the letter.

MORE: The radical prof behind America’s first accredited Muslim college

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.