Tag Archives: First Amendment

Free Speech Under Attack In Minneapolis

Shame on Minneapolis.  Minneapolis should instead consider setting up a helpline for Muslims to report jihad activity.

“Hate speech hotlines operate as government enforcement of fascism.  They are a denial of free speech and the very definition of government censorship. Looking for government informants to rat out speech the government forbids goes to the heart of denying American citizens our inalienable rights. Governments CAN NOT do this under our constitution.”
-Former Rep. Michele Bachmann

The city of Minneapolis has set up a hotline for residents to report suspected hate crimes, including “speech and actions,” according to statements on the city’s website.

The city, which will operate the “service” through its 3-1-1 helpline, is targeting any “harassing behaviors motivated by prejudice,” according to a press release. Those wishing to report a hate crime from outside the city may dial 612-673-3000.

According to the local newspaper, the Star-Tribune, “the announcement comes amid signs of a recent surge of such incidents affecting Muslims and Jews across the country, many of which go unreported.”

The city’s Department of Civil Rights clearly states on its website that it only enforces hate crimes against certain “protected classes.”

A city official further indicated the impetus for the hate-crimes hotline was the election of President Trump and that the targets would be his supporters.

“Since the general election, many of us have experienced, witnessed firsthand or heard of actions of: racism, xenophobia, sexism and bigotry directed at people here and in cities across the United States,” Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel wrote in a statement posted on the city’s website. “In no uncertain terms, hate-motivated speech and actions have no place in Minneapolis nor will they be tolerated.”

Korbel said the city’s tough stance on “hate” is reflected in the views of its mayor, Betsy Hodges. Korbel states on the city website:

This department echoes Minneapolis mayor, Betsy Hodges’ resolve and commitment when she stated: “I will not compromise the public safety of the people of Minneapolis to satisfy Trump’s desire to put politics before public safety. Minneapolis is being built and strengthened by people from all over the world and I am grateful for their commitment to our city. I stand with them today and will continue to take that stand as the President-elect prepares to take office.”

Michele Bachmann, former congresswoman from Minnesota, decried the new hotline as a form of fascism in which citizens are encouraged to turn in their neighbors for holding opinions deemed forbidden by the state. WND

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann

“Hate speech hotlines operate as government enforcement of fascism,” she said in an email to WND. “They are a denial of free speech and the very definition of government censorship.

“Looking for government informants to rat out speech the government forbids goes to the heart of denying American citizens our inalienable rights. Governments CAN NOT do this under our constitution.”

Bachmann said the hate-crime hotline is a stealth move by Hodges and the city council to impose Islamic anti-blasphemy laws on non-Muslims.

By installing Islamic anti-blasphemy hotlines and advertising for informants, Minneapolis is violating the doctrine of separation of church and state,” she added. “What difference is there between the Minneapolis City Council action and United Nations resolution 16/18 advanced by former Secretary Hillary Clinton?”

U.N Resolution 16/18 encouraged nations to criminalize speech that defames a person’s religious views.

Pushed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the only speech the resolution sought to criminalized was speech critical of Islam, Bachmann said. After years of failure, the resolution only passed after the language was somewhat watered down.

“Which is interesting, since the OIC continually proclaims death to the Jews, death to Israel,” she said. “The citizens of Minneapolis surely can’t be that easily bamboozled into giving away their First Amendment rights to free of speech.”… WND

U.S. Again Trying to Criminalize Free Speech

“The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.”
-Hugo Black

The drafters of Senate Resolution 118 and House Resolution 257, are two Muslim organizations,

Current Law

The law already prohibits violence and threats of violence, and law enforcement authorities are supposed to prosecute those — intimidation, destruction, damage, vandalism, simple and aggravated assault. What “hate crimes” are not already covered by the law?

Senate Resolution 118 -The resolution refers to hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hindus, and Sikhs and was sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Susan Collins.

