MOORLACH UPDATE — Religious Liberty — July 1, 2016

Allow me to focus on spiritual matters before I get to the political ones. First, the issues raised by SB 1146 continue to draw media attention (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Oblivious — June 28, 2016 june 28, 2016 john moorlach).

The Religion News Service provides its perspectives in the first piece below, which was picked up by a number of other media outlets. The Christian Science Monitor also provides it take in the second piece below. It is a very thorough review of the entire bill.

Recently, I recognized the Orange County Rescue Mission as the first recipient of what should become the annual tradition of recognizing nonprofit organizations. One of the highest priorities of Christian-based organizations is loving your neighbor as yourself. The Orange County Rescue Mission exemplifies this mandate in an exceptional manner. In fact, I was sworn into the State Senate last March in their chapel in the city of Tustin. The Orange County Breeze provides the news inthe third piece below.

The fourth piece is another attempt to send you a photo of me and a recent visiting dignitary. My apologies to those who did not receive it last time (including my blog).

The fifth piece is an analysis of the General Election, as propositions keep being added to the November ballot. I voted against AB 2444 on Wednesday, in the Senate Governance & Finance Committee, because the state cannot endure any more debt and there are more propositions this year than we’ve seen in the past sixteen. The LA Times covers this topic in detail.

The sixth piece is the conclusion of a column in the Daily Pilot about campaign events. Save the date. Chris Epting will be presenting his recent book, "Teddy Roosevelt In California — The Whistle Stop Tour That Changed America."

Please accept my wishes for a safe and sane Fourth of July weekend with family and friends. Happy 240th Birthday, U.S.A.!

California bill would limit exemptions for religious colleges

By Kimberly Winston

(RNS) A bill wending its way through the California Legislature would limit religious colleges’ ability to claim an exemption from federal Title IX regulations that bar discrimination against LGBT students and faculty.

Only schools that prepare students for pastoral ministry would be allowed the religious exemption under California Senate Bill 1146 — which passed the state Senate in May and is scheduled for a hearing in the state Assembly on Thursday (June 30).

In other religious schools that receive Title IX money, students who believe they have faced discrimination on the basis of their sexual identity would have the right to sue the school.

The bill would also require religious schools to inform prospective students if the schools have a Title IX religious exemption.

Title IX, a 1972 law, forbids colleges that receive federal money from engaging in sexual discrimination. While Title IX does not expressly deal with sexual orientation, courts have upheld its use to protect LGBT students from harassment, bullying and discrimination in schools that receive Title IX money.

While the law is seen by some as an attempt to get California religious schools to comply with the state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it could have national implications. Human Rights Watch, which calls the Title IX religious exemption “a license to discriminate,” reports there are 56 schools nationwide that have requested such exemptions, including Wheaton College, Liberty University and George Fox University.

Forty-two California colleges qualify for Title IX religious exemptions, according to the National Center for Law & Policy, a California-based Christian legal defense group. At least seven have applied, including Biola University, Simpson University and William Jessup University.

The bill is proving divisive. Some see it as a long-overdue advance in protecting LGBT students, while others view it as an infringement on the religious freedom of schools that adhere to forms of Christianity that reject homosexuality as sinful.

“This threatens religious institutions ability to require that students attend daily or weekly chapel services, keep bathrooms and dormitories distinct according to sex, require students to complete theology classes, teach religious ideas in regular coursework, hold corporate prayer at events such as graduation, and so on,” Holly Scheer wrote in The Federalist, a web-based magazine. “In other words, it threatens every practice that makes religious institutions distinct from secular institutions.”

But state and local LGBT rights advocates support the bill.

“Prospective students have a right to know if a university they are considering attending discriminates against LGBT people,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “This bill would let any school seeking to skirt federal anti-discrimination protections know that its policies would be public, and that anyone discriminated against would have legal recourse.”

State Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican whose district encompasses a swath of Southern California coastline, voted against the bill in the Senate.

The bill “does not safeguard against discrimination, but rather is a form of discrimination against religious liberty itself,” he said in a statement to constituents. “Restricting private institutions from adhering to its religious beliefs is a violation of their First Amendment rights and an act itself of intolerance.”

