Protecting the future of religious higher education

August 9, 2016

Add your name to the statement.

The California Assembly has proposed legislation that is harmful to the free exercise of religion in higher education. In particular, the legislation disadvantages low-income minority students who want an education at private religious colleges. Though it 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. 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.

We, the undersigned, do not necessarily agree with one another’s religious views, but we agree on the necessity of the liberty to exercise these views. At the root of the American experiment is the idea that conscience and religious conviction come before the demands of the state. Some of us disagree with the sexual ethics of orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims giving rise to this legislation, but we are unified in our resistance to the government setting up its own system of orthodoxy. As the American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” No less is this true than on matters of religious liberty. Where the state can encroach on one religion’s free exercise, it can just as easily trample on any other religion’s free exercise. We therefore join in solidarity across religious lines to speak against Senate Bill 1146.

We call on the California Assembly to abandon Senate Bill 1146. To ensure the future of the free exercise of religion in higher education in California and across America, we respectfully call on the supporters of Senate Bill 1146 to immediately withdraw their support of this bill, with the commitment to disavow similar intrusions in the future. Opposition to this bill is not grounded in the protection of religious liberty only, nor for the special pleading of one religion in particular, but for the protection of American society and American democracy. Such protection requires a civil society welcoming of religious diversity.

The future of a free America requires the full participation of religion in public life. Religious higher education cultivates both the mind and the soul. Senate Bill 1146 endangers the integrity of religious education institutions and discourages them from acting according to their conscience for fear of government retribution. As Americans with a rich legacy of freedoms afforded to us by the laws of nature and of nature’s God, and enshrined in the Constitution, we can do better. As we renew our commitment to religious pluralism in the public square, we should embrace debate, welcome dissent, and encourage civility as we work together for the sake of the common good and of a country we are all unreservedly blessed to call our home.

*Please note that the title and institution listed for each signatory is used for identification purposes only and does not necessarily constitute an official endorsement by the institution.

Russell Moore
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Barry Corey
Biola University

Rick Warren
Pastor and Founder
Saddleback Church

Douglas Laycock
Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law
University of Virginia

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Princeton University

Hamza Yusuf Hanson
Zaytuna College

Richard Stearns
World Vision U.S.

Michael McConnell
Stanford Constitutional Law Center

Jim Daly
Focus on the Family

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik
Director Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought
Yeshiva University

Shirley V. Hoogstra
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Frank R. Wolf
Former Member of U.S. Congress
Distinguished Senior Fellow, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative
Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom, Baylor University

R. Albert Mohler Jr.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Yuval Levin
The Ethics and Public Policy Center

Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Alan E. Sears
President, CEO, General Counsel
Alliance Defending Freedom

Helen Alvare
Professor of Law
Scalia Law School at George Mason University

John Inazu
Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion
Washington University in St. Louis

Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Steven D. Smith
Warren Distinguished Professor of Law
University of San Diego

Ron Sider
Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy
Palmer Seminary at Eastern University

Jo Anne Lyon
General Superintendent Emerita
The Wesleyan Church

Faizul Khan
Imam and Founder
Islamic Society of Washington Area

Michael Wear
Public Square Strategies

Paul Ague
San Diego Christian College

Daniel L. Akin
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Anthony W. Allen
Hannibal-­LaGrange University

Jason K. Allen
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College

Ryan T. Anderson
William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow
The Heritage Foundation

John Ashmen
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

David Azerrad
Director, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics and AWC Family Foundation Fellow
The Heritage Foundation

Mark L. Bailey
President, Senior Professor of Bible Exposition
Dallas Theological Seminary

Gregory S. Baylor
Center for Religious Schools Alliance Defending Freedom

Michael J. Beals
Vanguard University

Jim Belcher
Providence Christian College

Thomas C. Berg
James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy
University of St. Thomas School of Law

Phillip Bethancourt
Executive Vice President
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

David Blankenhorn
Better Angels

Dan Boone
Trevecca Nazarene University

John C. Bowling
Olivet Nazarene University

John F. Bradosky
Presiding Bishop
North American Lutheran Church

Rick Brewer
Louisiana College

Bob Brower
Point Loma Nazarene University

Jennifer S. Bryson
Independent Scholar

Galen Carey
Vice President of Government Relations
National Association of Evangelicals

Stanley Carlson­-Thies
Founder and Senior Director
Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Matt Carter
Pastor of Preaching and Vision
The Austin Stone Community Church

Derry Connolly
John Paul the Great Catholic University

Barry Creamer
Criswell College

Michael Cromartie
Vice President
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Kevin A. Culbertson
Professor of Business; Chair of Business Department; MBA Program Chair
John Paul the Great Catholic University

Jerry C. Davis
College of the Ozarks

Mark DeMoss
DeMoss Public Relations

David S. Dockery
Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Jason G. Duesing
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College