On April 4, 2017, the US Senate passed Senate Resolution 118, “Condemning hate crime and any other form of racism, religious or ethnic bias, discrimination, incitement to violence, or animus targeting a minority in the United States”. The resolution was drafted by a Muslim organization, EmgageUSA (formerly EmergeUSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). On April 6, 2017, EmgageUSA wrote the following on their Facebook page:

“Thanks to the hard work of Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Susan Collins and Senator Kamala Harris we have achieved the approval of Senate Resolution 118, an anti-hate crimes bill drafted by Emerge-USA. It is days like this that Americans are reminded of this country’s founding principles: equal opportunity, freedom, justice. We are proud to help support the protection of these rights #amoreperfectunion #theamericandream”.

Senate Resolution 118 calls on

“…Federal law enforcement officials, working with State and local officials… to expeditiously investigate all credible reports of hate crimes and incidents and threats against minorities in the United States and to hold the perpetrators of those crimes, incidents, or threats accountable and bring the perpetrators to justice; encourages the Department of Justice and other Federal agencies to work to improve the reporting of hate crimes; and… encourages the development of an interagency task force led by the Attorney General to collaborate on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities…”

House Resolution H.Res. 257

On April 6, almost the exact same text was introduced as House Resolution H.Res. 257, “Condemning hate crime and any other form of racism, religious or ethnic bias, discrimination, incitement to violence, or animus targeting a minority in the United States”. A House Resolution can be reintroduced as legislation.

H.Res. 257 urges

“…the development of an interagency task force led by the Attorney General and bringing together the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to collaborate on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities”. The House Resolution was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on April 6 and from there it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on April 21.

Americans should be concerned about these resolutions, especially the part of the House Resolution, which urges the establishment of an “interagency task force led by the Attorney General … on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities.”

What is a hate crime in this context? The law already prohibits violence and threats of violence, and law enforcement authorities are supposed to prosecute those — intimidation, destruction, damage, vandalism, simple and aggravated assault. What do “strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime” entail, and again, what “hate crimes” are not already covered by the law? In other words, why would the House of Representatives find it necessary to make such redundant statements, if not in order to redefine the concept of a hate crime? Perhaps by including “hate speech“?

The US has been in a similar situation before. In December 2015, House Resolution H.Res. 569 “Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States” was introduced. That resolution never went any farther, but it was problematic: it favored Muslims over everyone else. The current resolution includes most of the major ethnic and religious minorities in the United States, so it will have a far better chance of passing, as it will more easily fool Representatives into thinking that the contents of the resolution are harmless.

The drafters of Senate Resolution 118 and House Resolution 257, are two Muslim organizations, EmgageUSA (formerly known as EmergeUSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. This is what EmgageUSA published on its website on April 6, 2017:

“We are excited to report that EmergeUSA and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) worked with Senator Kamala Harris to introduce Senate Resolution #118, which was passed unanimously today. The historic resolution is the first of its kind to condemn hate crimes and other forms of racism. The hate crimes extend beyond targeting just Muslim and Jewish Americans to also include religious minorities such as Hindu and Sikh Americans… EmergeUSA is committed to engaging, and empowering the Muslim American community via the political process by working towards making federal and state legislation and policies more equitable for the Muslim American community”.

Online:  U.S. Trying to Criminalize Free Speech – Again

Kentucky Court Rules Print Shop Doesn’t Have to Make Gay Pride T-Shirts

The Kentucky court put religious freedom first, choosing not to elevate local discrimination ordinances above the first amendment.

Kentucky Lower Court

“There is no evidence in this record that [the company] or its owners refused to print the T-shirts in question based upon the sexual orientation of the GLSO or its members,” he [Judge Ishmael] said.

“Rather, it is clear beyond dispute that [the company] and its owners declined to print the T-shirts in question because of the message advocating sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.”…

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission took up the case and ruled that the company’s refusal to print the T-shirts was discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The commission also found that the local fairness ordinance did not violate free speech rights or rights to the free exercise of religion.

In reversing that determination, Judge Ishmael said the commission’s conclusions were “in direct contrast to well-established precedent.”..

In addition, he ruled that the company and its owners enjoy a right to freely exercise their religion, which includes not facing government actions that substantially burden those rights. Ishmael said there was no showing of a compelling government interest that would justify forcing company officials to violate their religious beliefs.