Would California bill infringe on religious liberty of Christian colleges?

FINDING PATTERNS

The legislation, passed by the state Senate in May and taken up by the state Assembly Thursday, would, among other things, allow LGBT students to sue religious educational institutions.

By Harry Bruinius

NEW YORK — When the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right last year, many religious conservatives worried that simply maintaining their traditional views could be considered acts of discrimination.

And now, as lawmakers in the blue-state bastion of California debate a bill that would limit the religious freedom exemptions of private colleges and universities, many are saying their fears are starting to come to pass.

The California legislation, passed by the state Senate in May and taken up by the state Assembly on Thursday, would allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students to sue religious educational institutions if they were denied married student housing, dorms, or bathrooms consistent with their gender identities, or otherwise subject to rules of conduct that singled out their sexuality or identity.

“It just seems hard to believe that a state could punish a private, Christian educational institution for simply having behavioral expectations for their students and staff, and in accordance with their faith-based teachings,” says Chelsen Vicari, the Evangelical programs director at the Institute on Religion & Democracy in Washington, D.C. “This doesn’t make sense to me.”

Since the landmark Supreme Court ruling last June, religious conservatives and Republican lawmakers have worked to expand religious freedom laws – allowing florists, bakers, and, in some cases, even public clerks to opt out of participating in same-sex wedding ceremonies, if doing so violated their sincerely held religious beliefs.

It is an attempt to hold together traditional religious beliefs on marriage in a dramatically transformed social landscape, some scholars say. To many conservatives, such efforts stand within America’s traditions of pluralism and tolerance, as well its unique traditions of religious freedom.

In many ways, supporters of the California bill move in the opposite direction, seeking to expand a new social norm into the private spheres of religious institutions. They seek to require conservative religious institutions themselves to fully accommodate LGBT students, in a way akin to social mores about racial equality, or face legal sanctions. Only seminaries and schools who prepare students for ministry would maintain the long-held religious exemptions to certain federal and state antidiscrimination laws.

“These universities essentially have a license to discriminate, and students have absolutely no recourse,” said state Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, sponsor of the bill, in a hearing last week. “Universities are supposed to be a place where students feel safe and can learn without fear of discrimination or harassment.

Mississippi’s opposite path

The constitutionality of both the red and, should the California bill become law, blue state paths are likely to have to be worked out in the courts, legal experts say.

On the same day the Assembly took up California’s bill, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking a Mississippi law an hour before it would have taken effect. Legal experts said Mississippi went further than any other state by allowing those with a moral, rather than religious, objection to refuse service to LGBT residents. It included protections for a wide array of professions including public clerks, foster care, and counseling services.

Calling it “a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Judge Carlton Reeves said that by choosing particular beliefs for protection, the law unconstitutionally “put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.”

In liberal California, legislators appear to be putting a legal thumb on religious beliefs that are said to constitute discrimination, some suggest.

The California bill also would require religious colleges that claim an exemption from federal and state antidiscrimination statutes to publicly disclose the reasons for seeking such exemptions in “prominent locations” around campus and on school websites. Schools would also need to disclose these reasons to all prospective students, and during all orientation programs every semester.

The California bill goes further than the federal government: This spring, the United States Department of Education included on its website a searchable database of colleges seeking federal religious exemptions to Title IX.

Furthermore, colleges would be required to submit any materials concerning their exemptions to California’s Student Aid Commission, which disburses state funding for students. The state commission would then maintain a list of all religious schools seeking exemptions, along with their reasons, and post it on the commission’s web site.

“Prospective students and employees have a right to know if the school they are considering attending or working at will treat them with dignity and respect, or will make them a target of discrimination,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, in a statement.

The new bill, Mr. Zbur said, “makes that bias public, and will inform students, faculty and staff at these academic institutions and allow individuals to protect themselves.”

