In a decision surprising to many, the governor of far-left California has supported the right of religious institutions to exercise their faith in hiring decisions.
California recently became a “sanctuary state” that ignores federal immigration laws, has led the fight against traditional marriage and, among many other legislative measures, restricted the right of Christian counselors to help overcome same-sex attraction.
But now Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed AB 569, a bill that would restrict the freedom of religious institutions to make hiring decisions consistent with their beliefs.
Brown returned the bill without his signature, explaining to the legislature that it conflicts with the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which has an exception for religious institutions.
Pacific Justice Institute, which opposed the bill, would have filed a lawsuit if Brown signed the bill.
“We are relieved that Gov. Brown chose not to extend choking state prohibitions into sacrosanct areas of religious life and ministry,” said PJI President Brad Dacus.
“It is essential that churches, ministries and religious schools continue to have the freedom to expect employees to practice what is preached.”
He said the bill “would have required – with heavy fines and even criminal penalties – religious institutions to tolerate employee behavior directly contradicting the organizational mission.
“This bill was deeply unconstitutional, and we are thankful it has been vetoed,” he said.
Dacus warned that “copycat” legislation likely will appear.
Elissa Graves, a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, agreed with Dacus.
“The government should not and cannot tell churches, Christian colleges, pro-life pregnancy care centers, and other religious groups that they can’t live out their beliefs within their own organizations,” she said.
“Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California. The First Amendment doesn’t allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same.”
The plan approved by the legislature would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofits and pro-life pregnancy care centers from having faith-based codes of conduct regarding abortion and other moral issues.
LifeNews reported the bill deliberately left out exceptions for religious employers, meaning churches could have been forced to hire or keep employees that openly defy faith-based standards.
“Pro-life and religious groups, including the California Catholic Conference and the California Family Council, strongly opposed the measure, saying it would violate their First Amendment rights,” the report said.
Jonathan Keller of the California Family Council said earlier that the plan adopted by the state legislature’s Democratic majority would have made it impossible for faith groups to carry out their mission.
The abortion industry was in favor of the restrictions on religious groups.
The Los Angeles Times reported the bill was sponsored by Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a Democrat from San Diego.
The controversy developed five years ago after a teacher at a Christian college in San Diego was dismissed for becoming pregnant while unmarried, a violation of the school’s code of conduct.