The judge said GLSO was able to obtain its T-shirts from another firm at a substantially reduced price or, perhaps, for free.  CSMonitor

Kentucky Court of Appeals

The ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals favored the business owner. A crucial difference in this case was the expressive nature of the service denied: literally words on a shirt.

In a split vote, a three-judge panel concluded that the store, Hands on Originals, couldn’t be forced to print a message with which the owner disagreed.

The dispute started in 2012 when Gay and Lesbian Services Organization in Kentucky asked Hands on Originals to make T-shirts with the name and logo of a pride festival.

Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands on Originals, said he refused to print the shirts because it violated his business’s policy of not printing messages that endorse positions in conflict with his convictions.

Mr. Adamson offered examples of other orders he refused, such as shirts featuring the word “bitches” or a depiction of Jesus dressed as a pirate.

The gay-rights group filed a complaint with the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which in 2014 ordered Mr. Adamson to make the shirts.

Friday’s decision affirmed an earlier ruling from a lower court. The commission, which brought the appeal, said the store was in violation of a local “fairness” ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals, one level below the state’s Supreme Court, disagreed, ruling that the conduct by the business wasn’t discrimination, rather a decision not to promote certain speech.

One judge on the panel dissented, saying he thought Mr. Adamson’s shop had engaged in “deliberate and intentional discriminatory conduct.”

In other lawsuits against religious business owners, courts have rejected First Amendment defenses. WallStreetJournal

UMich Student Leaders Reject Free Speech Measure – Says It Puts People At Risk

What puts people at risk is lack of free speech.  This is about the ideology of the left.  If you deviate from that ideology you have no rights.

A resolution that called for a robust defense of free speech at the University of Michigan has been voted down by its student government.

Some students who voted against the measure cited concerns that, if approved, it’s essentially “legitimizing certain hate speech,” “delegitimizing minorities on campus” and “putting people at risk,” according to the minutes of the March 28 Central Student Government meeting.

The resolution was brought forth by student Deion Kathawa, the Michigan Review editor-in-chief and a College Fix contributor, who said he was motivated to lobby for his “Resolution That Commits Robustly Both This Body and the University as a Whole to Free Speech, or, the ‘Dangerous School’ Resolution” to bolster an institutional commitment to free speech.

It called on the student government to release a statement reaffirming its commitment to the First Amendment, to make it clear to the campus community that protests are allowed as long as they don’t deprive other students of their free speech rights, endorse the Chicago Principles of Free Expression, and support viewpoint diversity — particularly political diversity — in campus efforts to advance diversity in the curriculum and by other means.  TheCollegeFix

Top Psychologist: The Whole Concept Of Microaggressions Isn’t Supported By Science

He says, the science just doesn’t add up.

It is a mental disorder – inability to cope with life.

Microaggressions are in the water these days at colleges and universities. Students across the country are now learning what they are, how to avoid them and how to respond to them.

But according to one leading psychologist, the science behind microaggressions just doesn’t add up, and we shouldn’t be using the concept as a guideline for how we treat people because the whole thing could all be in our heads.

Dr. Scott Lilienfield of Emory University has a new review in Perspectives on Psychological Science that argues that microaggressions aren’t actually well-defined, that they are often dictated by the politics of a situation, and that there is a lack of concrete evidence that people suffer any long-term harm from being micro-aggressed.

Part of the problem, Lilienfield says, is that people lump “old fashioned abuse” in with small, everyday actions that are unintentionally racist and sexist. It’s not clear how small or how large an offense has to be before it moves out of the realm of “microaggression” and into the realm of actual racism or sexism —or whether there is actually any difference.

But that’s not stopping colleges from fully embracing the concept. Some students are being forced into microaggression training programs. Some schools are spending thousands on counselors, coloring books, therapy dogs, and ball pits to help students cope with an increasingly racist world. HeatStreet

Video:  Does Free Speech Offend You?