Alarm at religious colleges

Republican lawmakers and the administrators of dozens of religious colleges and universities in California have reacted with alarm, seeing the bill not only as an aggressive encroachment on their fundamental religious liberties and right of free association, but a confirmation that last year’s Supreme Court ruling could make traditional views on marriage essentially against the law.

"This bill confirms those fears. The slippery slope has begun,” says state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican representing a district in southern California, in an email. “[The bill] is an illustration of the building discrimination against religious entities in the U.S. [and] a direct assault on religious liberty.”

Barry Corey, president of the Evangelical institution Biola University in La Mirada, says his community’s behavioral expectations – including strict antibullying policies for all students – including LGBT students who chose to attend his school, does not mean it has to conform to changing cultural mores on sexual conduct and gender expression.

“Faith-based colleges and universities are not asking for the freedom to discriminate,” Mr. Corey wrote in an opinion piece in the Orange County Register this week. “We are asking for the constitutionally protected freedom to live according to deeply held and time-honored beliefs within a pluralistic society.

“Religious educational communities are valuable for a pluralistic democratic society insofar as we are allowed to be who we are and are not legislated to look, believe and behave in the same way as the dominant culture,” he continued, adding that society is stronger when traditional Jewish, Muslim, and Christian institutions can remain distinct. “If all institutions were forced to walk in homogenous lockstep in terms of belief and behavior, democratic society would falter, if not crumble.”

Whose discrimination?

But advocates of LGBT rights maintain the issue is actually similar to well-established mores regarding race. In a Supreme Court case in 1983, Bob Jones University, which forbade interracial dating and only admitted married blacks, was stripped of its tax exempt status and forced to pay millions in back taxes.

Conservatives question the validity of that comparison, citing Scripture.

“Scripture does not talk about marriage between races as sinful,” says Ms. Vicari at the Institute on Religion & Democracy. “There are expectations for Christian sexual ethics that simply can’t be ignored.

And for conservatives, the aggressive California bill could be a warning sign that those who hold traditional beliefs could themselves face discrimination and become social pariahs.

“This is not a new kind of intolerance, but it is a redirected one,” says state Senator Moorlach. “Restricting a private institution from adhering to its religious beliefs is a violation of their First Amendment rights and an act itself of intolerance. [This bill] does not safeguard against discrimination, but rather is a form of discrimination against religious liberty itself.”

Orange County Rescue Mission to be honored at first California Nonprofits Day Celebration

NON-PROFIT
Courtesy photo.

Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) joined the California Association of Nonprofits to honor the Orange County Rescue Mission as the 2016 California Nonprofit of the Year from the 37th Senate District. Orange County Rescue Mission President Jim Palmer joined Senator Moorlach to accept the award at a luncheon at Sacramento’s Sheraton Grand Hotel, with a keynote address from Sacramento mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg, and presentations featuring Assemblymember Richard Gordon and Jan Masaoka, CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits).

Acting as a dynamic community organization, the Orange County Rescue Mission seeks to “minister the love of Jesus Christ to the Least, the Last, and the Lost”. In 2015, the Rescue Mission provided over 1 million meals, 156 thousand hot showers, and some 57 thousand medical examinations. With multiple shelters and a consortium of affiliated aid-oriented organizations, the Orange County Rescue Mission is poised for many years of incredible and life-saving service to the community.

“I have been a long-time supporter of the Orange County Rescue Mission. Jim Palmer, and his wonderful staff, do incredible work with the least, the last, and the lost of Orange County. This recognition is well-deserved,” said Moorlach.

“Nonprofit organizations are vitally important to the economy and well-being of California. But too often nonprofits are ‘hidden in plain sight.’ We are thrilled that the State Assembly has passed a resolution putting the spotlight on nonprofits as an economic power that uses that power for the common good. We congratulate all of the award recipients on being honored for the great work they do every day to make California a better place,” said Jan Masaoka, CEO of California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits), a statewide alliance of over 10,000 organizations, representing and promoting California’s growing nonprofit sector and working to bring the full power of nonprofits to strengthening communities.

This article was released by the Office of Senator John Moorlach.

