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Final Thoughts on SB 1146

Just before summer officially started, on June 18, 2016, Concordia University Irvine first alerted its supporters, family and friends to a proposed new law that would have threatened our ability to continue offering a Christ-centered education to our students. Over the summer, it was very difficult to track exactly how this new law – Senate Bill 1146 – would ultimately impact our Lutheran Christian university. The Bill was amended nine different times. Several of these amendments endangered the future potential of our students to receive CalGrants. Other amendments jeopardized our continued ability to hire Christian faculty and staff. These amendments were unacceptable, and Concordia opposed them.

As it turns out, the final version of the Bill – the version that the Governor signed on September 30, 2016 – will not significantly impact ongoing operations at Concordia. The bill adds two new provisions to the California Equity in Higher Education Act (California Education Code Sections 66250 – 66292.4). The California Equity in Higher Education Act is an existing law that prohibits “discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, [or] sexual orientation … in any program or activity conducted by any postsecondary educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance or enrolls students who receive state student financial aid.” (Section 66270.)

However, the Act includes a statutory exemption for any “educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization if the application [of the prohibition in Section 66270] would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.” (Section 66271.) This exemption applies to Concordia University.

To comply with the new legal requirements (now included in as Sections 66290.1 and 66290.2), Concordia University, together with other Christian universities and colleges, will be required to disclose “the basis for having the exemption and the scope of the allowable activities provided by the exemption” by posting new notices on campus, providing that information to students and employees, and filing new documentation with the California Student Aid Commission.

These new legal requirements are not effective until the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year (August 2017).

Ronald A. Van Blarcom ‘83, CUI General Counsel

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