Section 66271 of the California Education Code provides an exclusion of educational institutions controlled by a religious organization if the application [of an anti-discrimination rule] would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.
This is the California law permitting Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions (including La Sierra University, Pacific Union College, and Loma Linda University) to discriminate against gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientations (GI, GE, SO) inconsistent with the Bible.
Lately, the California Legislature has been attempting to enact new laws eradicating this religious educational organization exclusion. In 2016, for example, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in California—via the Church State Council, fought a tough battle against California Senate Bill 1146, which attempted, among other things, to extend the [GI, GE, SO] non‑discrimination requirements of a state‑funded university and college scholarship program to participating religious colleges and universities, including the SDA schools. (1)
California higher education schools controlled by the Seventh-day Adventist Church are presently not subject to the non-discrimination requirements (Cal. Educ. Code 66270) of California law (chapter 4.5 of the California Equity in Higher Education Act).
However, the SDA Church in California is also taking actions that are directly in contradiction to the presumed desire to preserve the religious non-discriminatory exclusion for its schools. Despite the hard-fought battles against bills like SB 1146, the Church in California has started approving the baptism of practicing homosexuals and even the integration of transgender persons within leadership positions of the Church.
In the summer of 2016, a practicing and married homosexual individual was baptized at the Chico, California SDA Church. The individual was baptized by Ginger Hanks Harwood, an ordained Seventh‑day Adventist minister from outside the territory of the Northern California Conference of SDAs (NCC), where the Chico Church is found. Both Miss Harwood and Dan Wysong, the pastor of the Chico Church, obviously supported the baptism.
When Jim Pedersen, the President of the NCC, was confronted by the Chico Church’s patronage about the homosexual lifestyle, he refused to denounce it. He stated that the Church continues to call all people to a saving relationship with Jesus, including baptism, and that there is a growth experience as we become more like Christ. (2)
Sadly, Mr. Pedersen also emphasized an apparent expectation that the Church’s view on the LGBT lifestyle will change. He stated that the LGBT discussion continues to expand and be defined by the church, upholding the biblical foundation of marriage. (3)
Note how this last statement is limited only to upholding the biblical foundation of marriage. Conspicuously missing from the statement is upholding the biblical prohibition against the homosexual lifestyle. The reference to continual expansion and defining of the LGBT discussion seems to indicate that Mr. Pedersen expects the Church to expand and redefine its stance on LGBT lifestyles. Why else would we have a continual expansion and defining of the LGBT discussion, when the Bible rejects such lifestyles unequivocally?
In mid-February 2017, the North American Division of the Seventh‑day Adventist Church (NAD) issued its own statement on the baptism at the Chico Church. It also refused to denounce the baptism and patronage of the homosexual lifestyle. Instead, it deferred to the NCC. (4)
Another action contradicting the California SDA Church’s desire to preserve the religious non-discriminatory exclusion for its schools was the appointment of a transgender individual to serve as an elder in the Hollywood SDA Church. In 2015, Rhonda Dinwiddie (a transgender individual) was ordained as an elder at the Hollywood SDA Church. Rhonda was also placed as a full time Sabbath School teacher in the church. (5)
Many months later, no action has been taken by the NCC or the Southern California Conference (SCC), where the Hollywood Church is found, to reject and reverse the above actions as inconsistent with the Bible. The conferences have not declared their official stance on the baptizing and inclusion within Church leadership of people practicing LGBT lifestyles either.
With such non-actions, the Church in California and the United States C via the corresponding non-action of the NAD C is sending a clear message to the world, the Church at large, and its pastors, on what is permissible as to GI, GE, or SO inconsistent with the Bible. The message is that people practicing LGBT lifestyles are welcome to be baptized into the SDA Church and even join Church leadership.
However, such a message directly contradicts the Church's official stance on SB 1146 and similar legislation. How can SDAs argue for allowing Church schools to retain the right to discriminate against GI, GE, SO because it goes against the tenets of the Church, while at the same time the Church practices otherwise, baptizing people actively practicing LGBT lifestyles?
If NCC’s and SCC’s patronage of LGBT lifestyles is brought up into legislative committee hearings, it would publically discredit the SDA Church as a whole.
Such hypocrisy would also expose our schools to liability. In discrimination litigation against the Church's schools, the baptism and inclusion within Church leadership of people practicing LGBT lifestyles would be strong evidence of intent to discriminate by a school. The school cannot be following the Church’s tenets by treating people with different GI, GE, or SO differently, when the Church is not doing so.
Why is the Church undermining its own opposition to laws eradicating the religious educational exclusion? Why is the General Conference of SDAs not stepping in to clarify its position on renegade conferences supporting unbiblical practices?
1) Unless indicated otherwise, all quotes in this article are from: Michael Peabody, Esq., Perspective: How a California Law Would Pit LGBT Rights Against Religious Institutions= Beliefs, Spectrum Magazine, June 28, 2016 http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2016/06/28/perspective-how-california-law-would-pit-lgbt-rights-against-religious-institutio