Hawaii Bill Would Force Church, Pro-life Centers To Promote Abortion

The bills  HB 663 and SB 501 target specifically non-profit pregnancy centers.  These bills would allow the government to tell faith-based pregnancy centers what they cannot say, and also what they have to say; provide abortion and contraceptive information even if it goes against their belief system.

Hawaii is considering legislation that would require all pregnancy centers to refer patients to clinics that provide abortions, — a move pro-life centers say will violate their religious beliefs and their free speech rights.

In a 22-3 vote, the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate approved SB 501, which would direct “all limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the availability of and enrollment information for reproductive health services.”

For the Rev. Derald Skinner, pastor at Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, that would mean putting a sign advertising abortion in his church.

“They want to mandate all pro-life centers to put an abortion referral sign in our reception areas,” Mr. Skinner said in a video published to the church’s Vimeo account. “Now our particular pro-life center is in our church. So it’s very important to realize that they are dictating to us what we can and cannot say. Will they give me my sermon next and tell me what I can preach?”

A companion bill is expected to pass in the House, which is also controlled by Democrats.  WashingtonTimes

Middlebury Professor Criticizes Students, Defends Free Speech

An event at Middlebury College in Vermont where Dr. Charles Murray gave a speech was disrupted by leftist protesters. The students felt compelled to disrupt Murray’s speech, rationalized the use of violence against ideas they did not agree with, and in an alternate paper claim to be “victims”.

President of Middlebury College:

Today our community begins the process of addressing the deep and troubling divisions that were on display last night. I am grateful to those who share this goal and have offered to help. We must find a path to establishing a climate of open discourse as a core Middlebury value, while also recognizing critical matters of race, inclusion, class, sexual and gender identity, and the other factors that too often divide us. That work will take time, and I will have more to say about that in the days ahead.

Video:  Middlebury professor criticizes students in an interview with Tucker Carlson.  The professor’s concepts –  free speech, civil discussion, and modesty!

The Collision Of Two American Values: Religious Freedom And Freedom From Discrimination

An interesting article in its coverage and analysis of the collision that is building between religious liberty and the sexual revolution.

The collision of two core American values — freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination — is prompting a showdown in legislatures and courts across the country.

For some conservatives, religious freedom means the right to act on their opposition to same-sex marriage and other practices that go against their beliefs. LGBT advocates and their allies, meanwhile, say no one in the United States should face discrimination because of their sexual orientation…

Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress is barred from enacting “an establishment of religion,” but neither can it prohibit “the free exercise thereof.” The question under current debate is what it means to “exercise” one’s religion.

Tom Gjelten gives examples from current and past news articles showing the divide.

After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage the case of adoption and Catholic Charities.

One of the thorniest cases involves Catholic Charities, whose agencies long have provided adoption and foster care services to children in need, including orphans. Under Catholic doctrine, the sacrament of marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman, and Catholic adoption agencies therefore have declined to place children with same-sex couples.

When Massachusetts (and other jurisdictions) redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, making it illegal to deny adoption to them., the Catholic agencies closed down their adoption services and argued that their religious freedom had been infringed.

Stanley Carlson-Thies, who is founder of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance said,  “One of the major activities of the [Catholic] church, going way back, was to look after the orphans. For that to be illegal unless the religious people change their standard, seems to me … unfortunate.

But to the LGBT community and its supporters, a refusal to place a child for adoption with a same-sex couple is unacceptable discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Karen Narasaki, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said,  “I can’t think of a single civil rights law that doesn’t have some people who are unhappy about it. But once the country has said, ‘Well, we believe that people who are LGBT need to be protected from discrimination, then how do you make sure that happens?”

U.S. Civil Rights Commission language of intolerance used in order to be intolerant.

 Martin R. Castro, commission’s chairman said,  “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

Charles Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute in Washington said, “We may not like the claim of conscience, but you know, we don’t judge claims of conscience on whether we like the content of the claim. We are trying to protect the right of people to do what they feel they must do according to their God. That is a very high value.”

Equal Footing

Charles Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute in Washington said,  “Nondiscrimination is a great American principle — it’s a core American principle — as is religious freedom. When you have two important American principles coming into tension, into conflict with one another, our goal as Americans is to sit down and try to see if we can uphold both.”

