The previously odious legislation in the State of California known as SB 1146 has been amended and the concerns of Christian colleges and universities have been relieved. For now. What was it about SB 1146 which attracted so much concern and outrage? This proposed legislation directly threatened the religious liberty of said institutions by forcing them to compromise their convictions on homosexuality, “transgenderism,” and the like. Any institution in which students received State or Federal assistance would come into the crosshairs. In practical terms, this means that those educational institutions would no longer be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual ethics. The “LGBT” agenda would once again supersede religious liberty.
Mark my words when I say that this isn’t the last you’ve heard about legislation like SB 1146. This time around there was enough momentum to stop it. However, there will most definitely be a next time. It isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Similar legislation will come back into play later.
Having said all of that, this is yet another reminder of why broader Evangelicalism needs to embrace a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to taking any form of government funding or assistance. I’ve said for years that this type of snare will only come back to bite those who fall into it. It was true of George W. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” and it’s true for students at Christians schools who take government aid. In the early days of these United States, many Christians (mostly Baptists) joined ranks with the Jeffersonian Republicans in arguing for an institutional separation between church and state. They rightly saw religious establishments as ultimately representing a threat to religious liberty. Consider government funding as yet another example of filthy lucre.
As it is, there are already a number of private colleges/universities which prohibit their students from taking any kind of government aid whatsoever. Hillsdale College is one of them. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is another. I’m really glad those examples exist because what those institutions do ought to become the norm for Christian schools everywhere. Of course there is the issue of whether every Christian needs to go to college in the first place, but that’s a whole other discussion for a different post. The point is, a steadfast refusal to take any kind of government aid is essential in order to uphold any kind of doctrinal integrity. We can’t have it both ways. What I’m proposing would certainly be a drastic change for how many Christian institutions operate, but this discussion will of necessity happen sooner or later.
The reason many Christian schools got themselves into this pickle in the first place was because Christianity became the cultural norm in America. Once the church finds itself in a comfortable position within the larger culture, we tend to get complacent and accept things we ought not to accept. We take things for granted and put down our guard. Then once the culture moves into a moral free fall, we ourselves in a compromised position. History repeats itself. No matter the source, outside money always has some kind of strings attached. It’s inescapable. And as the old saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune.