Press Release Aug 9, 2016

Russell Moore announces multi-faith statement opposing California assault on religious liberty in higher education

WASHINGTON D.C.—Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, announced a multi-faith statement calling on the California Assembly to abandon Senate Bill 1146, a bill that takes drastic measures against the free exercise of religion in higher education in California.

Commenting on both the Senate bill and the statement itself, Moore said:

“The fundamental problem with SB 1146 is not that it advances a particular viewpoint, but that it seeks to suppress and undermine dissent, harming students along the way. Applying legal or political pressure on institutions that disagree with the cultural majority of the moment is not merely unwise or unfair—it is un-American. A healthy American culture is one in which ideas can freely be discussed and debated, in good faith, among people who, though they disagree, would defend the right of the other to participate.

“I’m joined on this statement by men and women from a diverse set of backgrounds. Many of us disagree on important points of theology, and not all of us agree on questions of sexuality and gender identity, but we all agree that our country is better when dissenters are protected, not prosecuted. We stand opposed to legislation that attacks these institutions' right to self-definition and free exercise.

Signatories on the statement include pastors, college administrators, academic and legal scholars from across the theological and political spectrum, including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon and Muslim representatives. A few of the notable signatories include:

  • Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
  • Barry Corey, President, Biola University
  • Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church
  • Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
  • Yuval Levin, Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
  • Hamza Yusuf Hanson, President, Zaytuna College
  • Helen Avare, Professor of Law, Scalia Law School at George Mason University
  • Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia
  • David Blankenhorn, President, Better Angels

Signatories of the letter said in the statement, that though this bill, “purports to eliminate discrimination, Senate Bill 1146 results in its own form of discrimination by stigmatizing and coercively punishing religious beliefs that disagree on contested matters related to human sexuality. If SB 1146 were to pass, it would deny students’ ability to participate in state grant programs—programs that exist to help low-income students, and which are overwhelmingly used by racial minorities—at schools that are found in violation of the bill. Moreover, it would severely restrict the ability of religious education institutions to set expectations of belief and conduct that align with the institution’s religious tenets.”