Haynes put both, nondiscrimination and religious freedom, on an equal footing which the two are not. In the U.S. Constitution religious liberty is foundational to this country.

The article continues on the issue of the free exercise of religion and what does exercise mean? – is it limited to only freedom of worship?  The article on NPR by Tom Gjelten is worth reading.

A Tale Of Two Talks

Free speech in the U.S.

The proximity of these two events, the difference in the arguments and the vast chasm of difference between the outrage and violence against one, and the great silence and complicity with the other, tells us much about what we need to know about the state of free speech — and academia — in America today.

Milo Yiannopoulos – The riots at Berkeley caused national and international headlines.

On the first day of the month, the conservative activist and writer Milo Yiannopoulos was due to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. To the surprise of absolutely no one, some of the new anti-free speech brigades attempted to prevent the event from happening. But to the surprise of almost everyone, the groups who wish to prevent everyone but themselves from speaking went farther even than they have tended to of late. Before the event could even start, Yiannopoulos was evacuated by security for his own safety. A mob of 150 people proceeded to riot, smash and set fire to the campus, causing more than $100,000 of damage and otherwise asserting their revised version of Voltaire’s maxim: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to your death my right to shut you up.”

Jonathan A.C. Brown – NO  outrage.  Few headlines.

On February 7, at the University of Georgetown, Jonathan A.C. Brown, the director of the entirely impartial Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, gave a 90-minute talk entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery”. Except that the white convert to Islam, Jonathan Brown, apparently did not think that there is a particular problem with slavery — at least not when it comes wrapped in Islam.

During the talk (which Brown himself subsequently uploaded onto YouTube) the lecturer condemned slavery when it took place historically in America, Britain and other Western countries, but praised the practice of slavery in Muslim societies. Brown explained how Muslim slaves lived “a pretty good life”, claimed that they were protected by “sharia” and claimed that it is “not immoral for one human to own another human.” Regarding the vexed matter of whether it is right or wrong to have sex with one of your slaves, Brown said that “consent isn’t necessary for lawful sex” and that marital rape is not a legitimate concept within Islam. Concepts such as “autonomy” and “consent”, in the view of the Director of the Alwaleed Center at Georgetown, turned out to be Western “obsessions”.

Of course, Jonathan Brown’s views on Islam are by no means uncommon.

Online:  GateStoneInstitute

Human Rights Organization Places U.S. In ‘Hall of Shame’ For Christian Persecution

The International Christian Concern (ICC) has three categories for classification of Christian persecution: “Worst of the Worst,” “Core Countries” and “New and Noteworthy.”

The ICC placed the United States on its 2016 Hall of Shame list for its persecution of Christians.

Citing the most prominent cases like the Sweet Cakes by Melissa controversy in Southern Oregon, the report made a special case of the Orlando gay nightclub shooting in June 2016 when a Muslim gay man killed 49 people, citing how LGBTQ forces used Christians as scapegoats by accusing them of fostering a culture that made the attacks possible. 

“Anti-Christian entities have been able to leverage the growing secularization of society and culture to their advantage, utilizing the courts as a preferred venue to gradually marginalize and silence Christians,” said the report. “Using the cudgel of ‘equality,’ secular forces in and out of the courts have worked to create a body of law built from one bad precedent after another.”

“While there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the US with persecuted believers overseas, ICC sees these worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States,” the report concluded. TruthRevolt

Online:  ICC 2016 Hall of Shame Report (pdf)

Photo by Don McCullough

ECU Professor Plans To Carry Firearm On Campus After School’s Support Of Band Members Kneeling During The National Anthem

ecuRules apply to all or the rules apply to none.  All have to follow the rules or none have to follow the rules.

19 members of the East Carolina University Marching Pirates knelt during the National Anthem.  During half time the band was booed.

ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton later issued a statement that said the school acknowledges disappointment felt by fans. However, he urged them to act with respect for each other’s views. wncn

East Carolina University Professor Tracy Tuten said that in response to the university’s reaction to band members kneeling during the national anthem, she now plans to open carry a firearm on campus.