California’s very long November ballot is now official — and it might get even longer

By John Myers

California elections officials announced Thursday that 17 measures have earned a spot on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot, a bumper crop of voter choices ranging from marijuana legalization to repeal of the death penalty and even new workplace rules for actors in adult movies.

It is the longest list of state propositions on a single ballot since March 2000, and could grow longer still as lawmakers consider placing three more measures on the ballot in August.

“Hardly anything on this ballot is boring,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego who studies the initiative process. “These are all hot-button issues, and ones that will generate big time advertising expenditures.”

Four of the propositions earned a spot on the fall ballot with only hours to spare on Thursday, including two tax proposals and a sweeping prison proposal championed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Millions of Californians signed petitions to place the initiatives on the fall ballot, signatures collected on street corners and in shopping mall parking lots. Political consultants said this was one of the most challenging seasons for signature gathering in recent history, with some campaigns paying for-profit companies as much as $5 per voter signature.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla finalized the list on Thursday, as required by law 131 days before an election.

Six of the 17 propositions seek to amend the state constitution. They include Brown’s effort to revamp the rules on parole from state prison, and a requirement that neither house of the Legislature pass any bill that hasn’t been available for public review for at least three days.

Nine measures will ask voters to enact new state laws, with proposals on everything from new background checks for buying ammunition to a $9-billion bond for school construction and modernization projects. Voters will consider, too, the merits of an effort to impose a cap on prescription drug prices paid by state healthcare officials that will be fought with an expensive opposition campaign by the pharmaceutical industry.

The ballot also includes a referendum — voters will choose to accept or reject a law that bans single-use plastic bags statewide. That law was signed by Brown in 2014 and will take effect only if voters cast a “yes” vote on the referendum.

While some of the issues seem relatively simple on the surface, others will likely require voters to take a much deeper look.

“It’s not only a very long ballot, it’s also a very complex ballot,” said Beth Miller, a Republican political strategist.

Miller, whose firm is working against a November initiative to raise tobacco taxes by $2 a pack, said the challenge for all ballot measure campaigns this fall is finding a way to cut through the political noise generated by as much as $500 million in total spending on TV commercials, mailers and other advertising.

“It’s definitely going to be challenging for the campaigns to get voter attention,” she said.

Ballots loaded full of propositions were a staple of California elections as recently as the 1980s and 1990s, and were common, too, in the early years after the state’s initiative process was created in 1912.

This fall’s statewide ballot could have been even longer, were it not for a 2014 state law that allowed initiative proponents to negotiate with the Legislature even after submitting enough signatures to qualify a measure. Bolstered by a successful initiative campaign, backers of a $15-an-hour minimum wage forced the governor and lawmakers to take similar action in March.

John Matsusaka, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC, said the historical average is 17 propositions, the same as now slated for November.

“I think there’s pretty good evidence that voters make good decisions if they have the time,” he said.

Matsusaka’s research finds no significant evidence that voters facing a long ballot skip over some propositions — a common fear among campaign consultants — but rather that they simply seem to get angry at having to wade through a long list.

“The longer the ballot, every single proposition gets more ‘no’ votes,” he said. “And a tight race on a long ballot could fail.”

While Thursday marked the official deadline, the fall ballot could potentially get even longer by the end of August. Three additional proposals are making their way through the Legislature: Two bond measures for housing and parks projects, and one effort to reclassify some property crimes as felonies, which supporters say would fix a 2014 initiative passed by voters.

In a state Senate committee hearing on Wednesday to consider the proposed parks bond, lawmakers admitted that they worry about further expanding the panoply of propositions for the fall.

“I’m having a real tough time saying, how do you add one more?” asked state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

john.myers

Political Landscape: 3 Costa Mesa council candidates plan events

By Daily Pilot staff

Moorlach schedules reelection event

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) is planning a reelection event for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. July 13 at the Pacific Club, 4110 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach.

Chris Epting, an Orange County history book author, will be a guest speaker.

RSVPs are requested by calling David Mansdoerfer at david.

Moorlach is running against Ari Grayson, a Democrat from Laguna Beach, in the November election for the 37th District state Senate seat.

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