Recently in California, state legislators have been pushing a bill to the forefront of the state agenda that will have far reaching and alarming consequences for anyone who values their religious freedom. SB 1146 represents a clear and present danger to every faith-based institution of higher education. The bill, which would severely limit Christian colleges and universities, was passed by the State Senate in May, and will be heard before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday, June 30th. While the legislation does not necessarily seek to fundamentally alter the “correctness” of religious beliefs, it does essentially limit the “practice and exercise” of sincerely held faith values.
Are we listening? Are our eyes open? Do we understand the significance of what is taking place all around us?
Under a false narrative of “anti-discrimination,” proponents are seeking to remove certain student requirements such as chapel attendance, an adherence to the institution’s Doctrinal Statement, the integration of faith components into the curriculum, having core classes in biblical instruction, and more. Shockingly, students attending the faith-based university would be given the right to sue if, for example, they were “offended” by prayer in a class.
One of the Universities that would potentially be affected is Biola University. Lee Wilhite, vice president of university communications, expressed the school’s serious concerns: “It functionally eliminates the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities.”
Why does this bill matter? It matters because once again, there would be a setting of harmful precedent, and precedent, though it might represent a small foothold, can quickly morph into a national movement that is unstoppable. Lest we forget, this is exactly what took place over the last couple of years when we witnessed 9 unelected Justices attempt to impose a wholesale redefinition of the institution of marriage; one that is completely contrary to our religious values.
Could this kind of censorship and loss of First Amendment rights actually slip into the pulpit? Absolutely! Attempts have already been made, including when the mayor and city council tried to force pastors in Houston, Texas, to submit their sermons for possible editing and approval prior to speaking to their congregations. America… these are wake up calls and we must pay attention and be ready to take action!
In a chilling assessment about the Nazi’s rise to power in Germany, Lutheran pastor and theologian, Martin Niemöller, spoke of the fear and intimidation among pre-war citizens who remained silent during the persecution and purging of selected targets, people groups that were deemed to be a threat to the greater good of society.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”
What if we were to take Niemöller’s statement and put it into a 21st century context:
“First they came for the bakers, and I did not speak out because I was not a baker. Then they came for the florists, and I did not speak out because I was not a florist. Then they came after the county clerks, and I did not speak out because I was not a clerk. Then they came for pastors, and I did not speak out because I was not a pastor. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Above all, we must be in prayer for this nation at such a critical junction in our nation’s history. Also, if you live in California, I want to urge you to contact your representatives and ask them to fight for your religious liberties. Much is at stake, but great things can happen when God’s people unite together.
When Peter sensed the trouble in his times and that the end of all things may be near, he encouraged believers to, “be of sound judgment and sober spirit, for the purpose of prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7).