FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A local university is up-in-arms over legislation that could soon become California law, saying it limits its First Amendment rights.
The president of Fresno Pacific University says SB1146 basically revokes their right to religious freedom. The author of the bill, though, says it prevents religious institutions from discriminating against LGBT students.
California state senator Ricardo Lara of Long Beach introduced the bill in May, telling his colleagues in the senate that this new bill will legally require religious institutions to not discriminate or harass students and staff based on their sexual orientation.
"Transgender students have also been expelled as a result of revealing their gender identity," Lara said. "Universities are supposed to be a place where students feel safe and can learn without fear of discrimination or harassment."
Lara says SB1146 essentially narrows the definition of the religious exemptions that many religiously-affiliated universities have under the equity and higher education act and limits their non-compliance with anti-discrimination laws to specific religious career pathways such as seminary.
FPU president Richard Kriegbaum is against the proposed law, saying it assumes that all religious institutions are discriminatory, when, in fact, most try to accommodate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
"We don't discriminate in admissions against students so we have a wide variety of students," he said. "Most of them are here for some kind of Christian commitment that they're interested in."
What Kriegbaum says he has an issue with is the implications that come along with SB1146 and could completely change the university's curriculum.
"We have a school of business and we prepare them to think if you will from biblical and Christian perspectives about ethics in business," he said.
Kriegbaum says those religious references and their desire to hire faculty who incorporate the bible into their curriculum could be taken away from them.
In May, Lara said that wasn't his intent when authoring the bill.
"We are working with the association of independent colleges to clarify that religious universities will be able to retain their core values and require students to participate in religious activities," Lara said.
Some students here feel the university is inclusive of everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or the gender they identify with.
"I don't think it's really appropriate that the state thinks just because religious teaching they're just going to persecute every other group of kid out there," student Brandon Booth said.