California Bill Threatens Christian Higher Education
Religious liberty in our country is in dire peril. The latest example of this is a legislative act currently before the California legislature. Please read the following letter from the president of Vanguard University, Dr. Mike Beals. I appeal to the Assemblies of God family to lift up this matter in prayer. I also appeal to all of our California ministers and constituents to call the state legislators in your district of residence and express your deep concern over this piece of legislation, along with a request that they oppose this legislation.
-George O. Wood, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God (USA)
Dear Vanguard Community,
I am reaching out to inform you of a bill currently before the California State Legislature. This is a call to action. California Senate Bill 1146 would significantly challenge Vanguard University’s right to continue in our Christ-centered mission of 96 years.
Vanguard and other faith-based colleges and universities across the State continue to work in good faith with California lawmakers to find an agreeable compromise on the language of this legislation. If passed without amendment however, SB 1146 would have the devastating impact of eliminating faith-based higher education in California.
As the president of Vanguard University, I am asking for your partnership on this critical issue. If you are a California resident, I am asking that you contact your California State Assembly Member to voice your concern regarding SB 1146, and urge your Member to preserve Vanguard’s founding and guiding mission based upon our religious beliefs and convictions.
In its current form, SB 1146, authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D – Bell Gardens), seeks to restrict the state religious exemption that allows Vanguard and other faith-based institutions the right to operate according to our religious mission and identity. SB 1146 erodes the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities that integrate faith and learning throughout the entire campus educational experience. This means that mission-based aspects of religious colleges and universities, which include prayer in classes, chapel services, spiritual formation activities and faith-infused curriculum, as well as requiring a statement of faith for admission and requiring ministry-based service experiences would be at risk if SB 1146 is passed as is.
SB 1146 represents a fundamental shift away from the State’s historic commitment to provide “educational access for all.” The choice of, and access to, a faith-based education for tens of thousands of California students would disappear.
Since 1920, our faith-based mission has driven Vanguard to prepare students for effective service in our communities, country, and the world. Faith-based institutions of higher education across our state and the nation make a profound contribution to the intellectual quality and common good of our society. These contributions are possible because of our deeply held religious convictions. Our presence in society enriches it. We provide economic vitality to our communities. A Vanguard education cultivates seeds of greatness in the lives of students who graduate to pursue their vocations with excellence, strong character, and global perspective.
STOPPING SB 1146 REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ACTION
SB 1146 seeks to divest us of our religious distinctives. Right now the bill is waiting to be heard by the California Assembly Higher Education Committee. It has already passed the California Senate. Action on the bill is expected as early as the week of June 20. If approved, the bill will then move to two other Assembly committees - perhaps by June 27. If passed through these committees, it will then go to a full vote before the California State Assembly, most likely in August. The best chance to stop or amend it is now, before it reaches the Assembly floor for final debate and vote.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION:
Step #1 — Spread the Word.
Forward this e-mail. Send it to parents, students or alumni of faith-based colleges and universities, churches or others who value religious freedom for faith-based institutions. Anyone who has an affinity for faith-based higher education should know about this threatening bill.
Post on social media. Express your concerns about the bill on social media using the hashtag #SB1146.
Step #2 — Contact Your State Legislators.
Many legislators do not understand the impacts SB 1146 would have on faith-based Higher Education in California. Click here to find your Assembly Member.
Make a phone call to your legislator. This is the most impactful point of contact with any legislative office. When you call, simply state your name and that you reside in the Assembly Member’s district (you can share your city), and that you have strong concerns about SB 1146. Feel free to offer your reason (please stick to the points above) or no reason at all. The important message is to express your concerns about the restriction of religious freedom that SB 1146 would impose on Vanguard and all of California’s faith-based colleges and universities.
Step #3 — Pray.
Pray for this moment in California history when religious liberty is being threatened. Pray for clarity and favor for those legislators who are standing for faith-based higher education. Pray for faith-based colleges and universities in California. Pray for Vanguard. Our mission will remain unchanged: to pursue knowledge, cultivate character, deepen faith, and equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.
In closing I assure you that, although this law is intended to alter the mission of institutions like Vanguard University, we will be relentless in our advocacy for religious liberty and Christ-centered higher education. If this bill is passed and signed into law by the governor, we will join other California religious institutions in exercising our constitutional rights including legal action. We would prefer, however, that this bill be stopped or amended now rather than resorting to litigation later. So please help us and the tens of thousands of students at faith-based colleges and universities across California by contacting your State Assembly Member now to express your concern.
We will provide regular updates on the status of SB 1146 on the Vanguard University website at www.vanguard.edu/update.
For more information, contact Vanguard’s Office of Strategic Partnerships at (714) 966-5467.
Thank you for your prayer, support and action on this critical issue.
The Lord is Faithful!
Dr. Mike Beals
President, Vanguard University
Image Source: Steven Pavlov / http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Senapa / CC-BY-SA-3.0