This is a different kind of Connecting Points. Fresno Pacific University needs your immediate action to help prevent the California state assembly from creating a law that would threaten the religious freedom of all Christian colleges and universities in California and set a precedent for all religious organizations in the state. SB 1146 has already passed the California Senate and is presently being considered by the Higher Education and Judiciary Committees of the California Assembly.
We know this is a very unusual request, and we ask your help only because this is a very unusual situation. A dozen other Christian colleges and universities in California and many other religious organizations, such as the California Family Council (led by an FPU alum), are also calling on their supporters. It will take a very large number of individual voices to have the necessary effect.
- Pray and ask others to pray with you
- Email or call your assembly member to strongly express your concerns
- Forward this message and ask others to pray and communicate
Stated very simply, SB 1146 would severely restrict the free and full exercise of religious freedom granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This bill would limit freedom of religious faith and practice to programs, courses and activities directly and narrowly intended to train pastors and similar vocational church leaders. At FPU religious freedom would only apply to the seminary and to undergraduate programs such as Bible and Christian ministry.
At Fresno Pacific, and at other Christian universities, everything we do is a direct expression of our sincerely held religious beliefs as expressed in our confession of faith and the policies and practices based on our faith foundation. We pray, learn and live to serve the Lord from the basketball court to the biology laboratory. True evangelical faith pervades all of life, motivating and guiding all behavior.
The California legislature is concerned that religious institutions discriminate against LGBT students and do not provide a safe place for them. We strive to protect all students, regardless of sexual orientation, and to provide a safe and healthy educational environment for everyone. We support the bill’s intent to protect students from harassment of all kinds. However, limiting the religious freedoms of Christian and other religious institutions is not the way to accomplish this goal.
This bill would require us to publicly and continuously announce that we discriminate against LGBT persons in the areas of residential student life and employment. While we require all employees to live by what we believe to be the biblical standard for sexual relations as a marriage between one man and one woman, we admit students without prejudice against LGBT persons. We hold our behavioral standards but we seek to walk with everyone in their journey toward the center in Christ.
Since we already make a sincere effort to ensure prospective students understand the culture and expectations of FPU as a Christ-centered institution, we see benefits in having all religious institutions meet the more consistent standard of public statements that SB 1146 would require. Public clarity about our distinctive character and expectations is not the problem.
The problem is the law’s very narrow definition of the religious freedom exemption. This is why we ask you to help us protect our freedom and the freedom of other religious organizations in California to live out our evangelical faith in every aspect of our life as an organization of the church helping to advance the work of God’s kingdom.
Here are some basic “talking points” and contact information for key assembly members you can use to express your opposition to the passage of SB 1146 in its present form. Pray and act as quickly as you can. Next week may be permanently too late.
Thank you for your prayers and your action.
Email/phone calls: Send an email or make a phone call to your California Assembly Member this week. Click here to find your Assembly Member and their contact information and here for a sample letter/email. Whether by phone or email, the message is simple: Identify yourself and express that you have strong concerns about SB 1146, offering any reason you choose, or no reason at all. The important thing is to express your concerns about the narrowing of religious freedom this bill would impose on FPU and all of California’s faith-based colleges and universities.
Chairs of the Assembly committees: Higher Education—Jose Medina at 916-319-2061 or email@example.com and Judiciary—Mark Stone at 916-319-2029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are two of the relevant statements in the USMB Confession of Faith, which serves as the confession of faith for FPU:
Marriage, Singleness and Family
We believe that singleness and marriage are honored by God and should be blessed by the church. God instituted marriage as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman for the purpose of companionship, encouragement, sexual intimacy and procreation. Children are a gift from God and should be nurtured by parents in the ways of God.
Society and State
We believe that God instituted the state to promote justice and to maintain law and order. Christians’ primary allegiance is to Christ’s Kingdom. Believers are called to witness against injustice, exercise social responsibility and obey all laws that do not conflict with the Word of God.