Tuten reached out to WNCT Tuesday after sending an email to Chancellor Cecil Staton on her intentions.

In the letter, entitled “From the heart of Pirate Nation,” Tuten said that she was stalked last year and did not carry a firearm then because she said she “respected the university guidelines for bearing arms.”

On Facebook, Tuten said Sunday that the band members who knelt during the national anthem on Saturday “clearly broke the guidelines set forth in the ECU Marching Pirates Handbook and they should be dismissed from the organization.”

The university, however, has not reprimanded the band members and Tuten says in her letter that Chancellor Staton knew “about the band members’ plan but that you endorsed and supported it.”

Now, Tuten says that since the band members were allowed to “act on first amendment without regard to university rules, I too want to act on my second amendment rights to bear arms.” Full letter at wncn.

ECU decides marching band protests ‘will not be tolerated’.  That was quick.

On Monday:  Dr. William Staub, director of Athletic Bands; Chris Ulffers, director of the School of Music; and Dr. Chris Buddo, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, made the following statement:

We regret the actions taken by 19 members of the East Carolina University Marching Pirates on game day October 1st felt hurtful to many in our Pirate family and disrespectful to our country. We understand and respect this is an issue where emotions are strong.

The Marching Pirates continue to be fully supportive of all the values the East Carolina University community holds dear.

We have met with the band and the members have collectively reaffirmed their commitment to the unique privilege and responsibility that comes with wearing the uniform of the Marching Pirates.  Full statement at wncn..

California State Senator Drops Proposal That Violated The Free Exercise Of Religion Clause Of The First Amendment

usdCalifornia State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D) said Senate Bill 1146 would shed light on discrimination of the LGBT community, it actually would restrict religious liberty of colleges.

Senator Lara has worked tirelessly to pass legislation that would dictate how religious universities operate in observance of their religion.

Sen.  Ricardo Lara:  “As a gay Catholic man, nobody has the right to dictate how I worship or observe my religion.”

Faced with intense opposition SB 1146 has been amended and now no longer contains a direct assault on the 1st Amendment.

SB1146  would have made it impossible for students to receive the Cal Grant if they chose to go to a religious school that held biblical views on human sexuality and marriage.  Private/religious colleges and universities would be subject to SB 1146 whether they accepted state financial aid or not.

First, SB 1146 will require religious colleges and universities to adopt policies of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in order for students to receive state-funded scholarships under the Cal Grant program. Secondly, SB 1146 will require these institutions to give notice if they have requested an exemption to Title IX. Thirdly, SB 1146 will permit lawsuits against institutions that are perceived to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation regardless of whether they accept the Cal-Grant scholarships.  Peabody

 

SB 1146 Amended

Faced with intense opposition from religious colleges in California, a state Senator said Wednesday he has decided to amend a bill by dropping a provision that would have allowed gay and transgender students to more easily sue private universities for discrimination if they are disciplined for violating church teachings.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is removing a provision of his bill that sought to take away the exemption of religious schools to anti-discrimination laws. Instead, he will press forward with the amended bill that would still require such schools to disclose if they have an exemption and report to the state when students are expelled for violating morality codes. LATimes

Huge Opposition

The withdrawal of the key provision of SB 1146 comes one day after a coalition of 145 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and college presidents penned an open letter to the legislature claiming the bill violates religious liberty and “creates its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality.”

“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. 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 letter also said.

The letter was also signed by multiple distinguished professors of law, including Robert P. George, who only recently completed a term as chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Leith Anderson, chair of the National Association of Evangelicals, who signed the letter, said via social media that he and others were breathing “sighs of relief and prayers of gratitude that California #SB1146 (restricting religious liberty of colleges) has been dropped.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also signed the letter. He tweeted that SB 1146 showed “the stakes of a state that imperils the free exercise of religious and the freedom of dissent.”

He added, “The #SB1146 controversy also shows how important it is for religious freedom advocates to stand together, across our divides.” ChristianExaminer