Ronald L. Ellis
California Baptist University

Erick­-Woods Erickson
The Resurgent

Kevin Ezell
North American Mission Board

William Edmund Fahey
President and Fellow
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Thomas F. Farr
President Religious Freedom Institute and Director, Religious Freedom Project
Georgetown University

Matthew J. Franck
Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution Witherspoon Institute

David French
Staff Writer
National Review

Richard W. Garnett
Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law
University of Notre Dame

Timothy George
Beeson Divinity School of Samford University

Tim Goeglein
Vice President
Focus on the Family

Sandra C. Gray
Asbury University

Matthew J. Hall
Boyce College

Thomas P. Harmon
Professor of Theology and Culture
John Paul the Great Catholic University

George A. Harne
Northeast Catholic College

Jack W. Haye
Patrick Henry College

Jairy C. Hunter, Jr.
Charleston Southern University

William H. Jones
Columbia International University

Hyepin Im
President and CEO
Korean Churches for Community Development

Jeff Iorg
Gateway Seminary

John Jackson
William Jessup University

Jeffrey Jeremiah
Stated Clerk
Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Jerry A. Johnson
President and CEO
National Religious Broadcasters

Jeffrey K. Jue
Provost and Executive Vice President
Westminster Theological Seminary

William J. Katip
Grace College and Seminary

Jonathan Keller
California Family Council

Chuck Kelley
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Thomas S. Kidd
Distinguished Professor of History
Baylor University

John A. Kincaid
Professor of Theology and Scripture
John Paul the Great Catholic University

Daniel Kroeze
Professor of Biblical Studies
Kuyper College

R. Alton Lacey
Missouri Baptist University

Richard Land
Southern Evangelical Seminary

Steve Lemke
Provost & Professor of Philosophy and Ethics
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Stephen D. Livesay
Bryan College

Bryan Loritts
Abundant Life Christian Fellowship

Erwin W. Lutzer
Pastor Emeritus
The Moody Church, Chicago

Jennifer Marshall
Vice President, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity
The Heritage Foundation

Brett McCracken
Managing Editor Biola Magazine
Biola University

Gerald R. McDermott
Anglican Chair of Divinity History and Doctrine
Beeson Divinity School

Michael F. McLean
Thomas Aquinas College

Steve Miller
University Counsel
Colorado Christian University

C. Ben Mitchell
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Union University

Greg Mitchell
International Religious Freedom Roundtable

J. P. Moreland
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Biola University

Richard J. Mouw
Professor of Faith and Public Life
Fuller Theological Seminary

Jeff Myers
Summit Ministries

David Nammo
Executive Director and CEO
Christian Legal Society

Marvin Olasky
Editor in Chief

Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver
Union University

Daniel Patterson
Chief of Staff
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Paige Patterson
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Daniel Philpott
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Matthew Pinson
Welch College

Charles W. Pollard
John Brown University

Ramesh Ponnuru
Senior Editor
National Review

Karen Swallow Prior
Professor of English
Liberty University

Dennis Rainey

Patrick J. Reilly
The Cardinal Newman Society

R. R. Reno
First Things

Eugene F. Rivers III
Founder and President
Seymour Institute

Alan Robinson
National Director
Brethren in Christ Church, U.S.

Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches

Judith Mendelsohn Rood
Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies
Biola University

Gabriel Salguero
National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Richard Samuelson
Associate Professor
California State University, San Bernardino

Christof Sauer
International Institute for Religious Freedom

Thomas Schirrmacher
Moderator of intrafaith and interfaith relations
World Evangelical Alliance

Robert Schwarzwalder
Senior Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences
Regent University

Timothy Samuel Shah
Associate Director Religious Freedom Project
Georgetown University

Robert Sloan
Houston Baptist University

Kevin L. Smith
Executive Director
Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

Timothy L. Smith
University of Mobile

Roger L. Spradlin
Senior Pastor
Valley Baptist Church of Bakersfield, Calif.

Randy Stinson
Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Provost
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

John Stonestreet
Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Tony Suarez
Executive Vice President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

C. Pat Taylor
Southwest Baptist University

Justin Taylor
Executive Vice President for Book Publishing

Peter W. Teague
Lancaster Bible College

Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy

Jim Towey
Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, Fla.

A. B. Vines
New Seasons Church

Robert K. Vischer
Dean and Mengler Chair in Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law

Kristen K. Waggoner
Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Advocacy
Alliance Defending Freedom

Andrew T. Walker
Director of Policy Studies
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Jon Wallace
Azusa Pacific University

Edward Whelan
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Evans P. Whitaker
Anderson University

Thomas White
Cedarville University

David Wesley Whitlock
Oklahoma Baptist University

Luder G. Whitlock, Jr.
President Emeritus
Reformed Theological Seminary

Fermin A. Whittaker
Executive Director California Southern Baptist Convention
California Baptist University

William M. Wilson
Oral Roberts University

George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Adam C. Wright
Dallas Baptist University

Ashfin Ziafat
Lead Pastor
Providence Church

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Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24